Wed 7 Feb 2007
Guess where San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom is after admitting to and apologizing for having an affair with his re-election campaign manager’s wife, Ruby Rippey-Tourk?
In alcoholic rehab, of course!
“Demon Rum Made Me Do It” has become the “Twinkie Defense” of the 21st Century.
What about former U.S. Representative Mark Foley (R., Fla.), who resigned at the end of September after admitting to exchanging sexually explicit email messages with former Congressional pages?
You guessed it: straight to rehab, and not just any rehab but Sierra Tucson, which costs more than $40,000 a month. A week after he signed up for the clinic, where horseback-riding and mountain hiking are agenda items, Foley’s family told the Palm Beach Post that “he appears to be recovering.”
Actor and film director Mel Gibson, who spewed anti-Semitic comments to a police office who pulled him over for driving erratically last July? Right again, rehab for that potty-mouth. Gibson promised that he wasn’t an anti-Semite, that “I’m not that person.” Who, then, was that Mr. Hyde? Why of course, an alter-ego created by alcohol.
At least Joe Biden didn’t step up to the mike and say, “I was drunk when I called Barack Obama articulate.”
Now it’s true that Newsom, well-known as the founder of Plumpjack winery in Napa Valley and a stable of successful restaurants, said that “my problems with alcohol are not an excuse for my personal lapses in judgment,” which comes about as close to owning up to responsibility as any errant politicians and celebrities do these days. Usually they admit to no more than making a mistake, the definition of “mistake” being “something I did wrong and got caught at.”
Let’s admit that one of the points of alcoholic beverages is that they are intoxicating; being a little high, getting a little buzz can be pleasant. Getting knee-walking drunk and plunging your car through the window of a convenience store and taking out all the snack shelves is not pleasant. Nor is getting drunk and beating up your spouse or cheating on your spouse. Alcohol abuse, as we all should know, can exact a terrible price on individuals, families and communities. But the number of people (outside of the Super Bowl) who, it seems to me, consume wine, beer and spirits moderately — and this conclusion is based only on my own decades of experience, observation and reading — far outnumber those who abuse alcoholic beverages.
Alcohol is such an easy target. Even after the heady freedoms of the 1960s and the prosperity of the ’80s and the indulgences of the ’90s, we still teeter (and perhaps titter) at the squalid boundaries of puritan guilt. The forces that brought the notorious decade and more of Prohibition, that disaster, to America still hover in the background. We are still not a nation of naturally accepting wine-drinkers and perhaps never will be. Alcohol may be (mainly) legal, but it carries woeful baggage, and The Culture of Blame and Apology recognizes how convenient a punching-bag alcohol is.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing if some sinning politician or celebrity stood before us and instead of saying, to the phalanx of light and cameras, “I’m sorry if I brought disgrace to my family, my friends and many fans, and I’m checking into an alcohol rehab center to evaluate my life and learn to be more positive about myself and my future,” said, “Look, she was a babe, I was hotter’n a pepper sprout and when I did what I did I was stone-cold sober.”
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