Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Booze and World Leadership

The current rumour of Bush taking to the bottle again brings to mind past leaders with a liking for booze. Notable among them was Winston Churchill. One noted Churchill scholar once maintained that Churchill 'was not an alcoholic, as no alcoholic could drink that much'. And, as most know, his loathsome foe Hitler was a teetotaling vegetarian.

According to published reports:
Churchill drank throughout the day and in large quantities. He wrote in April 1924 "I drink Champagne at all meals and buckets of claret and soda in between." He would take his first whisky and soda soon after breakfast. For the rest of the day the tumbler was rarely empty. After his regular afternoon nap he would have two or three glasses of "iced whisky and soda" before dinner, at which "he always had champagne, followed by several doses of brandy"; this would be followed by several whisky and sodas as the night wore on.
Churchill’s drinking habits may make some shudder but he did prosecute history’s most awful war and live till 90. It is worth remembering that in the last remaining 20 years of his life the ‘drink-sozzled’ old man wrote the six-volume history of World War II that won him 1953’s Nobel Prize for Literature. Then he got re-elected as prime minister, and after leaving office for the final time in 1955, he published his four-volume “History Of The English-Speaking Peoples”.

If anything Churchill’s remarkable life, particularly his steely resolve during the darkest of times of WWII, makes a strong case for every world leader to consume a daily gallon of whatever Churchill had been consuming.

But copious amounts of alcohol is not enough, the company one drinks in seems to matter just as much. Why? Most people would agree that drinking buddies (hum pyalas in Pakistan) often bear a leading influence in one’s attitude on life. In Pakistan Musharraf is known to enjoy his evening whiskies. But going by his recent utterances on democracy, good governance and rape, one can only surmise that his drinking buddies are rather short supplied on wit and wisdom.

On the issue of imbibing alcohol, let’s take a look at the ongoing disaster in Iraq.

At the time of the invasion George W. Bush hadn’t touched a drop since 1986, and his pal Tony Blair was hardly one of life’s born carousers. Between them they have managed to put together a foreign policy that, as
a wit from the Guardian has asserted, ‘drink sodden’ leaders such as Churchill 'couldn’t have contemplated without first lunching on magic mushrooms washed down with methadone, with big crack pies for dessert.'

Now going back to the rumours of Bush hitting the bottle again,
one commenter notes:

Since alcoholics are never cured, this is possible. The stress of having his ineptitude so publicly displayed as it was in New Orleans and of having his every major policy collapsing before his eyes would certainly tend to push him in this direction.

There are also rumors of very ugly behavior towards associates and especially anyone bringing unwelcome news.

These rumors have sparked stories of the dangers of a drunken President, but I think these stories are misguided. If true, Bush's drinking is a development we should welcome. There is, in fact, less danger from a drunken Bush, and his return to drinking would provide one of the most fitting possible outcomes for his destructive, miserable time in office, a political version, if you will, of time wounds all heels.

So a Dubya daily comatosed by drink might make the world a much safer place for us all.

The moral of the story might go: Don’t think George W. Just drink!


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