The First Family's Alcohol Troubles

The First Family's Alcohol Troubles
Posted by FoM on May 30, 2001 at 20:45:46 PT
By Joan Walsh
I don't envy Jenna and Barbara Bush, going off to college under the watchful eye of the Secret Service and the international media. But the sudden flurry of headlines about the first twins' alcohol-related mishaps raises new questions about the way their father handled his own "young and irresponsible" past. I always thought it was a bad decision for Bush, as a politician, to refuse to acknowledge his wild youth -- which, by his own account, lasted until he was 40. 
But now it seems it was a bad choice for Bush as a father. After his 1976 drunken-driving arrest was revealed last year, Bush said he didn't admit it when he decided to run for president because he didn't want his daughters to know about it. That was a mistake, and the twins' recent run of bad behavior seems designed to let him know that. There's no evidence either twin has a drinking problem, but the string of news items involving their partying and scrapes with the law in the last few months can't be ignored. First came the tale of Secret Service agents ferrying home Jenna's boyfriend after he was arrested for public drunkenness. Then there were randy National Enquirer photos of Jenna, a University of Texas freshman, and a beer-drinking pal, and a story about her alleged marijuana use. Yale freshman Barbara, supposedly the studious twin, had a false I.D. confiscated at a New Haven, Conn., bar. In April, the Enquirer featured a lurid tale of Barbara's drunken spring-break binge in Mexico, and by the end of the month all major newspapers were carrying a story about Jenna being cited by police at an Austin bar for underage drinking, while Secret Service agents waited outside. Now, barely a week after a court appearance to deal with that alcohol citation, Jenna has been cited again for using a false I.D. to buy alcohol at an Austin restaurant, with sister Barbara at her side. Of course, many of us would have provided lively tabloid fodder in college if we'd been subjected to the scrutiny Barbara and Jenna Bush must endure. And their college drinking doesn't mean they'll turn into alcoholics as adults. Most teenage party girls become responsible citizens eventually. Still, their recklessness in the first months of their father's presidency suggests their parents screwed up by downplaying and even denying President Bush's own drinking problem. Bush's he-man decision to quit drinking cold turkey is the stuff of legend. The morning after a boozy 40th birthday party in 1986, he woke up at Colorado's tony Broadmoor Resort and decided, on his own, to get sober. Alcohol had begun to "compete for my affections," Bush said later. Certainly he didn't need Alcoholics Anonymous, he told the Washington Post: "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." But his close friends tell a slightly different story: "Once he got started, he couldn't, didn't shut it off," Bush's buddy Don Evans, now commerce secretary, told the Washington Post last year. "He didn't have the discipline." That sounds a lot like an addiction, though only Bush himself knows for sure. He refused to discuss details of his drinking or rumored drug use throughout his political campaigns, relying on the stock excuse, "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible." His parents have also repeatedly denied he had a drinking problem, even after several family crises involving his drinking came to light: an ugly Christmas confrontation with his father in 1972, after Bush drove drunk with his brother Marvin, crashed into a neighbor's garbage cans and offered to fight "mano a mano" with his father; and the 1976 DUI incident near the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, with his then-teenage sister Dorothy in the car. We know Bush's problem drinking, including the DUI, was a family secret. The night a reporter broke the DUI story, Laura Bush called both daughters, in Austin and New Haven, to break the news to them. "I made the decision that as a dad I didn't want my girls doing the kinds of things I did, and I told them not to drink and drive," Bush told reporters. But he didn't tell them about his own arrest. The secrecy, of course, was a mistake. Anyone who works with alcoholics and their families knows honesty is crucial: The drinking parent needs to come clean about his or her problems, and kids need to understand the family dynamics that were established around the drinking. And as teenagers, they need to know that alcoholism is a disease -- whether because of psychology or physiology or some combination of the two -- that is remarkably hereditary, and think about their own drinking in that context. "We know for a fact that [Jenna's] father