Czar’s Resignation Leaves Uncertainty

The resignation of White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey, effective Jan. 6, 2001, has left supporters of the $1 billion antidrug campaign uncertain of the future.

McCaffrey, who has directed the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for about five years, has staunchly defended the campaign during seven Congressional hearings and two General Accounting Of-fice audits.

He also fended off attacks from lawmakers and public-advocacy groups that charged a social-marketing campaign funded with taxpayer money should spend more on ethnic media and include alcohol.

“I think we have lost a huge advocate for the campaign,” said Alan Levitt, a senior adviser at ONDCP and director of the campaign.

While the initiative has bipartisan support in Congress, the intense scrutiny of McCaffrey’s effort has taken a toll. Some wonder if a campaign that was McCaffrey’s own idea can survive him. “There is always the risk that a new drug czar might not want to pick up on a McCaffrey program,” said one source.

With a tight presidential race, both candidates have jealously guarded their cabinet picks. McCaffrey made known his resignation last week, but has quietly put out the word that he would be happy to keep his post if selected, sources said.

“We hope McCaffrey will be asked back by the president elect,” said Stephen Dnistrian, a representative for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which works with ONDCP on the campaign.

Supporters of the campaign consider McCaffrey’s understanding of advertising to be one of his strongest assets.

“This is a bit like General Electric losing [chairman and CEO] Jack Welch,” said Shona Seifert, a se-nior partner and executive group director at Ogilvy & Mather in New York, ONDCP’s lead agency. “McCaffrey is an unbelievable CEO.”

McCaffrey could not be reached at press time.