Libertarians: Pardon
all drug offenders

By Jon Dougherty

The Libertarian Party has called on Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to pardon all of the state’s non-violent drug offenders after his daughter made headlines again for allegedly abusing rock cocaine while in a rehabilitation center in Orlando.

Party officials were responding to a report that police were called to the Center for Drug Free Living Monday after employees reported finding a “white, rock-like substance” in a shoe belonging to Noelle Bush, 25. Police were summoned by another patient, reports said, but Ms. Bush was not arrested because clinic officials said they preferred to handle the matter “in-house.”

Orlando police, however, say they are continuing their investigation. A spokesman said Noelle may eventually be arrested if a judge overseeing her case decides to intervene.

It is the second time Ms. Bush has been accused of a drug-related offense. She was jailed for three days in July after violating the terms of a drug treatment program, which was ordered after she was arrested in Tallahassee in January for allegedly trying to buy Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, with a phony prescription.

“Why is Noelle Bush sitting in a rehab center while other drug-law violators are rotting in prison?” said Ron Crickenberger, LP political director. “The answer is obvious: Because her father happens to be a hypocritical governor who believes in one standard of justice for his family and another standard for yours.”

Jeb Bush responded to reporters Tuesday as a father, not the state’s chief executive.

“In this case, I’m not a governor; I’m a dad,” he said. “All I can do is pray. She needs to change. She needs to accept responsibility. She knows we love her.”

Bush went on to describe the incident as “a private issue as it relates to my daughter and myself and my wife.”

“The road to recovery is a rocky one for a lot of people that have this kind of problem,” he told reporters.

But the explanation didn’t placate Libertarians who, in a statement, posed the question, “Why shouldn’t every American get the Noelle Bush treatment?”

“Gov. Bush is exactly right that drug abuse should be treated as a private, medical problem rather than as a criminal problem,” said Crickenberger. “Unfortunately, Bush is an ardent drug warrior who believes in throwing ordinary individuals in jail for committing the same ‘crime’ as his daughter. …”

LP officials said Bush could “redeem himself,” however, by granting “every non-violent drug offender in the Florida state prison system a full and immediate pardon.”

“The fact is that individuals with drug problems harm only themselves and perhaps their families,” Crickenberger said. “But a politician with a hypocrisy problem has the power to tear everyone’s family apart.”

The incident with Noelle Bush, who is President Bush’s niece, comes as Floridians voted Tuesday in the state’s Democratic primary for governor. In that race, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, once thought the obvious choice, was running a tight contest with political novice and Tampa lawyer Bill McBride.

With more than 97 percent of precincts reporting by yesterday afternoon, Reno had slipped behind McBride by about 2 percentage points, garnering 43 percent of the vote to McBride’s 45.

But reminiscent of the controversial Election 2000 vote in Florida, Reno hinted yesterday she may challenge the results in court or demand a recount because of glitches with some voting machines that delayed the opening of polls for several hours in some precincts.

As attorney general during the Clinton administration, Reno supported early intervention and treatment efforts for drug users. In 1989, while on the bench in Florida, she created drug courts to give first offenders a second chance. In 1986, she said she was against mandatory sentencing for drug offenses unless more prisons were built.