had a long history of alcohol use and abuse," Lynn Ponton, a psychologist who studies teenage risk-taking, told Salon. "And this is an opportunity for the Bushes ... to talk honestly with their children about risk-taking and really provide guidance and increase communication. And I would wonder what type of communication is actually taking place." I wonder, too. I'd bet there hasn't been enough communication in the WASP-y Texas Bush family, and it looks as if the first twins are acting out as a result. Even with a Secret Service detail, there are ways for young women to party, if they're discreet. Clearly, the first twins aren't. Their blatant risk-taking and public partying (the Secret Service waits outside the bars where they drink illegally?) seem designed to force a family reckoning that their father's drinking never triggered. I'm reluctant to play family therapist for a family I've never met, but I'd say that Bush may have gotten past voters with evasiveness about his drinking problem, but he hasn't satisfied his daughters. And if he sticks to the sanitized, up-from-Broadmoor version of the story, he may someday find he won the White House at the cost of an honest relationship with his daughters. Note: President Bush downplayed his own drinking problem and hid a DUI. Now his daughters are making news for underage drinking. Is there a connection?About the writer:Joan Walsh is the editor of Salon News. Source: (US Web)Author: Joan WalshPublished: May 31, 2001Copyright: 2001 Salon.comWebsite: salon salonmagazine.comRelated Articles:If Jenna Bush is a Pothead, Is It News? Confirms 76 DUI Arrest: I'm Not Proud of That Bush was Arrested for Cocaine in 1972 
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Comment #11 posted by Rambler on June 01, 2001 at 07:11:05 PT
Nothing specific Ethan,just the robust character,and fine quality of your eloquent expressionism,somehow reminds me of Dickens.It's been over 20 years since I read almost all of Dickens work so who knows what I'm thinking,but nonetheless,I enjoy the flavor of your elucidations.
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Comment #10 posted by Lehder on June 01, 2001 at 06:51:12 PT
presidential instability
Any amount of pressure on this unstable president, this alcoholic, cocaine freak and serial executioner, is going to give him those familiar old cravings, and they're going to be tough for him to handle. He'll be hiding bottles in the back of the White House toilet and will be asking his daughters to cop dope for him, which, as we know, they can obtain more easily than they can their booze. I think his handlers know that the guy will have to be shielded from serious frustrations - as when the dems start taking over congress - and that sharp or protracted confrontations with foreign leaders could pose a real pitfall for the guy psychologically. Foreign enemies know this too, a guy, for instance, like saddam hussein - personally far tougher and smarter than shrub - knows this very well. should be interesting.Yes, Ethan, I'd like to see this guy in a large European conference where his opinion is slighted and contradicted by intelligent people. (My argument would differ ever so slightly from yours insofar as I would not use the word 'untreated' - I'm not of the opinion that problems like his necessarily need outside treatment - but I certainly do regard his drug and alcohol problems as unresolved. And in his personal case I would agree that outside help would have been of benefit.) No way could he survive days or even hours in such a situation, being utterly without personal resource. Maybe his handlers can keep him isolated from any kind of frustration or extended confrontation where he must rely on his own resources for more than a minute or so at a time. Americans, after all, are satisfied with sound bytes, and broadcasters too will coddle and protect him. In a protracted crisis, as, for example, the Cuban missile episode, I believe that all the work would of necessity be handled by Cheney or other staffers or unknown handlers, and that Bush's role would be only to give carefully scripted press conferences. Still, it's going to be tough to avoid testy situations in his job, and many ill- wishers will be hip to this circumstance and attempt to exploit it. We don't have a cool and competent wheelman here, we have a pimple-faced adolescent joy riding in a machine too big for him and his feet can't reach the pedals.
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Comment #9 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on June 01, 2001 at 05:57:43 PT:
Dickens, You Mean Little Jimmy?
Rambler, I did my share of Dickens in prep school, but was not thinking of parallels when I spouted off with that one. What work did you have in mind?
