THE way Gov. Michael Dukakis sees it, the chief distinction between him and George Bush on the issue of illegal drugs is the latter's record. ``George Bush has a record of failure'' on the drug issue, says Dukakis spokesman Tom Herman. ``It's stark; it's night and day.'' Mr. Herman refers to Mr. Bush's leadership since 1982 of the South Florida Task Force, a federal drug-interdiction program.
Bush says that, while the flow of drugs has not been halted by any means, the south Florida program is still a success.
But Mr. Herman cites Drug Enforcement Administration figures showing that the price of a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine in south Florida has fallen from about $55,000 in 1982 to around $18,000. That suggests a much more plentiful supply of the drug, he says.
Dukakis would launch his war on drugs by appointing a Cabinet-level ``antidrug czar'' to oversee a National Alliance Against Drugs, modeled after a statewide program he began in 1984. A top priority of the national program would be federal-state-local cooperation in stopping street-level drug sales.
The Massachusetts Alliance Against Drugs coordinates antidrug efforts among schools, law-enforcement officials, treatment centers, businesses, local politicians, and others. The program was cited as a national model by the DEA. Use of illegal drugs among Massachusetts' high school seniors has declined twice as fast as the national average, says Marianne Lee, deputy director of the program.
Both candidates stress the same themes in proposing ways to combat the drug problem. But their specific program proposals differ:
Supply reduction. The governor proposes a carrot-and-stick foreign policy, cutting off aid to uncooperative governments and providing incentives to those who work with the US to reduce drug trafficking. He would step up interdiction efforts at America's borders.
Education. Dukakis wants ``comprehensive'' drug and health education, beginning in kindergarten. Teachers, too, would be trained as part of this effort.
Tougher enforcement. Dukakis would double the number of DEA agents, to 5,600, in five years. He would add 800 US attorneys to prosecute drug cases and expand the role of the military in fighting drugs. Internal Revenue Service agents pursuing the ``money trail'' along with drug investigators could recover enough assets from dealers to pay for the beefed-up effort, Dukakis says. International banking agreements could make it tougher for drug kingpins to launder and hide money around the world. Dukakis opposes the death penalty, however.
Drug treatment. Dukakis would set a standard of immediate, ``on demand'' treatment for intravenous drug users. Many such programs now have waiting lists.