Opening Statement of Congressman Asa Hutchinson
before the Senate Judiciary Committee
Leahy, Senator Hatch, distinguished Members of the Committee, thank you
for this honor and for the courtesies each of you extended to me in recent
weeks as my nomination has moved through the Senate. I particularly want
to express appreciation to Chairman Leahy and Senator Hatch for their
Mr. Chairman, it
would have been easy to yield to those who expected a critical view of
my nomination because of previous controversies, which found us on different
sides. Thank you for taking a different approach and for seeing my nomination
as an opportunity to demonstrate to the American people that despite any
differences, we can be in harmony on one of the most critical problems
facing our nation.
I also want to thank
Senator Hutchinson and Senator Lincoln for their support and confidence
in my nomination. I am gratified that my colleagues from Arkansas share
in the excitement of this challenge.
I also want to express
appreciation to my wife of twenty-seven years, Susan, who has never failed
to join me with a smile as I seem always to choose "the road less
traveled by." Now we are embarking on a noble crusade for the hearts
and minds of a generation. It is good to travel this road with you.
I am pleased also
to introduce my daughter Sarah Wengel and her husband Dave Wengel, who
are able to join me for this occasion. I also have some family in Arkansas
who could not be here: my son Asa III and his wife Holli, and my sons
John Paul and Seth. I am proud of all of my family and am grateful for
their support and encouragement.
It is an honor to
be named by President Bush to lead this effort as head of the Drug Enforcement
Administration. I will consider it a privilege to work in a Justice Department
led by Attorney General Ashcroft. I am grateful to the President for the
nomination, but more significantly, I am grateful for his heartfelt desire
to strengthen the American character by reducing our nation's dependence
on drugs. This is accomplished, in part, through vigorous enforcement
of our laws, but there is more. It is also 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. I fully
support the President's balanced approach to the problem of drug abuse.
As everyone in this
room knows, it is a high privilege to serve in Congress. It is a distinct
honor for me to represent the Third District of Arkansas. People ask me
why I would leave an institution I love in order to engage in an effort
in which success is doubted, and progress is hard to measure.
The answer as to
why I would take on this responsibility goes back to what I learned as
a United States Attorney appointed by former President Reagan in the 1980s.
I learned that drug abuse destroys individuals, shatters families and
weakens the fabric of a community and a nation. I also learned that the
anti-drug efforts of this nation can be effective in saving lives and
rebuilding families and communities. Surely, this is a noble purpose worthy
of a great crusade.
Finally, I learned
about the extraordinary and dedicated men and women of the DEA. They put
their lives on the line to make a positive difference for our nation.
They deserve the support and praise of the American people for the great
work they do. I hope to .provide leadership that is worthy of such dedication
When I came to Congress,
I continued my personal commitment in this arena by serving on the Speaker's
Taskforce for a Drug Free America and by my oversight work on the Judiciary
Committee. The oversight hearings I chaired on methamphetamine and club
drug abuse in California and other states gave me an appreciation for
the risk our front-line .officers take every day. In California, I was
also able to see the California drug court system. Drug courts impressed
me as a very useful tool to provide intensive, long-term rehabilitation
for non-violent drug abuse offenders.
As a result of my
work on the front line as a federal prosecutor, working with our drug
agents in the field and my legislative efforts as a Member of Congress,
I have experience to bring to this noble cause. This experience includes
personally prosecuting scores of drug cases; providing leadership for
more cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies;
and encouraging communities to develop anti-drug coalitions to encourage
young people to make the right life decisions.
But more than experience,
I will bring my heart to this great crusade. My heart will reflect a passion
for the law; a compassion for those families struggling with this nightmare;
and a devotion to helping young people act upon the strength and not the
weaknesses of their character.
I also want to emphasize
that the work of this committee is critical to our anti-drug efforts.
Your dedication, counsel and leadership are essential to building an effective
federal team. I pledge my cooperation and availability to this committee.
I look forward to working with you.
Finally, it is important
that the laws be enforced fairly. The federal law enforcement agencies
should set the example for equal treatment and equal enforcement. Without
a fair system, there will be no confidence or support from the citizenry,
and our enforcement efforts, will be severely damaged.
Charles de Gaulle,
the former leader of France, once said that France would not be true to
herself if she was not engaged in some great enterprise. It is my belief
that America cannot be true to its Own character without engaging our
young people, our families, our communities and our leaders in this great,
just cause of reducing drug abuse.