Pot Use May Cloud Gore Campaign

Pot Use May Cloud Gore Campaign
Posted by FoM on January 30, 2000 at 07:37:33 PT
By John Wildermuth, Chronicle Political Writer  
Source: San Francisco Chronicle
It was a good week for Vice President Al Gore. He pasted Bill Bradley in Monday's Iowa caucuses, saw his polls rise nicely in New Hampshire and heard what amounted to an 89-minute infomercial for his campaign from President Clinton in the State of the Union address Thursday night. He also managed, at least for now, to slip unscathed through a minefield of new drug-use allegations that reach back to his days as a newspaperman in Nashville, Tenn. 
Stories about Gore's marijuana use are more than allegations. Back in 1987, in the midst of a notably unsuccessful run for president, the then-senator admitted he'd used the evil weed at Harvard, in Vietnam and while working for the Nashville Tennessean. ``It was seen at the time as similar to moonshine in Prohibition,'' Gore said at the time, adding that he smoked dope only occasionally and stopped about 1972. But that's not the way John Warnecke of San Mateo remembers it, and in recent days, he's been sharing those recollections with anyone who will listen. ``We were regular users together, two or three times a week,'' said Warnecke, a 1965 graduate of San Francisco's Lowell High School. ``Maybe all day on the weekends, starting at noon and continuing past dinner, staying high all the time. When you came to my house, you always got good drugs.'' Warnecke remembers a trip to Yosemite with Gore where ``we smoked all through the camping trip.'' And while Gore said he stopped using marijuana well before he ran for Congress in 1976, Warnecke said he and Gore smoked dope in a neighbor's darkened pool house during that first run for office. ``I remember that he was wearing his campaign clothes,'' Warnecke said. More than year ago, Warnecke took his tale to Newsweek reporter Bill Turque, who used it in his soon-to-be-published book ``Inventing Al Gore: A Biography.'' It also was included in an excerpt from the book that was slated to be printed in Newsweek this month. But when Newsweek, reportedly leery of Warnecke's credibility, delayed publication of the excerpt, Warnecke went to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which was delighted to put the allegations on its Web page, When online magazine ran its own story a couple of days later, Gore's drug use was news again. But only briefly. When quizzed about the story while campaigning this week in Iowa, Gore shrugged it off, saying he'd never been a regular dope smoker and suggesting the whole brouhaha was old news. Chris Lehane, a spokesman for the vice president, said Gore had ``never used (marijuana) since entering public office'' in 1976, which is about four years later than the date Gore gave in 1987. The denials didn't surprise Warnecke, who said Gore has been trying to shut him up for years. In 1987, he said, he was called in rapid succession by Gore, one of his aides, and Gore's wife, Tipper, all asking him not to talk to the press about Gore's drug use. ``They asked me to stonewall and say it was none of their business,'' Warnecke said. ``So I made up a half-lie. I said he'd smoked dope a little and didn't like it.'' Warnecke, now 53, said he changed that story because ``it was eating away at my conscience.'' ``It was hurting me; it was killing me. I couldn't hold it in much longer,'' he said. ``I was hiding something the public needed to know. It involved drugs, and it involved the man running for president of the United States.'' Warnecke also knows that his background doesn't make him the most credible witness against the vice president. Although his father is the noted San Francisco architect John Carl Warnecke, whose designs include the John F. Kennedy Memorial at Arlington Cemetery, the younger Warnecke worked for the Grateful Dead, rode on the Merry Pranksters bus with LSD guru Ken Kesey and said his place in Nashville ``always had a big stash of dope for free. I had a regular (drug) scene going on at my house, and everyone knew it.'' By 1979, Warnecke admitted that his cocaine and alcohol use sent him ``out of control'' and forced him to get sober for good. He's been on medication for depression since the suicide of his wife five years ago and is now living on disability on the Peninsula. A former Tennessee board member for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, he has also called for the legalization of marijuana. None of that has anything to do with the story he's telling about Gore, Warnecke insists. ``I can't fight my past,'' he said. ``But I will take a lie detector test over the facts I'm telling.'' It's a long way to the November elections, and if Gore grabs the Democratic nomination, his drug use, real or reputed, is going get more than the cursory glance it received this week from the national press. Although marijuana use in the rapidly dimming past might not bother many voters, Gore's handling of the question, both now and in 1987, could tarnish the shining armor of probity he's tried to build around his campaign. For Warnecke, however, the issue is a simple one. ``People are trying to discredit me with all sorts of irrelevancies,'' he said. ``But I know I smoked pot with Al. I was his best friend, and I smoked it with him a lot.'' Published: January 29, 20002000 San Francisco Chronicle  Page A3 Chronicle    2000 Chronicle Publishing CompanyRelated Articles:Gore Gets Weeded Out - 1/29/2000 Gore Drug Use Question Leads to More Questions - 1/28/200 Smoking or Being Dope? - 1/27/2000
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on January 30, 2000 at 14:34:47 PT
The skeletons in the closet are rattling
and the pols are starting to sweat.This may actually be the year that the DrugWarriors have dreaded for so long. As inevitable as sunrise, the Silent Majority is passing away. Those who were willing to sacrifice their own children on the altar of Vietnam are now forced to pass the torch to their intended sacrificial offerings. And *they* aren't about to put up with pols who lie about their own drug use, or get us involved in foreign conflicts of no real importance to us. If more of them were to register to vote, the pols would soon change their tune and stop singing the DrugWar aria.Now, if only the media were as dilligent in their pursuit of the truth as they are in *appearing* to be, we will soon know just how long this farce of a DrugWar will go on.
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