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Fighting a war against drugs is difficult enough without the nation's top health official constantly undermining the effort. Since her appointment, Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders has been more sympathetic to the enemy than to the side of law enforcement.

She reinforced that fact on Tuesday, testifying in court on behalf of her son, who was convicted of selling cocaine. Referring to her son's misdeed, Elders told the court, "I don't feel that was a crime."She left it at that, declining to elaborate whether she meant she believed her son was entrapped or whether she merely was reiterating her public stand that drugs should be made legal.

Either way, the fact she would make such a statement without bothering to clarify it for the public she serves is disturbing. Elders' son was convicted of a serious crime, one that helps destroy thousands of lives each year while adding to a burgeoning rate of violence.

Her comment, just like her position in favor of drug legalization, was irresponsible. Coming from someone with her authority, it could influence many people to experiment with drugs.

Regardless of her personal feelings, drug abuse remains illegal. Elders' responsibility is to uphold the law as she administers matters of importance to the nation's health.

So far, President Clinton has been content to distance himself from Elders' idiocy without asking for her resignation. The time has come for that contentment to end.

Elders is an embarrassment and detriment to the nation. She should resign.