Did George W. Bush use cocaine?

I was working on a post about Tennessee’s gubernatorial candidates, and wanted to point out that candidate Zach Wamp was not unlike both the current and most recent former president in his history of cocaine use. 

Of course everyone knows that President Obama admitted to cocaine use in one of his books.  But I had been under the impression that it was common and accepted knowledge that Bush was a cokehead at some point as well.  I was surprised to learn that apparently I was wrong. 

The most authoritative thing that I could find when I searched “Bush cocaine” was this Wikipedia page (note the qualification of “most” before authoritative there), but it doesn’t even contain the word “cocaine.”  The rest of my search led me to unsourced (or shadily sourced) no-name webpages which contained all sorts of the sorts of wild allegations that set off the bullshit alarms from a mile away and remind you that anyone can post anything on the internet. 

I wasn’t as turned on to politics in 2000 as I am now, not by a long shot (the 2000 post-election debacle was probably my turning point in that kind of attention, with 9/11 sealing the deal that this was something worth watching), so my skeptism-meter wasn’t as high.  I must have “heard” that at some point (from one of my college classmates?  from some radio jock?  who knows?)and just accepted it as fact, and, until today, still did. 

Most people are a lot more like me in pre-election day 2000 than like me now.  Kind of scary when you think about how they’re getting their information.

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6 Responses

  1. People assume Bush used cocaine because he pointedly refused to answer questions about it. This article describes it in detail:

    http://www.nytimes.com/1999/08/19/us/bush-irked-at-being-asked-brushes-off-drug-question.html?pagewanted=all

    But I agree that people leap to the conclusion that he used cocaine without looking at the facts.

    However, despite what you say in this post, I don’t even know that *Obama* used cocaine.

    He’s admitted to smoking pot. And everyone assumes he used cocaine. But do we know this?

    The oft-cited sentence in his memoir is: “Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it.” “Blow” is slang for cocaine. But the fact that this sentence appears in his book doesn’t prove he ever used cocaine.

    (1) It’s vague, qualified (“maybe”), and technically in the second person (“when you could afford it”). The message is clear, but he did leave himself plausible deniable. (He’s generally pretty careful with his words.)

    (2) How do we know he wasn’t lying to make his book more interesting? After all, it’s not like he was under oath or something — it was a *memoir*. Any given memoir is likely to contain wild embellishments, because authors probably care a lot more about having a successful book than about adhering to literal truth (which they know is almost sure not to be checked on — or even if it is, who would care?). David Sedaris has been criticized for fabricating some of his stories, but has this hurt his reputation? After all, he’s a professional story-teller! Of course he tells stories! Maybe the only illegal drug Obama has used is marijuana, and he was thinking: “Hm, this’ll be a pretty dull paragraph if I’m just saying I smoked pot. But let’s face it, that’s the extent of my reckless youthful drug experimentation. Well, I’ll throw in ‘maybe a little blow’ to spice it up.” That would actually be a very mild bit of fabrication for a memoir.

  2. woops … plausible deniable —> plausible deniability

  3. It’s a funny progression–Clinton “didn’t inhale”, Gore smoked it but “didn’t like it,” Bush II stuck to heavy drinking while staying vague on other drugs (I believe Laura Bush owned up to pot), Obama smoked it and clearly liked it while maybe doing “a little blow.” People who were 18 in ’68 are 60 now,and I wonder if the stigma is pretty much done. Pretty soon 70-year-olds will be legally smoking on park benches in Florida and California. Whether that represents progress is a good question.

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  5. Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.

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  6. war criminal just sayin

    as was nigger prezident, just sayin

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