OK, I admit it. I did cocaine.

It was many years ago. And I regret it. I did many things when I was
young that I regret. The fact that I was young at the time is no excuse.
But I have learned from that experience. I thank God that I didn’t wind
up in jail, dead or in the gutter because of my reckless behavior. And I
would caution every young person — especially my own kids — against
ever experimenting with dangerous drugs.

There. I said it. I’m not proud. In fact, I’m ashamed. But I said it.
And no one was even asking me.

Now what’s so hard about that statement? Why is it so difficult for
Gov. George W. Bush to craft something along those lines and issue it
publicly? Why does he continue to, well, beat around the bush?

Think about the message George W. is sending young people with his
Clintonesque craftiness. Bush’s most revealing statement to date was
that he was young and wild in his young and wild days. He refuses to
talk about specifics, even though the cocaine question — fairly or
unfairly — has become the focal point of his campaign for the
presidency. So, what does Bush’s cryptic statement mean — especially in
the age of Clinton morality?

I’ll tell you what it would mean to me if I were, say, 17 or 18. It
would signal to me that teen-age and young adult behavior doesn’t count.
The choices we make about personal conduct only matter when we become 30
or 40 years old. Young people are just expected to be irresponsible —
to sow their wild oats.

That is not a good message for a serious presidential candidate to be
sending to America at a time when the nation has a lot of soul-searching
to do. We’re nearing the end (I hope) of an eight-year reign by a leader
with no shame, no scruples, no moral core, no honesty and no integrity.
The damage done by that leadership is incalculable now, but may be
irreparable without Divine intervention. America is accountable for
Clinton’s crimes because it twice elected him to the most powerful
position on Earth and has backed him with popular support in spite of
the exposure of his offenses and weak character.

We’re approaching a national election year in which America has a
chance to begin mending itself and emerging from this nightmare. And the
choice, the polls would indicate, is between Clinton’s handpicked
successor — or “vice perpetrator,” as Rush Limbaugh would say — and
George W., a man who seems to have learned the best way to deal with
questions of character, personal conduct and individual responsibility
is to stonewall.

Where did he learn this lesson? Obviously from the master — Bill
Clinton, who has escaped accountability for any of his high crimes,
misdemeanors and petty larcenies by being coy.

Is it plausible that George W. never did cocaine and refuses to
answer the question specifically out of some misguided principle? I
can’t imagine it. If I had never done cocaine, I would be proud to
announce it to the world. Anyone would. What possible reason could there
be for hedging or refusing to answer if he has always been clean?

No, that doesn’t make sense. So, obviously, he believes the best
course to follow is to refuse to answer. But that decision in itself is
dishonest. When you decide to subject yourself to public scrutiny to
seek the highest office in the land, you must accept the fact that there
will be tough questions that cannot and should not be dodged.

Even if it succeeds as a political strategy — as it has with Clinton
— being cagey is simply not the right thing to do.

It’s time for George W. to come clean and put this behind him so we
can begin seriously evaluating this man’s positions on the issues, his
political track record and his plans for the country. All of that is
getting obscured in this never-ending controversy — this political soap
opera, one no doubt planned and executed by his political adversaries.

We’ve had enough of Bill Clinton-style half-truths and deceptions.
It’s time for George W. to lay it on the line, tell us what he has done
and how he has changed. After all, if the nation can survive eight years
of Clinton, it can take the truth about George W. Bush.

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