Wednesday, March 22, 2006


On alcoholism, privilege, and George W Bush

Today Dave Budge called me out for referring to Bush as a "drunk" in my post deliberating on his position in history:
But I have a question for Touchstone - do you have any f[*]cking clue what it’s like for an alcoholic to stop drinking? I do. If there is anything I give George Bush credit for is the fact that he did stop and judgmental schmucks that haven’t done it have no goddamn currency in the discussion. I’ll also note a couple of other points of fact: A) there is no proof that Bush was ever an alcoholic but that we know he quit drinking and B) if he was an alcoholic he’s still an alcoholic but in recovery. So until I hear “My name is Touchstone and Im an alcoholic” I’m going to call you “The Judgmental Touchstone.” Like I said, I’ve got no issues with people saying that they are dissatisfied on whatever level with George Bush. But I think this pathology where anything that might be OK for someone else is a negative only for Bush is rank hypocrisy.
Er...Budge is right – in his last remark. (H*ll, do you think I’d agree I was completely wrong? This is a blog!) I admit that I (a) used Bush’s alcoholism and probable addiction to drugs as a means to slur his character, and (b) failed to show how his alcoholism contributes to his competency – or lack thereof – in his current job. I hereby apologize to all recovering alcoholics out there reading this blog. As someone who isn’t alcoholic (albeit with plenty of alcoholic history in the family) I realize I can’t speak as an alcoholic, I don’t know what it’s like to be an alcoholic, and I’m probably not very sympathetic to alcoholics in general. (See the note about alcoholics in the family.) That said, I imagine alcoholism manifests itself differently in different people. Some of the recovering have no problem with living their daily lives, others do. Some react to stress positively, others may not. Still, I can’t imagine that an addiction to a drug like alcohol leaves the addicted unaltered in some fundamental way. How does this relate to Bush? Enter the theory of the “dry drunk.”
Dry drunk is a slang term used by members and supporters of Alcoholics Anonymous and substance abuse counselors to describe the recovering alcoholic who is no longer drinking, one who is dry, but whose thinking is clouded. Such an individual is said to be dry but not truly sober. Such an individual tends to go to extremes.
This is old hat, maybe even a stretch, but it is definitely true that the current president suffers from rigidity of mind, overblown self-importance, impatience, childish behavior, etc & co – the traits of a dry drunk. Is it right to condemn Bush for being a recovering alcoholic? No. Is it right to condemn Bush for having the mindset of a particular alcoholic? Certainly it’s fair to criticize a politician’s personality, especially if it interferes with his job and our safety, and probably fair to note that this personality is related to his history with alcohol and drugs. To answer Budge’s rhetorical question about Ted Kennedy...I’m not sure if I would want him in the White House, either. And, yes, I suspect his drinking and other “proclivities” would interfere with his duties as president. And then there’s the privilege thing. Budge:
Who else came from privilege? Let’s name some: Kennedy, FDR, Washington, Jefferson and Wilson to name a few. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that Touchstone voted for the privileged John Kerry. So I wonder what his penchant is for bringing this up.
Again, I used this to slander to Bush’s character without making any further comments. Of course not all politicians born to privilege (most of them, now) are necessarily incompetent or unsympathetic. However, I would argue that inherited privilege does confer challenges to its recipients. For example, how can the nation’s leader understand the worries and needs of the majority of his constituents if he’s never worried about his mortgage payments, never lived from month-to-month, never struggled to make a living? In my post I assumed my audience was familiar with the negative qualities associated with Bush that are directly related to his privileged background. I assumed my readers knew that Bush never earned with merit his schooling, his money, his jobs, and his career, and that he failed at every level of his life. Yet he shows no empathy or humility in his person or policies. He seems to have no emotional connection to the people outside his economic class, which manifests itself in his disinterest in low-income university students, pensioners, the Katrina victims, Iraqi war casualties, etc and co. So while not all alcoholics and inheritors of privilege are incompetent, alcoholism and privilege can contribute to the unfitness of a person in power. Update: Wulfgar! addresses the privilege issue in Budge's comments much better than I ever could:
I’ve little to say about the dry-drunk part, except that niether care that Bush drank, nor that he currently doesn’t. The drugs, on the other hand, and the way that his past with them and alcohol has been covered up, shunted to the side by angry cries of “character assasination”, and Bush’s own dismissal of his past as a strength speak clearly to his mindset as a “child of privilege”. Rose Kennedy was a hard old bat, but she taught her boys well, that with privilage comes service and responsibility. Kerry proved his worth in Vietnam. Lie all they want, the swift-boaters can’t argue that Kerry used privilege to keep himself out of harms way. Using the phrase “child of privilege” as an insult may cut too broad a swath for your tastes, but it is open to value judgements, when the privilege is used in innapropriate ways. Your examples, Dave, have used privilege in public service. Since his boyhood, GW has used privelege to cover his own ass from one phenominal failure to the next. It’s a consistent pattern with his life, one that shocks me blind that so few people were willing to acknowledge the fact, and they foisted him to a position of power he didn’t deserve … because he was a child of privilege. I don’t think touchstone was out of line with that wisecrack at all.

I addressed my concerns about Bush's mental stability on my own blog We Have Failed Our Duties As Citizens under "All foam, No beer".
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