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Comment #8 posted by Rambler on June 01, 2001 at 04:57:22 PT
The Lone Shrubster,and the twin pickled sprouts
The link below leads to an article that reports about the shrubs 3 strike law,and how the wayward shrublet,would face some manditory problems,if she gets caught seekin' the sauce again.I must humbly offer my paragraph of the week award to the good Doctor Russo for this one;"Besides his overt smugness and insincerity, I have been extremely suspicious of the First Shrub because of the above issue. I do not feel that his problem has been treated, and my personal (but not professional) opinion is that he is quite likely unstable. Perhaps a session in which the collective European leadership takes him over their knees would do the trick."Ethan,would I be correct in assuming you have read Charles Dickens?
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Comment #7 posted by jAHn on May 31, 2001 at 14:17:05 PT
My cheek is turning?
 What am I missing here? When does this place, this America, become a land of Equality? Where do we look for definitions?How come these people can harm themselves, and we can't do it to OURSELVES? ((Even though, in MY personal Opinion, I believe that Cannabis is NOT EVEN HARMFUL)) How come?How come NOONE EVEN GIVES A SHEET?  Why is it that All of the people I run into are ALL SILENT?  WHAT"S F**KING HAPPENING???How come SO many people can FLIRT, BLATANTLY, with danger while Rastafarians and Hindus can't RELIGIOUSLY smoke a little Herb?  Where is the News that's combatting this Fourth Reich? I know the rocketing of those sales figures upon ALL of those Video Cameras, Digital and Vhs, aren't just Occuring FOR NOTHING!!!  How come you people that have LOADS of money don't do Something?    How come you leave it up to "Liberals" and "Moderates" to get everything done?  HOW COME NOONE CARES???
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Comment #6 posted by J.R. Bob Dobbs on May 31, 2001 at 12:26:25 PT
Coverup? What coverup??
  Another link from the Drudge Report:
Media Caution Urged on Jenna Bush - Washington Post
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Comment #5 posted by J.R. Bob Dobbs on May 31, 2001 at 10:49:26 PT
Only a pawn in their game
  There is another possibility. By just trying to be who she is - a typical under-40 member of the Bush family, it seems - she could become a pawn in a much larger game as well. Take a look at the following from the Drudge Report:XXXXX DRUDGE REPORT XXXXX THUS MAY 31, 2001 11:51:09 ET XXXXX FRAT HOUSE TAPE: BUSH DAUGHTER 'FEELING NO PAIN' Collegemates of Jenna Bush are claiming to have made a homevideo of the president's daughter in a drunken state -- and students are now threatening to publicly release the tape! "It was a wild night, and she was feeling no pain," said a campus source. Jenna Bush, 19, was unknowingly captured on tape last month during a rowdy party attended by students of the University of Texas, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned. "If the tape finds its way into the wrong hands, the White House is going to turn every shade of red," predicted one student who demanded anonymity. "Jenna should get the message, and get it fast, there are a few troublemakers on campus who are rooting for her to fall on her face. She is making it too easy for them." Meanwhile, Secret Service agents guarding the first family have been ordered not to directly interfere with President Bush's daughters, according to insiders, unless their direct safety is at risk. "Their father promised they could lead as much of a normal life as possible," a family source told the DRUDGE REPORT. Agents had been waiting outside of an Austin Tex-Mex restaurant Tuesday night when Jenna allegedly tried to buy margaritas using a fake ID. "The agents were driving," said the family source. "There was no drinking and driving concerns." The run in with the law comes less than two weeks after Ms. Bush pleaded no contest to charges of underage drinking. Now Bush may come within one strike of being sent to jail for six months under the three-strikes-and you're-out law that her father implemented as Texas governor.
