Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Friday, August 20, 1999

Bush could lose race
by his nose

The biggest political issue of the day is whether George W. Bush used cocaine in his younger years.

All of the lefty political talking heads who shrugged off Bill Clinton's sex, lies and video tape (of him hugging his little snuggle bunny Monica Lewinsky) are slavering over rumors that Bush did coke. The usual Sunday morning inside-the-beltway pontificators -- whom Calvin Trillin calls the "Sabbath gasbags" -- smell blood in the water floating Bush's campaign. They are the same ones who ran interference for Clinton -- from his long-running affair with Gennifer Flowers to his alleged groping of Kathleen Willey in the White House. Personal behavior has nothing to do with job performance, they said only a few thousand times. Except now, well, it does.

Bush, for his part, refuses to to answer the question of whether he used cocaine. His usual refrain is that he will not "play the rumor game" with the media blowhards. And it is the media who are pushing the question. Most high-level Democrats wouldn't touch this thing with an Iowa poll. They know that everyone between the ages of 40 and 55 is guilty of doing something stupid during the free-wheeling '60s and '70s, snorting cocaine being among the lesser evils. They know that if they start digging into Bush's past, it will be open season on Democratic candidates like Al Gore, who, given his tree-like countenance, might have snorted Miracle Grow in college.

But the Sabbath gasbags, especially those who are still smarting from the licking they took for spreading Clinton's lies far and wide, see a chance for retribution here. They aren't going to let the cocaine issue blow away.

Bush knows this now. That's why he's begun hedging about whether he did coke. He knows he could lose this presidential race by a nose -- his -- and the question of whether any white powder went up it.

Unfortunately for him, he can't take the Clintonian route. Clinton dodged the question of whether he smoked marijuana by saying he didn't inhale. Bush will not be able to say that he put coke in his nose but didn't snort. He'll either have to fess up or have this issue dog him for the rest of the campaign.

And make no mistake: George W. Bush did use cocaine. If he didn't, he would have said so. He gambled that the beltway boors who for the past six years have chanted the mantra that personal behavior is a private matter would not be hypocritical enough to make past use of cocaine an issue. Bad call, matey. Washington, D.C., is a federally protected national hypocrite refuge. The same journalistic jerks who blew off Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry's on-camera smoking of crack cocaine will be trying to break Bush's political legs on the coke issue.

If Bush were a professional athlete or actor who merely had molested a child, beat his wife or got busted for shipping in 20 pounds of Peruvian passion powder but checked himself into the Betty Ford Political Viability Clinic, the Sabbath gasbags would be crowing about his recovery and demanding that the public give him a second chance.

But he's the wrong species. Republicans are supposed to be straight-laced, Bible-beating teetotalers. The liberal wing of the media, which is to say, most of it, will not put up with a Republican party boy.

Bush and the annoyingly chaste Gore should simply switch parties and restore the natural political order.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

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