We all knew it was going to happen. With veepster Gore kicking and struggling behind Bush in the polls for what was supposed to
be an easy win, it was only a matter of time before the stuff hit the fan.
But who knew the stuff was a snootful of beer?
The recent revelations that Bush found himself on the wrong side of Lady Justice’s robes for hitting the road with a few too many
pints was timed perfectly. With only days to go in the race, the late release of the information makes it difficult for the
Dubya Delegation to adequately respond. After first word of the Dubya DUI, a flurry of news reports, articles, columns and
editorials blasted across TVs, radios and newspapers, while electrons splashed across the Net in a deluge of bad Bush tidings.
Damage control isn’t easy in a situation like this. And with stakes as high as this, it’s almost enough to drive someone to
The thing is, damage control is almost unneeded here.
George W.’s DUI didn’t happen last week, racing down the interstate pickled in protest of the
new federally mandated .08
blood-alcohol levels. Bush was pulled over Labor Day weekend in 1976 near Dad and Babs Bush’s summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine. That was nearly a quarter century ago. I wasn’t even quite a year old at the time. The Bee Gees were still a hot item, for Pete’s sake.
Bush lost his driving privileges in Maine, to be sure, and had to fork over a grand total of 150 clams in punitive fines, but not even the frothy-mouthed, temperance-crazed, still-busters of MADD are mad about the incident.
Bush is “of a generation when cocktail parties were woven into the fabric of our social lives,” Toni Logan, spokeswoman for the Texas chapter of MADD,
told our man in Washington, Paul Sperry. “Smoking and drinking were glamorized then. Remember cocktail hour? I mean, women had entire wardrobes with matching shoes,” she said. “And nobody thought much about (getting behind the wheel after a party). There was no such thing as a designated driver.”
“Americans have a lot more information now about the safety risks,” she added, “and we’ve adjusted attitudes accordingly.”
So Bush buggered up 24 years ago; given that he didn’t try to pull any strings to have the punishment alleviated or his record expunged at the time and took his medicine like a man, can’t we just say, as our beloved, soon-to-be-former President Bill Clinton recently told
Esquire Magazine, “they have to be very careful about how they handle this, because the American people … say, ‘Look, that’s over — this is about him and his family, and that’s behind us’”?
It’s old news. Let’s just put this behind us — isn’t that what we’ve done for Bill? I guess if your name is George things are different.
Still, rather than simply forgive, if instead we decide to hold Bush’s feet to the red-hot coals of the electorate for the 24-year-old indiscretion, the only real monkeywrench in the gears of Bush’s campaign juggernaut, as Dick Morris pointed out yesterday on Paula Zahn’s Fox News show, is whether or not Dubya was devious about the DUI. Did he lie about it under oath in the years after the arrest? Such a revelation would definitely damage Bush’s credibility.
But, even if he did, let’s be realistic here. Past lies are not, themselves, prohibitive of the presidency. Habitual lying is definitely a strike against a candidate, but if an occasional lie here and there banned a man from office, we wouldn’t have anybody left in government. And while I like that idea infinitely more than Bush winning, it’s not enough to keep him from doing so — especially when you remember his opponent has such a slippery grip on the truth people actually applaud when he gets his facts straight.
Beyond that, in a sense, Bush has been very truthful here. If you’ve admitted to having problems with alcohol abuse in the past, as Bush has readily done, that’s a broad enough declaration to cover a DUI. Just because a particular detail of someone’s past sins is particularly juicy, doesn’t mean it’s any worse or noteworthy 24 years after the fact. Once confessed, it’s done — especially considering the man hasn’t tipped the elbow in 14 years.
Bush has been forthright thus far with his personal demons; demanding he tell us all their names and personal hygiene habits is nonsense. I don’t want to know the ins and outs of a man’s sins. I don’t think anyone really does.
But, I suppose, if Gore supporters figure they can nab a few more votes for their man, anything is worth trying — even the same smear tactics they so recently objected to as the “politics of personal destruction.” Let’s just hope the stratagem backfires and becomes the “politics of Gore’s destruction.”
I’m no big fan of Bush, but watching Gore go down the john on this would be a pleasure to see.