On the night of July 27, 1986, right here in our village's posh Broadmoor Hotel, George W. Bush drank heavily in celebration of his 40th birthday three weeks earlier. By midnight, according to some who witnessed the binge, Bush was a loud and obnoxious drunk.
The next morning he awoke with a raging headache. Inside their Broadmoor suite, the future president looked at his wife, Laura, and vowed to stop drinking. Obviously, however, the damage had been done ("We look forward to analyzing and working with legislation that will make, it would hope, put a free press' mind at ease that you're not being denied information you shouldn't see." Bush, April 14, 2005).
Neurologists are not sure exactly how many brain cells can be killed by decades of heavy drinking. But if Bush is any example ("And so, during these holiday seasons, we thank our blessings." Bush, Dec. 10, 2004), it's a lot.
Today, as we anticipate escorting him from office, and as we make way for a new president with a fully functioning brain, let's take a look at that summer evening at The Broadmoor. It marked the turning point, Bush might say, in the history of our nationality as a country, including all of us young and old, Republican and Democrat, short and blonde, whether we walked to school or took our lunch.
Bush had been a heavy drinker since his college days at Yale. His drinking was exceeded only by the drinking of the Yale professors under orders to make sure Boy Wonder received passing grades even though he pronounced their state "Conn-ECK-ticutt."
His longtime friends say that if Bush wasn't a clinical alcoholic, he came pretty close to the line. Sometimes, they say, he would embarrass himself. (I speak for all of us when I say, 'Gee, it's a good thing he got that under control.")
"Once he got started, he couldn't, didn't shut it off," Bush's friend Don Evans, who would become Bush's finance chairman, told the Washington Post in 1999.
Bush himself told the Post: "I realized that alcohol was beginning to crowd out my energies and could crowd, eventually, my affections for other people," proving without a doubt he chose the words himself.
At our Broadmoor with the Bushes were Evans' wife, Susie, who went to grade school with Bush; Bush's brother Neil; and Joe and Jan O'Neill, who had introduced the Bushes. The group drank many $60 bottles (1986 prices) of Silver Oak cabernet with dinner after an earlier round of cocktails.
"It was a party," Joe O'Neill told Rolling Stone years later. "We were all sort of loud, and George gets louder than most."
Texas doctor and close Bush friend Charles Younger told the Washington Post that when Bush drank, he "could say some things that were not reflective of how he really felt when he was not drinking."
Which brings us to this shocking revelation: The George W. Bush we've been listening to for the past eight years ("I want to thank you for the importance that you've shown for education and literacy" Bush, April 13, 2005) is the clear-headed version.
The cold-turkey approach to quitting drinking left Bush with plenty of free time. A not-very-religious person beforehand, he began frequently speaking the name of Jesus Christ a common occurrence among people when they see their Broadmoor bill, especially after countless bottles of Silver Oak.
Here now, from our born-again president, on Jan. 14, 2005: "I'm also mindful that man should never try to put words in God's mouth. I mean, we should never ascribe natural disasters or anything else to God. We are in no way, shape or form, should a human being play God."
He put those words together nearly 19 years after he stopped drinking.
Today, Bush's approval rating stands at just 27 percent and polls indicate every single one of those people is a stand-up comic. So I leave you with more words from our leader, which came directly from Bush on Sept. 17, 2002:
"There's an old saying in Tennessee I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says 'Fool me once, shame on shame on you. Fool me ... you can't get fooled again.'"
Frankly, I think it'll take a while to get used to this Obama guy.
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