Musical chairs

November 20, 1990

That shuffling noise emanating from Washington is the sound of Republicans playing political musical chairs. In the latest round of changes, President Bush's national drug policy adviser, William Bennett, will forsake his current post to become chairman of the Republican National Committee. Meanwhile, Florida's Republican Gov. Bob Martinez, who was defeated in his bid for re-election two weeks ago, is in line to carry on the war against drugs as Bennett's successor in Washington.

Bennett, you will recall, said he was vacating drug czar's post after proclaiming "substantial progress" had been made in the war on drugs. Yet in Washington, D.C., which Bennett himself declared to be a "test case" for his get-tough policy, the murder rate is running at a record high. More than 400 people have been killed so far this year, and most of these murders are drug-related homicides.

And Bennett, who vowed at the outset to use his post as a non-partisan bully pulpit, has in fact been one of the most political of all Bush's appointees, winding up his tenure in office by openly to campaign for GOP candidates.

Martinez, for his part, has for the past four years presided over a state which is the nation's principal port of entry for illegal drugs. He did little that we are aware of in stemming this importation, and that could well have been a factor in his massive defeat -- a highly unusual thing for a sitting governor. So for mismanaging Florida, Martinez is now to be rewarded with the opportunity to devote his ineptitude to all 50 states.

The level of cynicism implied by both these appointments makes one wonder whether the Bush administration really wants to win its self-declared "war on drugs." If so, it must be going on the assumption that nothing succeeds like failure.

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