Bush Defuses Alcohol Issue, Sidesteps Drug Rumor!

Bush Defuses Alcohol Issue, Sidesteps Drug Rumor!
Posted by FoM on August 09, 1999 at 08:22:08 PT
By Deb Price, Detroit News Washington Bureau 
Source: Detroit News Online
WASHINGTON -- What's the difference between heavy drinking and alcoholism? Quite possibly the White House, judging by Republican George W. Bush's delicate handling of his past drinking. 
  The Texas governor has been remarkably open, especially in recent weeks, about his decision to stop drinking 13 years ago. So far, poll numbers suggest that Bush has defused a story that pundits once predicted could be his undoing.   "This is the confessional age -- people enjoy this," says Larry Sabato, author of Feeding Frenzy, a study of the media's hunger for scandal. "It's 'Oprah!' People want to see candidates admit their flaws."   Bush has said he drank "too much" in the past, but was not "clinically an alcoholic."   In contrast, he has refused to deny repeated rumors of past cocaine use. Many analysts feel that strategy raises red flags -- and that Bush could be damaged later should something come out because he didn't address it as forthrightly as he has his drinking.   Bush is heading into uncharted presidential campaign waters by testing the public's willingness to accept a claim of recovery from excessive drinking. It's too early to know how Bush's admission will play out -- whether it will be perceived as a dangerous flaw or as a sign of strength.   However, recent polls show that voters think they have a right to know about candidates' drinking histories and express some wariness about electing a reformed heavy drinker president.   Bush's decision to characterize his own past actions for voters rewarded him with two terms in the Texas governor's mansion -- the first time unseating Ann Richards, herself a recovering alcoholic. Now Bush is taking his strategy national.   "It sounds like Gov. Bush saw he was headed in the wrong direction and nipped it in the bud," says Claudine Manchester, 34, a Harper Woods homemaker who likely will vote for him.   Not one drop'   Bush says he stopped drinking by turning to God.   In comments to the Washington Post last month, Bush said he didn't drink during daytime, never attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and doesn't believe he was "clinically an alcoholic." He says he hasn't had a "drop of alcohol" since a hangover after his 40th birthday party in 1986.   That Bush, now 53, stopped so many years ago impresses Dave Brown, a Southgate teacher.   "Say it was 1996 (that Bush stopped drinking). Then I would say there hasn't been enough time, that it'd be easier to fall off the wagon," said Brown, 34, a Republican who's torn between Bush and Elizabeth Dole.   But Helen Gerner, 80, a retiree from Warren, says she'd hesitate to vote for a presidential candidate who acknowledged excessive drinking in the past because stress could "push them over."   Gerner, an independent voter, said past cocaine use "would be more troublesome to me as a voter than if a candidate had used marijuana. It's a more serious drug."   Brown and Gerner are not alone in feeling that the public has a right to know about candidates' drinking histories, 1999 polls show:   Sixty percent of adults polled say a presidential candidate should have to answer questions about "whether they had an alcohol problem in the past." Thirty-eight percent said they should not.   Sixty-eight percent say a past drinking problem shouldn't disqualify a presidential candidate, vs. 26 percent who said it should.   Unanswered questions   "You can't hide anything anymore, so you might as well take the lead and deal with it," says Stephen Wayne, author of The Road to the White House.   Wayne thinks Bush has framed any discussion about his past drinking in the most favorable light, particularly with religious conservatives.   "He's trying to show that he's in control of this and he was able to do it on his own," he says. "... And that the only dependency here is one that is politically acceptable -- that is on God."   State Sen. Mat Dunaskiss, R-Lake Orion, reflecting on his own past drinking problem, predicts voters will respect Bush's turnaround.   "A person who has gone through struggles will be seen as having stronger beliefs and depths," says Dunaskiss, who acknowledged a drinking problem in 1997, was re-elected, and is open about his AA membership.   But Mark Guerrieri, a University of Michigan political scientist, thinks GOP rivals will raise Bush's past drinking -- and drug use rumors -- to try to cut into his huge lead.   Guerrieri argues that Bush's effort to distinguish his drinking from "clinical alcoholism" "sounds a lot like, I didn't inhale,' " a reference to Bill Clinton's much-ridiculed word games in the 1992 campaign over marijuana use.   Bush's openness may keep potentially embarrassing details from being disclosed. However, his refusal to deny drug use has created its own frenzy, expert Sabato notes, with reporters madly searching for sources to confirm gossip.   The cocaine whispers are so widespread that the Wall Street Journal published a front-page story May 14 about them, headlined "Behind the Rumors About George W. Bush Is a Culture of Gossip." Bush's sidestepping of questions about cocaine rumors has fueled talk, articles and editorials, and even an unflattering cartoon portrait in Doonesbury, the Journal noted.   "If reporters get evidence about past drug use, he will pay dearly for evading," Sabato says. "The public makes a distinction. Drinking, while bad, is on this side of OK. Drugs are not." 'Not an alcoholic,' Texas governor says  George W. Bush began talking about "his irresponsible youth" during his 1994 gubernatorial campaign in Texas. He was quoted extensively in a July 25 Washington Post interview about his decision to stop drinking in 1986. Here's what he said:   Why he stopped drinking:   "I realized that alcohol was beginning to crowd out my energies and could crowd, eventually, my affections for other people."   On alcoholism:   "I don't think I was clinically an alcoholic. I didn't have the genuine addiction. I don't know why I drank. I liked to drink, I guess."   What would happen if he drank:   "I'd probably say foolish things."   His spirituality:   "I accepted Christ. If you become more spiritual, you begin to realize the effect of alcohol overconsuming because it begins to drown the spirit."   Questions about cocaine use:   "I'm not going to talk about what I did years ago. ... I made mistakes. I've asked people to not let the rumors get in the way of the facts. I've told people I've learned from my mistakes -- and I have." Monday, August 9, 1999 1999, The Detroit News
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Comment #3 posted by steve1 on August 09, 1999 at 18:20:45 PT
clinton marijuana consumption
In analysis of "I did not inhale" well maybe Clinton liked brownies or space cake instead :)
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on August 09, 1999 at 10:27:22 PT:
Well Said!
Ally,Very well said. It is true that addiction is something that just doesn't go away. You can quit drinking, doing illegal drugs or legal addicting drugs and without help and support you can turn your addiction into a power substitute. That concerns me with our leaders. They punish society for their own shortcomings. They don't look inside themselves to see what would really help them and us.Peace, FoM!
Our Friends
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Comment #1 posted by Ally on August 09, 1999 at 09:47:32 PT
Pass the joint please
I think it would be intersting to note that the media spent more time in the 1992 elections talking about an noninhaled toke off a joint than they did Clinton's cocaine use.The mainstream Media is responsible for focusing more on that one statement "I did NOT inhale!" than the real issues about his sexual addiction much less his hidden cocaine problems!And look what the public got in return? Monicagate!This is what I say: Gov. Bush answer the American People about all your personality flaws, er issues! I was a sober member of NA and AA from 1986-1993. I went off the wagon to toke by choice! I can tell you today if I had a choice between a drink, a line, or a joint, I would take the joint hands down everytime! I am also very skeptical about people recovering without AA/NA, or some kind of group support system. The disease is one of isolation and can not be won alone! I would hope that all who are registered to vote think all of this through and then vote their conscious! We still have plenty of time to listen and observe who we want to be our "fearless" leader this time...Shalom, Ally
Ally's Web Page
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