Thursday, October 05, 2006


The Flag and The Big Book

Politicians have learned that once you wrap yourself in as many American flags as possible, and then you clutch a copy of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous to your breast you can get good publicity...or at least ease some of the bad p.r. you’ve picked up. The good thing is there are plenty of cynical recovering alcholics who are perfectly happy to keep throwing rocks. Like me.

Here’s an on-target essay from USA Today on this tactic:


Addictions are often disclosed amid scandals
Updated 10/3/2006 10:40 AM ET
By Emily Bazar, USA TODAY
Former congressman Mark Foley's statement that he's an alcoholic, coming after reports that he sent sexually explicit e-mails to congressional pages, makes him the latest public figure to enter rehab in the face of scandal.

Reps. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and actor/director Mel Gibson have sought treatment in recent months for alcohol or drug addiction during trying circumstances.

Doing so removes them from the public eye and may win sympathy, says Gary Jacobson, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego. It's also a way to shift some of the blame from the person to the addiction, he says.

"This seems to have become standard operating procedure," Jacobson says. "It's a way of both taking responsibility and denying it at the same time."

Kennedy checked into treatment in May, a day after he crashed his car near the Capitol. Kennedy, who has a history of drug and alcohol problems, said he was battling an addiction to prescribed painkillers.

Gibson entered an alcohol treatment program this summer after pleading no contest to drunken driving. Gibson made anti-Semitic remarks to arresting officers when he was stopped in Malibu.

Ney announced last month that he was seeking treatment for alcoholism the same day he agreed to plead guilty to corruption charges related to the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal.

Foley's announcement Monday surprised Sarah Chamberlain, executive director of the Republican Main Street Partnership. Foley emceed the group's annual dinner Wednesday.

"At the dinners, he was always working, so usually he didn't have anything to drink," she says.

Foley has not acknowledged or denied that he sent the e-mails.

Alcoholism may exacerbate other disorders, says Fred Berlin, founder of the Johns Hopkins University's Sexual Disorders Clinic. "It can impair a person's judgment and can lead them to become disinhibited with respect to their impulses," he says. "It's like throwing gasoline on the fire."

Berlin says alcoholism has reached a level of acceptance that sexual disorders have not. "It's much less socially stigmatizing to admit to alcoholism than it may be to admit to some other problem," he says.

Contributing: Jennifer Brooks, Gannett News Service

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