For three consecutive days, Sen. Bob Dole has questioned whether the Clinton administration is tough enough on crime.
First, it was whether Clinton and the judges he's appointed were too easy on street criminals. Then Dole questioned whether a Clinton-appointed prosecutor in Arizona was vigorous enough in enforcing child pornography laws.Now the Senate majority leader is challenging federal drug enforcement policies along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In between, White House aides have suggested that Dole, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, was trying to cover up GOP weaknesses on the crime issue, like opposition to gun control.
And Clinton has been attending presidential events like Monday's White House ceremony where he proposed tougher penalties for youth violence and warned gang members, "We mean to put you out of business."
As Clinton unveiled his juvenile violence initiative, Dole fired his latest salvo. He cited a Los Angeles Times story that said more than one in four suspects arrested for drug smuggling along the U.S.-Mexico border are not prosecuted because of policies established by the Clinton-appointed U.S. attorney for the district.
Citing court and other records, the Times said among those not prosecuted included a woman arrested with 158 pounds of cocaine, two suspects caught with 32 pounds of methamphetamine, another with 37,000 Quaalude tablets and many with large quantities of marijuana.
In a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno, Dole said: "With teenage drug use on the rise, and with the ascendancy of Mexico as a major U.S. supplier of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine, the American people would rightly expect that we would be hard at work strengthening our fight against the Mexican drug trade, not weakening it."
John Kraemer, an assistant U.S. attorney in San Diego, said the Times' figures are wrong.
"Eighty percent of the border drug cases returned by the federal officials to the D.A. offices are approved for prosecution, and roughly 20 percent are not approved, principally due to insufficient evidence," Kraemer said.
"To suggest from the statistics that narcotics cases are not being vigorously prosecuted is utter nonsense and statistical trickery," Justice Department spokesman Carl Stern said.
At an East Room ceremony Monday, Clinton called for more leeway to prosecute juveniles as adults for drug conspiracy, violent crimes and crimes involving guns.
"The message today to the Bloods, the Crips, to every criminal gang preying on the innocent is clear: We mean to put you out of business, to break the backs of your organization, to stop you from terrorizing our neighborhoods and our children, to put you away for a very long time," the president said.