Saturday November 4, 2000

Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday November 4, 2000

Bush admits ’76 drunk driving; Revelation expected to dominate crucial final weekend of campaigning

A deadlocked U.S. election campaign was jarred yesterday by the revelation George W. Bush lost his driver’s licence after pleading guilty to driving while drunk in 1976.

The Texas governor has admitted he had a problem with alcohol in the past but his arrest had been a closely guarded family secret.

“I’m not proud of that, ” the Republican nominee said during a rare news conference in Wisconsin. “I’ve often times said that years ago I made some mistakes. I occasionally drank too much and I did.”

“I regret that it happened.”

With the see-saw presidential election just five days away,  Bush’s campaign team was fretting about the effect of the revelation on voters. “I hope this mistake the governor made 24 years ago would not have an impact in the final days of this election, “said Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes.

Bush, who campaigned in Missouri before moving on to Illinois and Wisconsin, was arrested in Maine about two kilometres from his family’s retreat in Kennebunkport when he was 30 years old after police noticed he was driving too slowly.

He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour charge of driving while under the influence, paid a $150 US fine and had his licence suspended in the state of Maine for “a period of time, ” Hughes said.

Bush, holding his first news conference in over a month, said it was no coincidence word of his arrest was made public in the final days before Tuesday’s vote.

“Why now . . . (five) days before the election? I’ve got my suspicions, ” said Bush, not sharing them with a crowd of reporters surrounding him.

Bush had kept word of his arrest a secret from his twin daughters. He insisted he had “been straight with the American people” about his past but he had steadfastly refused to answer questions about his “youthful indiscretions, ” including whethe r or not he used drugs.

The revelation may not put a significant dent in his support but questions about the incident will likely dominate the crucial final weekend of campaigning.

Foremost among those queries might be why Bush chose not to disclose the incident until it was flushed out by a Portland, Me., television station. That kind of attention may put raise questions about his credibility.

Most polls suggest Bush had a slight lead over Democratic nominee Al Gore going into the final weekend of the campaign. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)

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