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Bush Calls For Death Penalty For ‘Drug Kingpins’

May 1, 1988

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Vice President George Bush criticized Hollywood films that glamorize drugs and challenged the Democrats Saturday to join his call for the death penalty for drug kingpins.

Bush, denying that investigations of Attorney General Edwin Meese III are hurting his campaign, also warned that if the Democrats ″want to go down the low road, we’ll meet them.″

In another development, The Washington Post reported in its Sunday editions that testimony and documents from a private lawsuit portray top aides to Bush as being more actively involved in Central American counterinsurgency planning from 1983 to 1986 than previously disclosed.

The information, however, does not contradict assertions by senior advisers Donald P. Gregg and Col. Samuel J. Watson III that they were unaware until August 1986 of the plan to resupply the Nicaraguan rebels during a ban on U.S. aid, the newspaper said.

According to the information, Bush was advised on June 3, 1986 of the Salvadoran Air Force’s need for spare parts for its helicopters. The memo stressed the need to quickly solve the problem to help Salvordan President Jose Napolean Duarte win the war. Bush wrote ″Good 3/8″ on the memo.

Gregg and Watson provided the memos and testimony last week during pretrial questioning of witnesses in a $24 million civil suit filed by two journalists against 29 people, many of whom figure in the Iran-Contra investigation.

Bush, at a rally in the sunny atrium of a Cleveland State University building, called for all Americans to ″stand up against drug use, even casual use, (and) express our outrage when we see some in the entertainment industry condoning, almost advocating cocaine as some kind of a modern hip lifestyle.″

In an interview with Cleveland reporters, Bush said he was shocked at the approving way cocaine was presented in a video he and his wife, Barbara, rented. He did not name the film.

He told the crowd of 300, ″There’s much more to do in this fight.″

″We’ve appointed tougher judges. We are getting more conviction and longer sentences. But where are the Democrats on mandatory sentencing, on tougher penalties for those who poison our kids with drugs? I favor the death penalty for drug kingpins, those involved in drug-related killings,″ he said.

″If Michael Dukakis and Jesse Jackson are serious about this, let’s see where they stand on throwing the book at those who are poisoning the lives of the young people.″

Both Dukakis and Jackson oppose capital punishment for any crime.

Bush said, ″What about those ... who get minors to do their dirty work, their drug-dealing for them? Throw the book at them. Put ’em where the sun don’t shine.″

Dr. Otis Bowen, the secretary of health and human services, voiced pessimism this week about the war on drugs and told Reagan at a White House meeting that the Democrats ″are poised to steal from our party what has been a traditionally Republican issue: law enforcement.″

Aboard Air Force Two, Robert Teeter, Bush’s polling expert and strategist, said drugs have become an increasingly important issue in voters’ minds in the past six months.

Voters ″want answers, they want results. They ... don’t want to blame somebody, they want a solution,″ said Teeter.

Bush also visited a nursing home in Columbus, St. Raphael’s Home for the Aged, on what was once the estate of his industrialist grandfather, the late Samuel Bush.

There Bush told the Carmelite nuns and elderly residents, ″I pledge to you that in a Bush administration, there will be long-term care legislation put on the books.″

Bush also took in a spring football scrimmage at Ohio State. Before returning to Washington, the vice president rode a river boat across the Ohio River from West Virginia to Marietta, Ohio, to mark the bicentennial of that one-time frontier town.

Some unemployed steel workers from Waterford, Ohio, carried protest signs and groaned when Bush spoke about the 64-month economic recovery. But most of the crowd of 5,000 at the water’s edge cheered the Republican candidate.

″Look, some people in your state are hurting, and so are they in mine,″ Bush said. ″But we have created 15 1/2 million new jobs since 1982. ... That is progress and we must keep it going until everybody benefits.″

The vice president told Cleveland reporters he has evidence to throw the ″sleaze″ allegations back in the Democrats’ faces, but declined to be specific.

He said he is ″keeping my powder dry. ... I want to see the whites of their eyes.″

″I’ve heard Dukakis and Jackson talk about sleaze. What are they talking about? Who are they talking about?″ said Bush. ″Are they convicting someone before the system works?″

Bush has already clinched the GOP nomination, but Ohio - which holds its primary Tuesday along with Indiana and the District of Columbia - will be a key battleground in the fall.

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