The Clinton administration's off-again, on-again plan to spend taxpayers' money to buy drug addicts fresh, clean needles to poison themselves with is off again.
Even so, the very Politically Correct Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala was trotted out to sing the praises of needle exchanges and to encourage states and localities to take up the cause.
This is a cowardly way of passing the buck. Shalala and her do-good HHS cronies were itching to appease AIDS activists -- an important and generous constituency of the Democratic Party -- pushing for the giveaway.
But she also knew that to do so would outrage federal taxpayers who are wisely and adamantly opposed to having the government spend their hard-earned money to help feed dopeheads' addiction.
Shalala would have also been going against the advice of the administration's own drug czar. Barry McCaffrey warned the administration that subsidizing the program would be like sending a message to the nation's youths that shooting up mind-numbing illegal drugs is OK if they do it with government-approved needles.
Is this what we want to be telling kids at a time when we're trying to get them to quit smoking cigarettes?
As it is, the message coming from the administration is, at best, confusing. Sending out Shalala to urge other arms of government to sponsor needle exchanges undercuts McCaffrey's sensible, straight-forward message that unlawful drugs are bad for you in all their manifestations. Stay away from them.
In typical fashion the Clintonistas are trying to have it both ways -- simultaneously taking a hard line and soft line against drugs.