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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I would like to take a minute to briefly discuss my opposition to the nomination of Gil Kerlikowske to be Director of National Drug Control Policy. Chief Kerlikowske has had a long career in law enforcement, and he enjoys the support of many of his colleagues. However, the concerns I have about certain aspects of his record prevent me from being able to support his nomination to be Director of ONDCP.

The principal purpose of ONDCP is to establish policies, priorities, and objectives for the nation's drug control program. The office has arguably never been more important, as the United States seeks to deal with the violent drug cartels whose influence has begun to cross into our borders. Yet Chief Kerlikowske has no experience with international drug interdiction, which is among my chief concerns with this nomination.

Although I suppose my concerns about Chief Kerlikowske's lack of experience with international drug enforcement could be overcome by a strong record of domestic enforcement, I am afraid that Chief Kerlikowske lacks such a record. Instead, he has gained a reputation for being soft on marijuana enforcement, once stating that pursuing possession offenses was ``not a priority.'' Despite local attitudes on this issue, as the top law enforcement officer in Seattle, Chief Kerlikowske has an obligation to make all crime a priority.

Chief Kerlikowske's lax record on marijuana enforcement has even led many pro-marijuana groups to endorse his nomination. In this country, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug and is known as the ``gateway drug,'' because it can lead to the abuse of more dangerous substances. For this reason, the next ONDCP Director must be a strong opponent of marijuana and all illegal drugs, as well as act as an aggressive enforcer of the laws regulating these harmful narcotics. I am concerned that Mr. Kerlikowske does not have such a record or reputation.

I have other concerns about Chief Kerlikowske's record that I will not detail here. Those concerns include: his decision to withhold police from a riot that broke out in 2001, in which a 20-year-old college student was murdered; his direction for police not to check immigration status or take action on any such violations; and his record on gun control. With respect to the Second Amendment, at a time when facts about the influence of American guns in Mexican drug cartel violence are being distorted--often with the intent to restrict the constitutional rights of American citizens--it is crucial that we have leaders who are ready to defend those rights. I am concerned that Chief Kerlikowske will not be such a defender.

In short, Chief Kerlikowske's lack of experience with international interdiction and his record of lax enforcement of domestic laws respecting drugs--particularly marijuana--and other crimes leaves me concerned that he is the wrong person to lead ONDCP at this crucial time. Therefore, I will oppose his nomination.


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