O’Rourke in national headlights over 12 words in Drug War resolution
by David Crowder
Posted on January 9, 2009
Several months ago, El Paso city Rep. Beto O’Rourke became noticeably quieter at City Council meetings and explained, when asked about it, that he had resolved to speak only when he had something to important to say.
His low profile exploded this week when the national media latched on to the 12 words he added to a council resolution intended to express El Paso’s support for Juarez, which has become the battleground for a drug cartel war being fought on its streets.
O’Rourke’s amendment called for an “honest open national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics.”
The story about City Council’s unanimous approval of the resolution with O’Rourke’s amendment and the mayor’s quick veto was covered as a pro-drug legalization statement by local news media, picked up by the Associated Press and published in newspapers and on news web sites across the county.
Since the end of the City Council meeting on Tuesday, O’Rourke has been interviewed by CNN News and National Public Radio and blasted by commentator Lou Dobbs, who went off about the crazies on the border.
That publicity led to still more, and O’Rourke said he has been deluged by interview requests, e-mail and phone calls, some supportive and many critical.
“I have gotten a ton of email and phone calls, most of it supportive – not to discount the really angry calls we got from people who misunderstood that we want to legalize drugs.” he said. “Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is. We just want all the options to be on the table.”
But his 12 words – “supporting an honest open national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics” – have been misunderstood, misread, abused, distorted and, in some cases, reported accurately.
But, they are out there in a way O’Rourke never imagined they would be and in a way that some, including Mayor John Cook, wish they weren’t.
‘I hope it has all had its intended affect of starting the national discussion of the wisdom of the war on drugs … and probably more importantly, helping to bring about a better solution than the status quo, which has led to the terror and tragedy in Juarez,” O’Rourke said.
”Will people take us seriously?”
O’Rourke said Mayor John Cook told him he vetoed the resolution because he was concerned that couldn’t take it to the office of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison without getting laughed at over it.
Cook says the resolution was intended to become part of the city’s federal legislative agenda that he, other officials and the city’s lobbyists in Washington present to U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Texas two senators and others for congressional action.
“That was one of my biggest concerns and one of the reasons I vetoed it,” Cook said. “I don’t think we’re going to bet any national traction on that with everything affecting the country right now, like the war in Iraq, the economic stimulus package, bailouts of major industries.
“We’re not going to have people in Congress debating the legalization of narcotics. Will people take us seriously if we present these arguments? I think the answer is no.”
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