- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Former Rep. Asa Hutchinson was formally sworn in yesterday as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, saying he "fully supports" President Bush's balanced goals of aggressive law enforcement, increased treatment and reduced demand.
"The DEA is designed to enforce the law, and that's our mission and that's what we're going to do," the three-term Republican congressman from Arkansas said at a press conference before his swearing-in ceremony at DEA headquarters.
"But it also is important to focus on new approaches that include an emphasis on educating our youth for the best life choices and the rehabilitation of those who have become addicted to drugs," he said.
Mr. Hutchinson, 50, also said that as a former federal prosecutor and congressman actively involved in anti-drug legislation, he brought to the DEA "a sense of urgency" that he hoped would relate to deeds accomplished.
"The ultimate goal is to reduce the entry of illegal drugs into the United States and the use of drugs in the United States," said Mr. Hutchinson, adding that "what we are doing is important to America." He described the nation's anti-drug effort as "a noble purpose worthy of a great crusade."
He said one of the "most frustrating things that I've had to encounter thus far" was the notion that the DEA's mission had been unsuccessful.
"I think you have to put this in perspective; that whenever you look at national social problems, whether you look at child abuse, whether you look at teen violence, whenever you impact people's lives, it's a victory," he said.
Many rank-and-file DEA agents believe Mr. Hutchinson has the necessary credentials with Congress to ensure that the agency's budget and manpower needs will be met and that the DEA will be able to elevate its profile as a federal law enforcement agency. The agents privately refer to Mr. Hutchinson's congressional experience as "the juice."
Asked at the press conference if he had "the juice" to satisfy the expectations, Mr. Hutchinson said he intended to work vigorously with members of both the Senate and the House.
"If you look back at my record as United States attorney, I was very straightforward at that time in life I called it aggressive," he said.
During his confirmation hearings in July, the Senate Judiciary Committee put partisanship aside to embrace the Hutchinson nomination.
The committee's chairman, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, called Mr. Hutchinson "a man of integrity and intelligence," while the panel's ranking Republican, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, described the former congressman as "good people" and said he was "grateful" that he was "willing to serve" as DEA administrator.
All of the Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee supported the Hutchinson nomination in a letter to the Senate.
During yesterday's press conference, Mr. Hutchinson also said the DEA would continue to monitor scientific information on the use of medical marijuana, but that no data had surfaced to show the drug had any legitimate medical use.
"Congress affirmed that, and the Supreme Court affirmed that as well," he said. "If the scientific and medical community come in and continue to study it, we're going to listen to them. But that's the consensus we have at this time."
Mr. Hutchinson, a former member of the House Judiciary Committee, served as one of 13 managers during the Senate impeachment trial of President Clinton.


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