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Drug czar would scare any pusher

June 24, 1988

Pablo Escobar and the rest of the South American drug barons are undoubtedly quaking in their Guccis, following the announcement that Florida soon will have a full-time "drug czar."

This promises to be a thrilling mission, at least the way Gov. Bob Martinez describes it.

He promises that the new czar will have broad responsibility for fighting narcotics on all fronts. The governor went so far as to say that the drug czar will have his very own task force, and that this task force will actually have the power to make "recommendations."

I can already hear those lily-livered liberals crying whoa, let's not get carried away! A task force is soextremewhy not start with a committee, or maybe a small advisory board?

But I say bravo, Governor! Throw down the gauntlet. Take off the gloves. When the going gets tough, the tough make recommendations.

Martinez proposes urine testing for bus drivers and the death penalty for drug kingpins, and he stands the same chance of achieving either one. One of the governor's boldest ideas is to unleash the National Guard to do battle against the cocaine titans. This should certainly liven up those long weekends at the armory.

The governor was not terribly specific about exactly what the National Guard is supposed to do, but this is why you need a drug czar, to nail down the details.

Another important priority of the $6o,ooo-a-year drug czar should be thinking up snazzy code names for investigations.

You've noticed that every major drug bust has a clever-sounding name to go with itOperation Grouper, Operation Black Tuna, and so on. Unfortunately, after so many years and so many big cases, we're running short of catchy code words. Now you hear things like Operation Dead Flounder, or Zero Tolerance.

We desperately need a drug czar to make sure that all future nicknames sound good on TV and fit neatly into newspaper headlines.

"Czar" itself is a word that newspapers love because it's short, and it has a "z" in it. Headline writers almost never get to use the letter z, so in the months ahead you'll be seeing many news items such as: "Drug Czar Says Crack is Very Bad."

Or: "Czar to Smugglers: Stay Out of Florida!"

One of the czar's most vital jobs will be to call press conferences in order to "put the drug smugglers of the world on notice." This should be done at least twice every year.

One problem facing the new czar is that so many different law enforcement agencies are fighting Florida's drug war, it's hard to know who should get the praise for a big seizure.

To avoid having Customs and DEA and FDLE and the Coast Guard and the FBI and OCB and ATF trample each other dashing for the microphones at press conferences, we need a drug czar who can claim credit for each and every kilogram, and do the speaking for everybody.

We also need someone who knows something about camera angles, so that the contraband can be displayed in a fashion that is dramatic, without being garish.

To show that he means business, Gov. Martinez gave his new task force exactly seven months to come up with its first batch of recommendations. You can bet that Escobar and his pals are marking that time on their calendars, knowing that the clock is finally running out.

Of course, they should be careful not to confuse the Governor's Drug Czar's Task Force with the Vice President's South Florida Task Force, or the Blue Lightning Strike Force, or the Congressional Task Force, or the joint DEA-FBI Task Force, or the Joint Legislative-Executive Task Force, or any of the other nine jillion task forces already deployed in the war on drugs.

The usual cynics have implied that the czar/task force idea is nothing but a naked grab for publicity, but I don't buy it.

Ask any expert and he'll tell you that Gov. Martinez is so right. Winning the war on drugs is easier than any of us dreamed. All we really need is more bureaucracy.


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