Bush a “Dry Drunk”?

I’ve never written about it on this blog, but I don’t make it any secret that I’m a recovering alcoholic. Nearly 12 years ago, back in the summer of 1992, I stumbled into my first AA meeting, which was being held in the Episcopal church that also ran the boarding house where I was living at the time. I’ve maintained sobriety “one day at a time” since then.

I mention it because it gave me pause to come across an article at CommonDreams.Org entitled ‘More Evidence that Bush Is a “Dry Drunk”?’ I was intrigued, because it’s widely known that Bush became a teetotaler following a religious conversion. First, though, a definition of “dry drunk” is required for those not familiar with the term.

Earlier several other writers and I likened Bush’s personality characteristics to those of a person who, in AA parlance, is “dry” but whose thinking is not really sober. Grandiosity, rigidity, and intolerance of ambiguity, and a tendency to obsess about things are among the traits associated with the dry drunk. The dry drunk quits drinking, but his or her obsession with the bottle is often replaced with other obsessions. [emphasis mine] Twelve Step programs help their members modify their all-or-nothing thought patterns which associated with the disease alcoholism. “Easy does it” and “One day at a time” are among the slogans; the serenity prayer, similarly, helps persons with addictive tendencies to curb the tendency to excess.

It’s a perspective of Bush’s psyche that I hadn’t really considered, despite my own tendency to “take his inventory.” I suppose it’s because I get so focused on the man’s politics (which are usually enough to set me off on another rant), that I forget he’s also a person – a human being – with his own past, his own demons, and his own insecurities too. The article offers a fascinating insight into why and how Bush’s personal history drives certain of his obsessions.

The father-son relationship can be problematic in any family. When the father is considered a big hero, the first-born son, especially one bearing the father’s name, identity issues are common. As any chronology of George W Bush’s childhood will show, the son was set up to follow in the exact footsteps of his father. Sent away to the very New England prep school where his father’s accomplishments were still remembered, the younger Bush became better known for his pranks than athletic or academic achievements. His drinking bouts caused problems during his military service as well. (Remember that his father had been a war hero.) In college there was heavy drinking and other drug misuse, one arrest for a wild college prank and one conviction for drunken driving.

A much later religious conversion turned his life around. George W. Bush’s father set him up in business, and his father’s presidency helped him get his start in politics. His father, for all his success, experienced failure on three occasions. He was widely criticized for not finishing the job in Iraq– for not moving the troops in to “take out” Saddam following the Gulf War victory–and he failed to get his bill to fund a NASA flight to Mars, and finally, he lost his bid for re-election.

What a unique opportunity has fallen George W Bush’s way. The prodigal son can not only prove himself to his father but he can show up his father at his own game. Remember that for his cabinet and key advisers, he chose some of the same men from his father’s regime. He chose people, furthermore, who would be favorable to a return campaign, “a crusade” against Iraq. Given his past history and tendency toward obsessiveness, the temptation to achieve heroism through a re-enactment of his father’s war clearly would have been too much for George Bush Jr. to resist.

To accomplish his mission he would have to throw caution and international diplomacy to the winds, lie convincingly to the American people, threaten allies, bully members of the United Nations, but in the end he would be able to dress in full military regalia and declare “mission accomplished.”

Frighteningly simple, yet frighteningly plausible, isn’t it?

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