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Bush's drinking and drug use must be investigated

DOUG THOMPSON / Capitol Hill Blue | January 3 2006

It is my belief that President George W. Bush is drinking again. Even worse, he may be mixing alcohol and anti-depressants -- a dangerous combination for anyone, let alone the so-called leader of the free world.

No, I don’t have any proof of this, just random events and comments from those who work in and around the Bush administration and who tell me the President has acted in ways that suggest the use of alcohol and drugs. I’m a recovering alcoholic (sober 11 years, six months and 24 days) and I’ve run across a lot of relapsed drinkers who show the same symptoms as the President, including:

Blacking out while watching television alone;
Slurred speech and stammering responses to simple questions;
Anger and hostility in front of staff members;
Unexplained bruises on his face;
Trouble remembering recent events or comments.

During his trip to Mongolia last November, Bush openly sampled the local drink Airag, which is fermented milk with an alcohol content ranging from three to twelve percent. In other words, booze.

This was the same trip where Bush tried to evade reporters’ question by attempting to walk out a locked door and then turned sheepishly to the cameras and said he was “jet-lagged.” Some at the event said his stride was unsteady and his speech slurred.

“According to reports, President Bush may be drinking again,” David Letterman said in a late-night monologue. “And I thought, "Well, why not? He's got everybody else drinking.”

Rumors that Bush was hitting the bottle surfaced in Washington two years ago. Sources told us the President was using anti-depressants in 2004 and we reported the story. The same sources told us last year he was drinking again and we reported it in August. The National Enquirer also ran a front page story on it but no mainstream media outlet picked up on the story.

On August 27 of last year, the Houston Chronicle reported on a party at Bush’s ranch, noting that:

Nothing the president said could be quoted, but it's rare that reporters get uninterrupted access to him for 90 minutes, particularly when beer is served. Bush, who gave up drinking years ago, drank a non-alcoholic Buckler.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, we are warned to stay away from so-called “non-alcoholic” beers or “near beer” as it is called. The brew does, in fact, contain some alcohol and can trigger a renewed desire for more.

The November issue of the Journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, cites a study by team of California scientists who report that just the smell of non-alcoholic beer may be enough to trigger cravings and a subsequent relapse among certain alcoholics.

In my original articles about Bush’s bouts with anger and depression, I quoted Dr. Gerald Frank, a George Washington University psychiatrist and author of the book: Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President.

“Two questions that the press seems particularly determined to ignore have hung silently in the air since before Bush took office,” Dr. Frank says. “Is he still drinking? And if not, is he impaired by all the years he did spend drinking? Both questions need to be addressed in any serious assessment of his psychological state.”

Dr. Frank’s analysis of the President, which is based on watching and reading and not actual treatment of Bush, agrees with those who have told me the President is also taking anti-depressants.

“In writing about Bush's halting appearance in a press conference just before the start of the Iraq War, Washington Post media critic Tom Shales speculated that ‘the president may have been ever so slightly medicated,’” he said.

Dr. Frank explains Bush’s behavior as all-to-typical of an alcoholic who is still in denial:

“The pattern of blame and denial, which recovering alcoholics work so hard to break, seems to be ingrained in the alcoholic personality; it's rarely limited to his or her drinking,” he adds. “The habit of placing blame and denying responsibility is so prevalent in George W. Bush's personal history that it is apparently triggered by even the mildest threat.”

None of this, of course, proves Bush is drinking again or taking anti-depressants. The only evidence we have of Bush drinking is the sampling of a local, alcohol-based drink in Mongolia and his consumption of so-called non-alcoholic beer at a party in Crawford, Texas.

But my instincts tell me he is doing both alcohol and drugs and I believe as both a journalist and a recovering alcoholic that he needs to prove to Americans that he is not attempting to govern while under the influence.

Blogger Mark Kleiman, writing in The Reality Based Community, notes:

Moreover, with rare exceptions (e.g., the John Tower affair) the press seems very reluctant to mention heavy drinking by officials, even when it's widely known. Ted Kennedy's drinking gets an occasional mention, but I'd bet that most of Pat Moynihan's constiuents never knew their brilliant senator faced a permanent battle with the bottle. If Gary Hart's drinking problem has ever made the newspapers, I've missed it, though his behavior in the Donna Rice affair made it pretty obvious. Those in the know understood that the frequent media references to Bill Weld's "laziness" as Governor of Massachusetts referred to his persistent difficulty in keeping himself vertical after lunch, but again the voters didn't. Even foreign leaders get the same delicate treatment: Boris Yeltsin's "erratic" behavior was in fact quite regular and predictable, once vodka was entered into the equation.

Kleiman is right about Moynihan’s drinking. You could find the Senator at Capitol Hill watering holes most any night, lunching in many different directions at once while slurping down his drinks. A number of members of Congress are notorious drunks but their antics are almost never reported by the press unless they get nailed for DUI or caught frolicking nude in the Tidal Basin.

As a journalist, it is my duty to raise questions about the fitness of any elected leader. One may argue over whether or not it is proper to print speculation but, in this case, I believe it is justified.

I’m doing my job. I just wish the so-called “mainstream” media would do theirs.


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