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NCJ Number: 157622 Find in a Library
Title: Creating a Drug Czar: A Study of Political Rationality and Symbolic Politics
Journal: Journal of Drug Issues  Volume:25  Issue:1  Dated:(Winter 1995)  Pages:195-207
Author(s): B A Stolz
Date Published: 1995
Page Count: 13
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper explores how congressional efforts to enact drug- czar legislation reflect Congress' need to reassure the public and how a political structure can serve a symbolic threat/reassurance function.
Abstract: To examine the political issues associated with efforts to create a drug czar, the case method and participant observation were used. The case study describes congressional efforts over two decades to establish a drug czar. The study depicts the conflicts between Presidents and Congress. Congress repeatedly sought to create a drug czar, although this was opposed by both Democratic and Republican Presidents. This conflict should not be viewed from the perspective of a rational attempt to address the drug problem, but rather as a rational step that served Congress' political interests. By establishing a drug czar, Congress was addressing the drug problem by giving visibility to an issue of critical public concern and establishing a point person in the White House. Accordingly, Congress presented the public with the appearance of a solution to reassure them that something was being done about the drug problem. Having a drug czar allowed Congress to deflect attention from itself and focus the public's attention on the President and the executive branch. The drug czar and the White House thus were made the "lightning rod" for any criticism of Federal efforts to resolve the drug problem. Since the drug problem is complex and solutions are elusive, neither the executive nor the legislative branch wants to be the target of criticism for failed efforts. This analysis illustrates how drug and criminal justice legislation are developed in the political process. To influence criminal justice legislation requires an understanding of the political process and the political rationality that underlies that process. 7 notes and 16 references
Main Term(s): Drug Policy
Index Term(s): Drug laws; Federal government; Political influences
Note: An earlier version of this paper was presented at the American Society of Criminology Annual Meeting, November 1991.
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