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Jewish World Review July 15, 2002 / 6 Menachem-Av, 5762

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Consumer Reports

Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP! | President Bush didn't do it. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) didn't do it. No Republican think tank did it. But five old judges on the U.S. Supreme Court have raised the issue that could - and should - generate a political comeback for the Republican Party - drug testing.

By a 5-4 vote on June 27, the court approved a broad program to drug test all students who participate in any high school extracurricular activity. Speaking for four of the justices in the majority, Clarence Thomas advocated a broad authority to test any student for drugs for any reason basing his view on the in loco parentis power of the school to act in the place of the parent as the child's daytime custodian. Justice Steven Breyer, displaying the judicial independence that is increasingly earning him respect, reasoned that it was acceptable to require drug testing as long as a student could opt out by declining participation in after-school activities.

Recent national polls confirm that 72 percent of voters support "requiring all high school students whose parents consent to take drug tests" with 52 percent strongly supporting the proposal. (Asked if they would back mandatory drug testing with or without parental consent, only 40 percent approved.)

Drugs are a huge problem that has disappeared from the national political agenda. But asked to rate the seriousness of the problem, 75 percent of those polled rated it very or somewhat serious, tied with the possibility of another terrorist attack in the United States and ahead of the ratings for the cost of prescription drugs (63 percent), the future of Social Security (68 percent), the health of the American economy (61 percent), sex and violence on television (59 percent), and the level of federal taxes (44 percent).

If the court held that the school's power as custodian justified testing, clearly it would uphold the policy if parental consent were actually required.

Presumably, even Justice Breyer would approve if parents had the right to opt out.

The issue of school drug testing would put a key morality/crime issue back on the national agenda, a focus that has been sorely lacking since a combination of the Republicans' prison and sentencing programs and the Democrats' gun controls and extra police started the free fall reduction in the national crime rate. The absence of such an issue haunts Republican prospects in future elections.

By stressing parental approval in drug testing, the legislation offers not to override family protections, but to reinforce them, making the school an arm of a parent's decisions about his or her children. Where parents are not available or do not have custody, a court would, presumably, exercise this power under new legislation.

Why hasn't the GOP leadership latched onto this issue? Who knows? But now that it is staring them in the face, perhaps they will wake up to its enormous political potential.

Most liberals can be counted on to oppose drug testing as intrusive and unconstitutional. But the recent Supreme Court decision cuts the ground out from under their advocacy. The left would be in the position of approving the ongoing expenditure of vast sums of money and risk to large numbers of federal agents to combat the flow of drugs while saying that the issue wasn't important enough to require a simple, noninvasive test of students.

President Bush has carved out an important national constituency for testing students based on the desire to help those who need remedial aid. But can a child learn while on drugs? Shouldn't we find out who is flirting with this menace early enough to do something about it?

Republican drug-testing legislation must also include treatment programs for those found to be drug users and should also provide for alternate residential facilities for those who are habitual users. The rotten apple theory holds especially true where the epidemic of drug use among our children is concerned.

The Republicans should use the remaining weeks of the session to force a floor vote in each house on the issue of parentally approved drug testing. It will provide the kind of wedge issue in the fall campaigns that the party desperately needs. And it will do very important things to help the millions of kids who are taking drugs and risking a lifetime of debilitating dependence.

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.


07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2001, Dick Morris