James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Cheney a drunk? Does it matter?

When is the last time you heard or read any mention of Dick Cheney's gun accident?

I ask as a means of pointing out how quickly the Bushies' scandals disappear from public view. About as quickly as Cheney himself.

To some degree the stories disappear because almost every day, quite literally, the Bushies and their water carriers drop another abomination or two on us. The evils they do fall from Washington like leaves from the trees in late October. If anybody tried to cover every story to resolution, there would be neither time nor space for anything else.

But it's also true because broadcasters and used-to-be mainstream newspapers that went months without missing a day on the story of Bill Clinton's libido are very quick indeed to forget about the stories that make the Bushies and the Republican leadership in Congress and various statehouses look bad.

Follow-up? What's that? If it's detrimental to the rich and powerful and their servants in government, it's gone in one edition, three at the most.

Soooo...being decidedly no longer mainstream, I want to revisit Cheney's shooting of a crony.

Though it didn't make it into most television reports about the incident, and was seen briefly only in a very few newspapers, there was much speculation immediately after the incident that Cheney was drunk when he blasted his buddy. I knew that, and strongly suspected that the guess was right, but didn't mention it in the piece below this one because – well, there are rules about that sort of thing, especially among ex-drunks, of whom I am one.

I think now, however, that when we're talking about someone who has the power of Dick Cheney, the rules go out the window. The man does great damage in this world, and it can only be worse if he's loaded much of the time.

In the “takes one to know one” department: I've long suspected that our vice paranoid is a drunk. There are many clues pointing in that direction. Among them are his frequently irrational irascibility, his often rigid body language and stiffness of movement, the eyes that frequently seem to declare exhaustion, the rigidity of face that suggests he's trying hard to appear normal and not quite succeeding – all signs of serious hangover of the sort that only really hard drinkers suffer.

However, such observations do not constitute evidence.

It was interesting, then, to discover after Cheney plugged his pal that several of the many recovering alcoholics I know – virtually all of those with whom the subject has come up – admit to having had similar private thoughts. In my long experience, if several ex-drunks come independently to the conclusion that someone else is alcoholic, that person is almost certainly alcoholic.

At a time I was mulling such thoughts, I happened to have dinner with an out-of-towner who is a consultant on chemical dependency programs. His business is national and occasionally international in scope. Quite naturally, the Cheney shooting arose in our conversation, and the guy allowed that he, too, had identified Cheney as a practicing drunk some time ago.

He added an observation that is beyond my scope: That the vice's propensity for disappearing from public view for substantial periods – and you can't find anyone in government or out who even knows where Cheney spends his nights – is typical of rich drunks who hold high-profile jobs. They have hidey holes they slink into with their bottles.

Then, I received a note from an old friend, another recovering alcoholic, who told of visiting a member of her family in Washington at the time the shooting became public knowledge. The friend, a lifelong Republican until recently, was at dinner with the relative and some other folks a couple of days after the incident. Of course the shooting came up, and one of the diners, whom my friend described as being an extremely intelligent and knowledgeable federal employee, though not of very high rank, said nonchalantly, “Oh, he was drunk.” referring to Cheney.

A little further conversation produced the realization for my friend that Cheney's heavy drinking is common knowledge, or at least a common assumption, in Washington.

Again, none of this is evidence. We out here in the land of speculation cannot not say certainly that Dick Cheney, vice president of the United States, is a practicing drunk.

However, it's a serious subject, and should not be dismissed with shrugs or scoldings about how nasty it is to say such things. There is reason to question the man's sobriety and, therefore, his judgment. (In most states, if the shooter had been Joe Doe, those questions already would have been put to the test.) Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to question his judgment and his rationality, but the fact is that a drunk throwing around the power that Cheney has is far more dangerous than a powerful man who indulges in illicit sex. There should be a serious search for facts to uphold or disprove the conclusion that Cheney is an active drunk.

Barring the evidence, which we're almost certainly not going to get, it is yet another reason for pushing for Cheney's impeachment. It's not grounds for impeachment, but there are plenty of grounds.