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Dad Slinks Off Into Silence on Alcohol | The Nation

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Dad Slinks Off Into Silence on Alcohol

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What if First Daughters Jenna and Barbara Bush had been caught lighting up a joint? Would the respectable media play down that story the way they have the Bush children's illegal purchases of alcohol?

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Robert Scheer
Robert Scheer, a contributing editor to The Nation, is editor of Truthdig.com and author of The Great American Stickup...

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Clinton is using Edward Snowden as a punching bag to shore up her hawkish bona fides. 

But will they apply the same logic to the NSA’s massive surveillance dragnet?

Hardly, because marijuana is an officially proscribed demon drug while alcohol is a mainstay of the culture, promoted incessantly as an essential ingredient of the good life.

Marijuana use, the drug war zealots insist, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, leads inevitably to the harder stuff. That's why the US Supreme Court won't risk the health of dying cancer patients with a few tokes of physician-prescribed pot. But those margaritas that the Bush girls grew up to prefer, heck that's just child's play, something all college students do and soon grow out of.

Not so their father, unless you think abusing alcohol until the age of 40 is still child's play. Had he hit someone on that night when he was arrested for DUI, it might have undermined George W.'s charmed ascension to the presidency.

Sorry, but I'm with the tabloids on this one. It is big news that the commander in chief of the drug war has not been able to control his own daughters' illegal behavior.

Obviously, Bush has not followed his own advice, offered while announcing the revving up of the drug war, that parents take more responsibility for their children's conduct.

Should the Bush children have gone to church more often to be exposed to those faith-based anti-drug and alcohol programs that the President embraced? Did the Bush parents always know where their children were? Perhaps the Bush twins were permitted to watch too many Hollywood movies.

Imagine the vituperation that would have been visited upon the Clinton family if Chelsea, like Jenna, had used the Secret Service to pick up an underage boyfriend, accused of public intoxication, from jail. But when it comes to family values, Republicans' messed-up personal lives are chuckled off as just another American-as-apple-pie growing up experience.

Did not the President's mother elicit howls of laughter from her Junior League audience when she made passing reference to her son's alcohol addiction on the very day that her granddaughters were charged with breaking the law? "He is getting back some of his own," Grandma Bush said, with more than a trace of wonderment that her son George W., the underachiever and, by his own admission, often inebriated prankster, is now the President of us all.

But alcoholism wasn't really funny for George W. or he wouldn't have had to go cold turkey and work white-knuckle hard these past fifteen years at staying sober. Alcoholism is one of the nation's leading problems and when then-Gov. Bush signed a "zero tolerance" law in 1997 on underage drinking, the reason offered was that Texas led the United States in alcohol-related fatalities.

More than 100,000 people die each year from alcohol, so controlling its use is of public importance. This guy as governor and President has responded to problems of substance abuse by acting to throw even more people into jail although that course has already given us the largest per-capita prison population in the world. Yet, when his own daughter now stands but one more arrest away from a possible six months in the slammer because of the law then-Gov. Bush signed, the President is speechless.

"The President views this as a family matter, a private matter, and he will treat it as such," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer huffed.

Not so fast.

Alcoholism is the social problem that this President best understands, and instead of slinking off into silence, he should provide a public example of what he has claimed parenting is all about.

This is the time to talk honestly to his daughters and the nation about the lessons of substance abuse, and particularly, whether the tough law and order approach is just dumb. Unless, of course, he really believes that his daughter would benefit from six months behind bars for ordering yet another margarita.

Maybe the drinking age should be dropped to 18 years old, as most of the Bush daughters' classmates seem to feel. Why make criminals of the young, most of whom are quite responsible in making their own decisions about when and what to drink? But isn't that even truer of an adult cancer patient who uses marijuana to ward off nausea?

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