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The Drug War, Wavering | The Nation

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Christopher Hayes

Christopher Hayes

Nation editor-at-large and host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.

The Drug War, Wavering

America has a penchant for declaring war on abstract nouns. But while Bush may go down in history as the failed architect of the global "war on terror," when all's said and done, he's also succeeded in doing what no Democratic president has before him: help shift direction in America's "war on drugs." Last December, for example, Bush cut funding for the Byrne grant program (initially supported by his father, later made notorious by related civil-rights abuses) by a radical 67%. And since the 2004 (faith-propelled) launch of his Prisoner Reentry Initiative, nationwide, the push to expand rehabilitative services has gained steam. Last November, the Second Chance Act passed the House by an overwhelming 347-62 vote; a Senate vote is expected this spring. (If passed, the Act would be the first legislation Congress has passed that takes a restorative, not punitive approach to crime.)

To be sure, the White House's actions haven't been monolithic: Bush's crackdown on medical marijuana patients is about as poignant an illustration of the drug war as one could design. Nevertheless today, it's quite a turnaround from the "get-tough" 1990s to see 56 Attorneys General be reduced to asking Congress, hats in hand, to please stop cutting funds for drug enforcement efforts.

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