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Alcohol and politics often go hand in hand

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Brushes with the law over alcohol have ended more than a few political careers in Washington, while others have survived without much damage.

Gov. George W. Bush  

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who confirmed press reports Thursday that he was arrested for drunken driving in Maine in 1976, isn't the only Republican candidate guilty of "youthful indiscretions." His running mate, former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, was twice arrested for drunken driving in the 1960s when he was in his early 20s.

Cheney revealed the drunken driving arrests privately when he was nominated for defense secretary in 1989. Cheney told the Washington Post in July that he disclosed the incidents privately to Bush's father, former President Bush.

Dick Cheney  

Cheney was the elder Bush's second pick for the Defense post after retired Sen. John Tower of Texas failed to win confirmation. During his nomination hearings, conservative activist Paul Weyrick testified that Tower was "morally unfit" to serve as Pentagon Chief because of excessive drinking and womanizing, which Weyrick claimed to have witnessed on several occasions.

In effort to remove alcohol as an issue, Tower publicly pledged to abstain from alcohol if he was confirmed as defense secretary. He was rejected by a 53-47 vote, becoming only the ninth cabinet appointee in U.S. history to fail to win confirmation.


Although tempered in recent years, consumption of alcohol has long been a part of the Capitol Hill subculture. In 1974, Aides suggested to President Ford, a former congressman from Michigan, the he give up his regular "martini lunches."

But instances of excessive drinking on Capitol Hill have often been documented as contributing factors to serious misconduct in office.

Republican Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon, forced to resign in 1995, claims his sexual harassment of several woman stemmed from alcohol abuse. Packwood cited the drinking problem and underwent alcohol counseling while his case was being reviewed by the Senate Ethics Committee. After a prolonged investigation in which more women came forward, Packwood eventually resigned.

Former Sen. Bob Packwood  

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, has a history of alcohol related controversies. In July 1969 he was involved in a driving accident at Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts that resulted in the death of his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. And in 1991 he was involved in a bar-hopping weekend in Palm Beach, Florida, that led to the rape trial of his nephew, William Kennedy Smith. Smith was acquitted after a trial in which Kennedy testified about the drinking activities of the weekend in question.

More than a few current members of the House -- including Rep. Louis Stokes, D-Ohio, and Sen. Bob Kasten, R-Wisconsin -- have survived convictions for driving under the influence. So have a number of former congressmen, including former House and Ways Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, D-Illinois.

Sen. Ted Kennedy  

In 1980, former Republican Rep. Robert Bauuman of Maryland was embroiled in a homosexual scandal he blamed on alcohol abuse. He was defeated by Democratic challenger Roy Dyson that same year.

But perhaps the best-known of public drinking incidents over the last generation involved former House Ways and Means chair, Wilbur Mills, D-Arkansas. Mills' self-admitted alcoholism came to light in 1974 after he was caught frolicking in Washington's Tidal Basin with his stripper-friend, "Argentine Firecracker" Fanne Fox. Mills, who left office that year, later told an interviewer that he drank so heavily that often experienced blackouts while working on Capitol Hill.



Friday, November 3, 2000


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