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Romney talks up drug war

Last modified: 8/17/2011 12:00:00 AM
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told New Hampshire audiences yesterday that America should continue its "war on drugs" in part by teaching children to avoid a lifestyle of substance abuse.

"We've got to not only continue our war on drugs from a police standpoint but also to market again to our young people about the perils of drugs," Romney told a group at the Littleton Diner.

In addition to the economic queries that have dominated his campaign stops in New Hampshire, Romney took questions yesterday in both Littleton and Berlin from people who wanted to know how he would help confront drug addiction. At the diner, Aaron Melville, an attorney who lives in St. Johnsbury, Vt., told Romney he and fellow rural business owners have trouble finding educated workers who can pass a drug test.

Romney responded that Americans have to teach their children that competing in a global economy means they need to get an education, marry before having children and stay away from drugs. Americans who don't get an education will have to compete with people around the world who are willing to work for 50 cents an hour, he said.

"If you don't get an education and you start pursuing a lifestyle with drugs and alcohol abuse, you're not going to be able to have the kind of life you'd like to have," Romney said. "In too many cases we're just not telling our kids the honest truth."

In the evening, a North Conway man at a town hall meeting in Berlin told Romney he was frustrated the presidential candidates are not talking more about drug abuse. Steven Steiner said he lost a 19-year-old son to a drug overdose.

After offering his condolences, Romney said again that parents must do a better job warning young people about the dangers of drug use. He spoke of advisers on drug policy who are concerned about the movement toward legalizing marijuana for medical use.

Romney joked about marijuana use in California, where he has a home and where medical marijuana is legal.

"There's a lot of marijuana on the beach," Romney said. "It's amazing how many teenagers have medical problems that require marijuana. I'm saying that facetiously."

In New Hampshire, state lawmakers passed legislation in 2009 allowing people with debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana if their doctors recommended it, but Gov. John Lynch vetoed the bill. Similar legislation has since passed the state House but not the Senate.

Later at the meeting in Berlin, a woman told Romney she worries the "right- wing fringe" of the Tea Party is taking over the Republican Party. Romney said he took exception to her critique.

He said a party whose membership previously split between people interested in fiscal issues, social issues and foreign policy have now united in its belief that government is too big and intrusive.

"I think the great thing about the Tea Party movement is that Republicans of all backgrounds and interests have all coalesced around a few common themes, which is government is too big and spending too much," Romney said. "I happen to agree with that."

As he has so far in the campaign, Romney used his appearances yesterday to explain how his business experience has prepared him to encourage economic growth as president. He continued to contrast himself with President Obama without mentioning his rivals for the Republican nomination.

When a reporter asked Romney about campaign-stop comments by a new Republican competitor, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who a day earlier in Iowa contrasted his own work on his family farm with Romney's years working in finance, Romney said only that he and Perry would have time in future debates to contrast their experience and ideas.

"He's a fine guy, a fine governor," Romney said. "I respect him. I look forward to seeing him on the trail and at the debates."

Both men are expected to begin their days today campaigning in New Hampshire, Romney at a steel company in Berlin and Perry at a Politics and Eggs breakfast in Bedford and then a Nashua company that provides micromanufacturing services.

(Karen Langley can be reached at 369-3316 orklangley@cmonitor.com.)


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