In Scott McClellan’s book, “What Happened,” he recounts a story from the campaign trail in 1999-2000, when Bush was being dogged by reports that he’d used cocaine when he was younger. In a hotel suite one night, McClellan says he overheard Bush talking with a supporter:
“The media won’t let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors,” I heard Bush say. “You know the truth is, I honestly don’t remember whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don’t remember.”
If McClellan’s memory is correct, then Bush is full of it.
I say that as a guy who partied pretty hard when I was younger. In college, I was a major pot-head. I also used cocaine — exactly twice. The first time, I was already stoned, and the coke had no affect on me. The second time was different. It made me forget how to swallow.
No, really. My brain couldn’t send the right impulses to my throat to get me to swallow. It was annoying as hell, as I had to keep getting up every few minutes to go spit out the saliva that had collected in my mouth.
At the time, I was just starting my commercial radio career — after several years behind the mike in high school and college — and it occurred to me that, in this profession, losing control of my throat was not a good idea. It scared me enough that I swore I would never use coke again (a friend from those days jokes that it was around that time I started drinking Pepsi exclusively).
The point is that, despite “some pretty wild parties,” I still have a vivid memory of using that particular drug. I remember what I ingested. I may not be able to quantify the amount of marijuana I rolled, bonged, or cooked into brownies, but know and admit that I used it. I also know that after Halloween 1978 I quit using it altogether, cold turkey.
More importantly, almost 30 years later, I remember what I didn’t do. Never took a hit of LSD. Never did heroin. Never ate magic mushrooms.
So I find it nearly impossible to believe that Bush can’t remember whether he tried cocaine. That’s as lame as Clinton’s claim that he tried marijuana but “didn’t inhale.”
Both are patently dishonest, cynical, purely political answers. They are concerned with what the public might think, but neglect to acknowledge that so many other baby boomers — like them, like me — had similar experiences.
As long as we’ve put them all behind, no one should hold them against us. Unless we’re liars.