Is Bush's Alleged Cocaine Use an Issue?

President Bush's alleged cocaine use was an issue in the 2000 election. It fizzled. He refused to either admit or deny using the drug. Now, bloggers are writing about it because of Kitty Kelly's new book, The Bush Family. Kelly is a tabloid-type biographer who previously has targeted the Reagans, Princess Diana and others. In her book, Kelly claims Bush used cocaine at Camp David when his father was President and in the mid- 60's. Her source is Bush former sister-in-law Sharon Bush.

Personally, I could care less what drugs Bush did in college. College is a time of experimentation, of youthful indiscretions. I mostly share the views of Drug War Rant on the issue.

There is another issue though, and that is, did Bush use cocaine later in life? What does Kelly say about Bush's 40th birthday party at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs? Was he coke-fueled then, dancing on the bar as rumors at the time suggested? It was after this party that he gave up alcohol for good--even though, he says, he wasn't an alcoholic. Did he also give up cocaine then....at the age of 40?

Why is this an issue?

If Bush was using cocaine well into his 30's, and lots of people in his circle were, it means he lied when he said in 1999 that he hadn't used the drug illegal drugs in the past 15 years. (Dallas Morning News, August 19 and 20, 1999, when he told a reporter he hadn't used cocaine illegal drugs in 7 years and at a press conference the following day when he said he hadn't used it in 15 years. Available on Lexis.com) Also, Bush wouldn't answer whether he had ever used the drug. He was the only one of the 11 candidates in the 2000 election not to answer the question (DMN, 8/19/99):

Earlier this month, 11 of the presidential candidates, in response to a newspaper inquiry, denied having used cocaine. Mr. Bush was the only candidate who would not say.

Is his refusal another example of his lack of forthrightness and honesty --and his evasiveness--with the American people?

Next, if a person has had abusive or addictive tendencies towards drugs or alcohol, is it not an issue about which the public has a right to know? It's an illness, just like cancer or heart disease. We demand candidates be open and honest about their medical conditions--why should excessive drug or alchol use be any different?

If Bush just dabbled in cocaine and was not an abuser of it, let him say so. End of story. But if he had a real problem with it, perhaps he's only "in remission," so long as he remains a Born-Again with strong faith or unless his stress level gets so high he can't deal with it without pyschotropic substances. Shouldn't the American people know which is the case? And, if he never used the drug, why can't he just come out and say so. Again, end of story--unless he's lying.

I'd actually have some respect for Bush if he came out and acknowledged recreationally using cocaine, marijuana and alchohol as a young man. I think it's crazy that the public thinks such usage disqualifies them from holding elective office. Personal experience can give a candidate some modicum of credibility when it comes to enacting drug laws and punishments.

For further reading, check out Joan Walsh's May 31, 2001 Salon article about Bush's 1976 drunken-driving arrest about which Bush later said, "Alcohol had begun to "compete for my affections."

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. The Washington Post, July 25, 1999

"He had been working toward it for a long time," said Laura Bush. "I think for a year at least he'd been thinking, 'I really need to slow down or quit.' Most people who try to quit drinking first think, 'Well, I'm just going to only have one drink.' And I think in his mind he thought, 'Well, that's what I'll do.' And then, of course, it didn't really work. Like for everybody, just about, who tries, it doesn't really work."

But Bush seems to realize that he has created something of a political monster through this approach, spawning countless rumors that have him doing everything from dancing naked on a bar to copping cocaine on a Washington street. "I'm amazed at how one simple statement has set off a swirl -- that I'm the wildest man that ever lived," Bush said.He has stated that he has been faithful to his wife of 22 years. But he has been less unequivocal on the subject of illegal drug use, refusing to itemize any past transgressions.... Asked in an interview about cocaine use, he said, "I'm not going to talk about what I did years ago.

Walsh also recounts this episode:

....an ugly Christmas confrontation with his father in 1972, after Bush drove drunk with his brother Marvin, crashed into a neighbour's garbage cans and offered to fight "mano a mano" with his father; and the 1976 Driving Under the Influence 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.

I doubt this will become an election issue in 2004 any more than it was in 2000. But you can't blame the Democrats for raising it again...not with Republicans attacking Kerry's character from the same ancient time period.

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