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Comment #4 posted by Ras James rsifwh on May 31, 2001 at 07:32:36 PT
Give all praise and thanks to Jah Rastafar-I who liveth and Reignith in I and I. Yes! For Now and I-ternity, Marijuana has manifested as the "Sacred Tree of Life" marking the End of Tribulations. Book of Revelation 22:1&2
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Comment #3 posted by fivepounder on May 31, 2001 at 07:24:16 PT
If it was myself
Wouldn't you like to be one of those girls and light up a big fat one with those secret service oinkers right there? 
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Comment #2 posted by Lehder on May 31, 2001 at 06:33:41 PT
White Girl
Well, the facts are intersting enough and I could have been spared the smarmy drivel about family communication, drinking parents, coming clean, denial and whatever other rehab-treatment theories were too advanced for me to notice. The fact is that this adolescent is cutting loose, something that many less important people wind up in prison for while others wind up in the White House. But, okay, here we have it from another article:Police would not say where the daughters' Secret Service agents were at the time. The Secret Service (news - web sites) wouldn't comment on it.White House spokesman Scott McClellan also declined comment,saying: ``If it involves the daughters in their private lives, it is a family matter.'' guess that public intoxication, rumors of drug use and attempts to buy booze illegally are, according to the White House, a "family matter." But if it's Robert Downey or Joe Blow keeping a quiet, low profile in a private hotel room, then an anonymous phone call is enough to make it a public matter involving the police, the destruction of a career and a lengthy prison term. At first I thought that Jenna might offer the country a little bit of hope. I wanted to title my comment "Jenna Rocks!" I thought that soon the stories of the dope would be coming out en masse and that this in-yer-face party broad might even blow some smoke in her daddy's face: get busted or flaunt the weed she surely smokes, or, in anti-drug psycho-babble come clean, and tell Him and the whole damn war off, just like in the move: "Fuck you, yer like a Nazi."She could do it, and she could do it on TV without having one of those bright orange walk-to-the-jail bullet-proof body paralyzers buckled onto her as would happen to you or me. But it's a lot to ask of a nineteen-year-old, especially an airhead fubarred by years of low-intensity abuse from a low-brow, dysfunctional family. So, like the article suggests, now she's out to get high, get loaded, get laid. I can't really blame her, but if she'd had anywhere from which to inherit some brains or decency, she is, for all the wrong stuff, definitely in the right place to make a difference. But she's unlikely to become psychologically capable of thinking of anyone but herself without hitting the bottom that will always be thickly cushioned for her and for the sake of Our Drug War. Her drug use, like her daddy's, will be protected, covered up, denied. Antis are above the law. And in 21 years when she grows up and boldly begins thinking about running for president and still has not cracked a book, she'll be just as vicious a drug warrior as the rest of the airheads in this grasping, hateful family of boozing big shots. She's a bad girl, a dumb girl, and a White Girl.C'mon, Jen and Barb, grow up, be smart, be heroines, let's Rock......Nah.--------------------------As I write there are three giant white X's overhead, chemtrails. check 'em out, tell me what they are.
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on May 31, 2001 at 05:37:47 PT:
My $.02 on the Subject
I do not believe in coerced "treatment" except under extreme circumstances (e.g., second DWI, or any violence associated with alcohol use). However, it is true to say that most alcoholics do not properly confront their problem without the benefit of an impartial third party to slowly and effectively allow them to gain a perspective on their issues. Alcohol is perhaps the most pernicious drug in this regard because of its promotion of violence, the degree of denial it engenders, and its association with memory loss ("I didn't do that!" Well, dude, it's because you were blotto dissolving your cerebral cell membranes.)Besides his overt smugness and insincerity, I have been extremely suspicious of the First Shrub because of the above issue. I do not feel that his problem has been treated, and my personal (but not professional) opinion is that he is quite likely unstable. Perhaps a session in which the collective European leadership takes him over their knees would do the trick. As to the twins, they are mainly doing what kids that age do. The fact that they have been blatant about it is the real issue. I agree with the author. Perhaps they are sending a message to Daddy Dubya that he is unwilling to hear. 
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