Blowing past the smoke screen 

I'm on George W. Bush's side. Really! I have it in a letter, dated June 20, 1999. It's addressed to me and it opens with: "Dear Al, Thank you for letting me know your ideas and suggestions. I welcome information about important issues, and I value your perspective." It goes on to offer some claptrap about entering a new century, lower taxes, limited government, free trade, the promise of America, blah-blah-blah-blah, but it's the last line that clinches the deal. In plain English, it says, "I am grateful to have you on my side, and I hope to see you in the future."

It's signed, "Sincerely, GEORGE W. BUSH." So, I'm on George Dubya's side. Which can only mean one thing. If I'm on his side, then he's on mine.

I'm glad. Because from now on, I'll be able to put forth all my positions on the issues as ones that George has implicitly endorsed. Since we're on the same side, we can speak with one voice. This will undoubtedly lead to a greater understanding of important issues by the voters, and help them make an informed and educated choice next November. But maybe I should explain how George and I became such strange bedfellows.

You see, a few months back, I decided to take advantage of my constitutional prerogative to petition my government for a redress of grievances. The issue at hand was the failure of America's "war on drugs," and the need to move away from a system of prohibition and incarceration to a policy of harm reduction and compassionate treatment. So, in furtherance of this aim, I wrote, faxed or e-mailed all 50 governors, all major- and minor-party presidential candidates (declared and undeclared), and the present occupant of the White House, Bill (I-didn't-inhale) Clinton.

The gist of my letter was that, since we have (1) wasted billions of dollars over the last few decades in our insane attempt to legislate morality; (2) destroyed lives and families with draconian mandatory prison sentences for nonviolent drug users; and (3) corrupted the entire legal system as well as our Constitution with unreasonable seizures, searches and forfeitures, maybe it was time to call a truce in this "war," and think about different approaches.

I then said it may be a propitious time to pardon those unfortunate Americans who have been jailed in this losing battle, pointing out our Judeo-Christian heritage of forgiveness and renewal. (In ancient Judaism, every 50th year was celebrated as a "Jubilee," in which all debts were forgiven and all prisoners freed.) The new millennium offered us a unique opportunity to invoke Christ's power to redeem and restore. In short, I was asking all the state's governors, and all present and potential future residents of the White House, to award amnesty and use their constitutional powers to grant pardons to the hundreds of thousands who simply had the misfortune to get caught doing what millions of others have done and gotten away with.

Remember, this was months before George Dubya's flap over his possible use (or non-use) of cocaine, possibly seven (or 18, or 25) years ago. Now, if the truth be told, George and I are in complete agreement over this issue ... which shouldn't be surprising, since we're on the same side. And, like George, I also have no interest in playing the "gotcha" game that decides how good someone is based on how many days (or years or decades) it's been since he drank, snorted, toked or otherwise altered (or didn't alter) his consciousness for hedonistic, spiritual or other reasons (or not).

What's important here is that, of all the responses I received, only George W. Bush acknowledged that we're on the same side.

And I'm truly gratified to see that our amnesty program is off to a good start. Who has George pardoned so far? Why, himself, of course! I mean, hasn't he movingly told us all that what he may (or may not) have done, seven (or 18, or 25) years ago, was merely a "youthful indiscretion" ? And hasn't he, with great compassion and wisdom, forgiven himself, telling us that he wishes to move on with his life, which clearly will contain no jail time for crimes he may (or may not) have committed? Really, I couldn't ask for a better beginning to our amnesty agenda.

So, on behalf of my teammate, I am pleased to announce that sometime in the near future, Gov. George W. Bush will grant unconditional amnesty to all low-level, nonviolent drug users in the state of Texas, and that his first act as president, in January 2001, will be to pardon all federal drug prisoners in our land, returning them to their homes and families in a continuing gesture of redemption and good will that began with his own self-pardon. It's compassionate conservatism at its best and, once again, I'd just like to say that I'm proud to have him on my side, and I hope to see him in the future.


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