Politics is theater, to be sure. Tragedy, comedy, melodrama. It's often hard to take seriously, but the effects it has on people's lives is serious. Often deadly serious.
The US presidential race has stumbled into a sort of flashback with George W. Bush's unmentionable past. 11 of 12 candidates passed the "have you ever used cocaine?" litmus test without flinching. W. couldn't bring himself to answer the question.
Since then, it's been looking like quicksand, with ever more bizarre PR coming from W.'s world. "Well, I never cheated on my wife!" "I haven't used cocaine lately." And so on. (I'm paraphrasing here.)
Since he won't come out and tell us, we're left to draw our own conclusions. I conclude that yes, W. did use cocaine, and that one or more persons can vouch for that fact, but are discreet enough to keep their mouths shut. If the answer were no, he would have self-righteously answered no, because "compassionate conservatism" is about nothing if not self-righteousness. (Well, I'm contradicting myself there -- it's theater, remember?)
What brings me to write is the August 20th NY Times piece relaying W.'s advice to the many parents who are having to struggle with telling their children to "do as I say, not as I did."
One of the interesting questions facing Baby Boomers is, have we grown up? Are we willing to share the wisdom of past mistakes? ... I think a baby boomer parent ought to say -- 'I have learned from the mistakes I may or may not have made, and I'd like to share some wisdom with you and that is -- don't do drugs.'
This is wisdom? I'm not certain, but I think wisdom presupposes honesty. Can you imagine a teenager's response to "I have learned from mistakes I may or may not have made..."?! Can you say credibility problem? Sure you can.
Actions speak louder than words, and here's the message W.'s giving, while he squirms like a stuck pig: "youthful indiscretion" is OK, as long as you don't get caught, and you clean up your act. It helps to have rich parents and good political connections, too. And hypocrisy is OK, once you know better.
Personally, I agree that a certain amount of youthful indiscretion should be overlooked, especially if others aren't harmed in the process. That's why mandatory, harsh sentences for minor drug offenses are such a bad idea. If we could put W.'s past under a microscope, it appears there'd be a felony or two in there, eh? But look how nice he turned out without any jail time. And he can still own a gun and get to be president.
The Republicans have to be wondering how this guy could run the War on Some Drugs, but I guess they'll rationalize that if Bill Clinton could run the military, why not?
Aug. 21, 1999
Tom von Alten tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org