Bill Tried Pot Says He Smoked Marijuana In His Youth But Never Used Cocaine; Backs Open Gays In The Military

Posted: September 20, 1999

It's not exactly reefer madness, but presidential contender Bill Bradley's admission yesterday that he used marijuana "several times" in his youth has stirred the fire under the smoldering issue of drug use by presidential candidates.

"I have used marijuana several times in my life, but never cocaine," Bradley, the former Democratic senator from New Jersey, told interviewers on ABC's "This Week" program yesterday.

"Recently in your life?" asked reporter Sam Donaldson.

"No," Bradley replied.

"When you were a kid?" Donaldson asked.

"Well, yes, right," Bradley replied.

Both Bradley and his leading opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, Vice President Al Gore, have admitted before that they experimented with marijuana in their youth.

But Bradley, who is dogging the vice president's heels in several recent polls, was more specific in yesterday's TV appearance, and more direct about his feelings on the subject.

"Every presidential candidate has to decide where they're going to draw the line of privacy in their life," Bradley said.

"It's a felony," Donaldson said.

"Wait a minute. I've always believed that people have a right to know if you're a crook, but not if you're a sinner, since we all are."

But Bradley added, "Yes, I do think if someone violated the law, they should state whether they did or not."

Donaldson asked Bradley if he thought Bush should admit he used cocaine, if he did.

"Well, look, I've given you my opinion," Bradley said. "George W. Bush is going to do what he feels he's going to do to live with himself in the course of this process."

The subject of drugs led to some light bantering among the panel of interviewers in yesterday's program.

Turning the tables on Donaldson, Bradley asked the reporter if he had ever smoked pot.

"I think a couple of times I've tried it. And I inhaled," Donaldson said, a needling reference to President Clinton's famous statement that he tried marijuana but didn't inhale.

Bradley then asked reporter Cokie Roberts if she had tried it, but she said she had been too pregnant in her youth.

As Donaldson tried to turn the questioning to the issue of guns and violence, Bradley asked conservative columnist George Will if he had tried marijuana. Will said he had not.

The drug issue was raised by Donaldson, who referred to the seeming sidestepping of Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republicans' leading presidential candidate, when he is asked, as he is frequently, if he ever used cocaine.

Bush, who has admitted to unnamed youthful indiscretions, has said only that he hasn't used the drug in the past 25 years.

"The threshold question these days, at least in some quarters, is use of cocaine," Donaldson said. "Does it matter if a presidential candidate has used cocaine, an illegal drug?"

In the wide-ranging interview, Bradley, the ex-New York Knicks basketball star, dipped a toe into the sticky issue of gays in the military.

He said he did not consult with military officials prior to telling a gay and lesbian magazine that homosexuals should be permitted to serve openly in the military.

"This is a statement of my personal views, my personal belief that gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military," Bradley said.

He also told the magazine, The Advocate, that gays should be protected under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

And he said he would not support a California ballot question that seeks to outlaw same-sex marriages, although he said he remains opposed to such unions.

Interviewers wondered if Bradley had asked senior military officials about why they view the armed services differently from other areas of government where gays serve openly. Bradley said he did not and did not see a need to.

Bradley said that gay Americans should be allowed to serve in the military if they can serve the country as policemen, nuclear scientists, doctors and lawyers.

"There have been gays in the military as long as there's been a military. They've only had to hide," he said.

Bradley described the Clinton's administration's "don't ask, don't tell," policy on gays in the military as a near failure.

The 1993 policy allows homosexuals to serve in the military as long as they do not discuss their sexual orientation openly. Military superiors also cannot inquire about the sexual orientation of their troops.

Meanwhile, a poll in New York shows Bradley deadlocked with Vice President Al Gore in the crucial Democratic state where Bradley was a basketball hero.

A Marist Institute for Public Opinion survey showed the two men each with 42 percent of registered Democrats supporting them. A March poll had the vice president ahead by 17 points.

The poll also showed that Bradley would do better in a general election against Bush. Bradley was preferred by 49 percent of the voters, while Bush was the choice of 38 percent of those asked.

Gore was in a statistical dead heat with Bush, with the Texas governor preferred by 46 percent and the vice president by 44 percent.

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