The Green Papers Commentary

George W. Bush, his alleged drug use and its effect on the 2000 Presidential Campaign

Monday, November 15, 1999

"The Green Papers" Staff

First of all, let me make it known to all who will read this that I tried cocaine in my own "irresponsible youth"... twice!: both times back in 1977.

Now that I have shot any slim-to-none chance I might have had to be elected to high political office in these United States in the foot, let me further shoot my foot off completely by noting for the record that I am totally unrepentant about this, as I am about any other thing I might have done- or, for that matter, not done- so long ago; I am not about to apologize for anything I did more than two decades ago, whatever I might think about such behavior today, any more than I would deign to apologize for any commentary I write for "The Green Papers".

Likewise, I don't think George W. Bush should, on general principle, have to apologize for any drug use- cocaine or otherwise- he might have indulged in earlier in his life. Why should I care whether a presidential candidate used drugs so long ago? As long as there is not even a scintilla of evidence that George W. Bush, say, has snorted lines of white powder off the rug of the Texas Governor's Mansion lately, the question of Mr. Bush junior's drug use is totally irrelevant to the rollercoaster ride that is the 2000 Presidential Election Campaign on which we Americans are about to embark and the fact that the mainstream media has spent such an inordinate amount of time wasting yours spent reading/watching it on just such an issue is proof positive of why web sites such as "The Green Papers" are necessary to keep the "big boys" in the Fourth Estate honest and in line.

I don't know about you, but whether I vote for or against the Texas Governor for President is ultimately going to have absolutely nothing to do with whatever illicit chemical substances he may have ingested a quarter century ago; instead, MY vote for/against him will be based on his stands on the issues of the day and the policy options Mr. Bush may- eventually (one can always hope!)- support or oppose. I get a great sense of deja vu here: weren't we going through all this mindlessness nearly eight years ago? Wasn't some presidential contender- Bill, I think his name was (no, not Bradley!)- asked whether he had ever smoked marijuana and didn't he respond with something stupid like "I didn't inhale"?? Whatever became of that guy???

The GOP certainly made much out of that question and even more of the resultant idiotic answer- although admittedly with little effect on the final outcome of the 1992 Election, though I don't know a single Clinton supporter of my baby-boom generation who back in '92 actually believed the man who was elected our 42d President didn't inhale: shouldn't this have been a lesson to all of us that a presidential contender's long ago drug use is of little account?

There is this bizarre notion in our society and culture that if someone used (pick one: marijuana, cocaine, etc.) when they were 20-something, they are totally incapable of enforcing the drug laws when they get into their 40's or 50's. Knowing whether Bill Clinton actually inhaled or George W. Bush, indeed, snorted actually tells the voter nothing about either politician's policies re: the drug problem. All we learned from that "I didn't inhale" episode in '92 was that Bill Clinton was inherently capable of gross obfuscation and more than a little prevarication, practices he has evidently improved upon during his tenure as President; all we will learn from the stories about the Texas Governor's alleged drug use is that he has the innate ability to evade the core of a thorny issue for political gain, a skill I am sure he will all the more perfect should he be elected our 43d President. In neither case is there the least indication that either man truly desires that illicit drug users/dealers be roaming at large upon the streets and highways of the land, which is the real issue- not the faux one presented us by these questions of past drug use and/or abuse by a candidate.

But the supporters of the Bush who has already occupied the White House sure implied that such was the case with Bill Clinton in the course of the 1992 General Election campaign: yet tell me just how many of those who voted for George Bush pater familias would have, instead, voted for the current occupant of the White House had he admitted his pot smoking openly or, for that matter, had never ever even seen a marijuana cigarette? Likewise, those who are among the detractors of George Bush fils point out that we MUST find out whether or not he ever used illegal drugs so as to discern the potential hypocrisy inherent in his somewhat harsher approach as Governor of Texas toward those who have committed drug-related crimes had he once done so: but how many of these would then vote for the Governor as our next President were they to find out that he never ever even laid eyes on a line of cocaine or were he to have a policy toward his state's drug offenders much more based on his detractors' concepts of leniency and rehabilitation?

I have also always found it interesting, in my nearly three decades of following the presidential election process with great interest, that those who say the personal flaws and foibles- the proverbial "skeletons in the closet"- of a given presidential contender are most important also tend to be those who wouldn't have voted for that contender even had he worn a white robe and sandals and, in addition, had a halo over his head. It is here, in fact, that we must face the flip side of this rather tarnished coin:

Clinton's campaign staff was livid at the way their candidate's response to the question of his possible pot-smoking (a response for which Mr. Clinton was rightfully scored) was portrayed; on the other side, the pro-Bush senior crowd milked that same response for all it was worth, though it turned out be worth rather little come that first Tuesday after the first Monday in November back in 1992. Likewise, nearly eight years later, we have Bush junior's handlers incensed at the way the media have, from time to time, referred to the Texas Governor's alleged drug use and his refusal to fully answer reporters' questions about it. As with the current Chief Executive, the Texas Governor deserves to be scored as well for his campaign's response to those very questions.

Putting aside my own conclusion that the Bush junior camp evidently consists primarily of a rather large cluster of whiners, considering the way they responded to a satirical website lampooning the Texas Governor's own website a few months back (though, to be fair, they whine no more nor more loudly than those who make up the bulk of the staffers on every other presidential campaign), the fact is that the Mr. Bush has not handled this issue very well at all. I, obviously, have not the slightest idea whether George W. Bush actually used cocaine "back in the day" but I am forcibly led to the conclusion that he probably did: if he didn't, he has certainly been acting like someone who did.

It was Republicans who made long ago illegal drug use an issue of presidential politics eight years ago in their failed attempt to keep George Bush in the Presidency: they are now merely being hoisted by their own petard in their current attempts to put his son into that same office. This is America and supporters of the Texas Governor's candidacy are certainly free to complain about how the mainstream media has handled the issue this time round; I, meanwhile, am free to comment that they have little, if anything, to actually complain about, based upon the previous behavior of those who supported Mr. Bush's father.

As I have already noted, the issue of past drug use by candidates for high office is totally irrelevant to how I, for one, choose my Presidents: at the same time, and rather unfortunately so, it has become an issue despite such irrelevance. Moreover, it is just further evidence of the sorry inability of Americans to hold an honest political debate about drugs, legal as well as illegal, and truly face the issue of substance abuse in this country; it is little wonder we have never been able to deal with the drug problem as we, instead, waste our time going through the trash heap of our politicians' pasts.


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