Hillary Clinton created a firestorm when she downed a shot and followed it with a beer chaser (called a "boilermaker" in local parlance) while "campaigning" in a bar in Indiana. Reaction reverberated across the country. One woman wrote:
"Do you really think is was appropriate to see Hillary drinking hard liquor with a bunch of men in a bar, being a married woman, and without her husband? I think she went too far, and she should have never done that, running for president or not, it was without taste and disgusting to see. She was advertising alcohol to our children, and it is not okay with me. I am voting for Obama and that is final. I don't drink, and many in the country do not. And, she drank more than beer, she had a big shot of bourbon or whiskey to go with that beer!"
Imagine this (all italicized sections fictional):
Hillary Clinton was found wandering around her campaign headquarters in Philadelphia, asking passers-by, "Can you spare five dollars for a cab?" The Democratic presidential candidate was disheveled, smelled of alcohol, and apparently hadn't changed her pants suit for several days."I've just been sitting in a duck blind for the weekend," the bleary-eyed candidate offered by way of an excuse.
A brief statement read by a Clinton campaign spokesperson announced: "Senator Clinton, who has had alcohol issues in her family, has decided to take a month off from campaigning to attend to a personal matter."
Reports had surfaced previously of the candidate's runaway drinking - for example, in a vodka drinking contest with Republican presidential candidate John McCain on a visit to Estonia several years ago. McCain has been rumored to have had his own drinking problems as a young ensign, and his wife, Cindy, was previously treated for abuse of prescription drugs. (Some wonder if this has any connection to her recently revealed "Recipegate" - plagiarizing supposed family recipes from the Food Network.)
McCain, in an interview at Villanova University in Pennsylvania televised on MSNBC, joked about Clinton's drinking: "I did not see the clip of it but I certainly heard about it, and whatever makes Senator Clinton happy is ... is certainly, uh, certainly ...," McCain said with a broad smile, chuckling and raising his eyebrows.
Critics noted that, given his own family's addictive history, McCain's reaction was insensitive and inappropriate.
Reached on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania, Democratic competitor Barack Obama expressed sympathy for Hillary, Bill, and Chelsea. But the Democratic frontrunner added the pointed comment - "I'm not planning on going to the Betty Ford Center any time soon. . . .that is, unless this campaign drags on much longer," he said with a wink.
Obama later apologized for any implication that he was making light of Clinton's treatment for substance abuse. "I myself have known the ravages of substance experimentation," he said, referring to the candidate's widely noted use of drugs in high school. "This scourge affects every family in America."
For those of you who have lost track, here is a substance abuse chart of the leading presidential candidates:
Hillary Clinton - boilermaker, vodka drinking contest
Barack Obama - marijuana, cocaine experimentation
John McCain - weekend binge drinking as an ensign
Cindy McCain - prescription abuse
Alex Dewiggis, director of the national recovery organization, America Anonymous, said at a hastily-organized press conference - "Everyone in America is an alcoholic, addict, former alcoholic or addict, or spouse or sibling of an alcoholic or addict." Dewiggis added, "Look at the President" (President George W. Bush has recently been boosting his faith-based initiative by speaking openly about having an alcohol problem until he quit drinking when he turned to religion).
Dewiggis continued, "We call for the immediate establishment of a cabinet-level Department of Recovery. Indeed, we suggest renaming America, The United States of Recovery."