Just Back From The Front Lines 

Just Back From The Front Lines 
Posted by FoM on January 26, 2000 at 09:37:53 PT
By Dena Bunis, The Orange County Register
Source: Orange County Register
PEOPLE: Tom Umberg discusses his years in the White House drug control office. For more than two years, former Assemblyman and Democratic party activist Tom Umberg has been deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.Umberg leaves his White House post today to return to his law practice in Orange County. The Orange County Register asked Umberg about his experience in President Clinton's administration.
Q. What do you think you've accomplished in this job?A. First there's a greater awareness in the United States of the danger of drug abuse. Fewer young people between 12 and 17 are using drugs than they were three years ago. The majority of my focus has been international. Places like Peru and Bolivia are producing dramatically less cocaine than they were three years ago. And we've just announced a major support package to attack coca production in Colombia.Q. Critics often say that ever since former first lady Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign, the U.S. has abandoned its war on drugs. Is this true?A. It's not a war on drugs. That metaphor doesn't apply. The object of war is to kill the enemy. Our purpose is to save young people, not kill anybody. The proper metaphor is cancer. Drugs are like a cancer that, if not treated, will kill. And there has been progress in treating this terrible phenomenon both on the demand side and the supply side.Q. How is the Clinton administration drug policy different from that of the Bush administration?A. The Bush administration attacked the supply side by trying to interdict drugs before they came across the border. Our primary focus is the point of production  the coca fields, the poppy fields and at the laboratories.Q. Is there anything that frustrated you about Washington?A. The primary frustration is the tendency on the part of some who want to politicize what we're doing to address this huge problem. If any issue cries out for bipartisan support it's this one. There is no silver bullet. It's a long-term chronic issue. You can't just napalm coca fields in South America or execute drug traffickers in the U.S.Q. How has the Washington experience been different than your experiences as a federal prosecutor or a lawmaker in Sacramento?A. Government in Sacramento is like a PT boat compared with this aircraft carrier in Washington. In Sacramento you could take a good idea and enact a law and see it operational in a matter of months. In Washington, it takes much longer than that.Q. How much access did you have to the president?A. When the president is dealing with an issue related to my office I see the president fairly often, particularly if it's about Mexico or South America.Q. Any special memories of White House meetings?A. One time Gen. (Barry) McCaffrey (the White House drug czar) was not available for a Cabinet meeting and I went in his place. It was the day the president was acquitted by the Senate. I remember looking around the room during the midst of the meeting and being numbed by the realization of the kind of history that had taken place in that room and that had taken place that day.Q. What's it going to be like going from working in the White House back to being a lawyer in Orange County?A. My daily routine starts at 8:30 a.m. when the CIA and DEA come in and brief me on what's happening around the world. Having immediate access to all kinds of information has been wonderful. But there comes a time when you have to go back. I still hope to be involved in some of the good I was involved in before in the private sector, especially in Latin America.Q. Is there more elective politics in your future?A. Not in the immediately foreseeable future.Q. Why are you leaving now?A. It's time to go back to California. My kids are getting older. In terms of things I wanted to do, most are in place or headed in the right direction.By Dena BunisPublished: January 26, 2000The Orange County RegisterFrom Washington, D.C. Copyright 1999 The Orange County RegisterPlease send comments to ocregister 
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Comment #2 posted by Wabo on January 27, 2000 at 08:48:44 PT
So now we're a cancer?
Didn't Hitler once discribe the Jews as a "cancer"?
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on January 26, 2000 at 16:06:51 PT
Another cheerleader
In an earlier posting, I had mentioned that the politically appointed heads of the WoSD are a buch of cynical cheerleaders who make a lot of noise rooting for 'their' troops in the trenches, while preparing their resumes for bigger and better things. They know the WoSD is doomed from the get-go, but they also know they must continue the bleating the 'party line' if they expect to climb the government stairway. Those who are the Hofferian True Believers (again, cynically used by their more politically savvy brethren) are the ones left holding the bag when something goes wrong. They are the ones who get shot up in drug raids gone bad. They are the ones like DEA Agents Michael Levine and Celerino Castillo, who get told to lay off big time traffickers because the CIA is in cahoots with them.And guys like Mr. Umberg continue to feather their career nests.
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