When dry drunks wield power, bad things happen

by Ogi Overman

The Rev. Billy Graham was counsel and advisor to no fewer than 11 presidents. But for a chat he had with a future president years ago, that total would’ve been either diminished by one or would not have included the current one.

The new book Pastor to Power reveals that it was Graham who convinced George W. Bush that he needed to stop drinking.

Thanks a lot, Rev.

One can’t help but wonder how history would have been altered if Graham had not had that chat with the future “president.” Obviously, neither Graham nor anyone else on the face of the earth could’ve possibly conceived that this arrogant, beer-guzzling, coke-snorting, draft-dodging, sneering, ne’er-do-well whose every business venture failed and had to be bailed out by daddy’s money would someday rise to become the third-most powerful man on the planet (behind Cheney and Rove). In fairness to Graham, he was probably doing what most any minister would do. Poppy probably confided in him that young George had a drinking problem and asked if he would talk to him about it.

Why oh why couldn’t he have had a revival or TV special or something to do that week? I mean, you hate to see anyone die an alcoholic death, but knowing what we know now, the world would’ve been better off with one more drunk in it. Yes, it sounds cold and callous, but think about it. What if George had merely joined the other brother – not Jeb, but the other black sheep whom no one ever talks about – as good-time party boys? On a relative scale would it not be preferable to sacrifice one alky to save 3,600 (and counting) American lives, possibly as many as 100,000 Iraqi lives, and a half trillion dollars? And that’s not even counting the incalculable tangible and intangible damage that will take years, perhaps generations, to recover from. Hate to say it, but what’s one more wino when the fate of the planet hangs in the balance thanks to one wack job?

Wonder what it was that Graham said that resonated with that egomaniac with an inferiority complex. What if another less doctrinaire, less fundamentalist preacher had gotten to him instead? Somewhere the messages of turn the other cheek and blessed are the peacemakers and do unto others and surely goodness and mercy got sublimated to fire and brimstone and an eye for an eye and hellfire and damnation in Bush’s booze-addled brain and ego-driven persona.

Of course, there is one more scenario. What if that chat had come from a member of a 12-step program? Assume that the Duh was able to overcome his addictions, rose to the office he now holds, and made decisions based on the suggestions laid out in the 12 steps rather than those offered by Cheney, Rove and his own self-will run riot. Hmm….

I’d guess that, for starters, bin Laden would have been killed or captured years ago, killing the head so the body would die. We would then have begun attacking the root causes of terrorism: poverty, disenfranchisement, religious intolerance, hopelessness, US hegemony, xenophobia and jingoism. Needless to say, invading Iraq would not have entered his mind and US-sanctioned overseas torture camps would have been out of the question.

Fighting global warming, being gentle to the good earth that sustains us, and funding alternative energy research would’ve been high priorities. An Apollo-like mission to prioritize stem cell research would’ve been launched, and universal health care might be a reality by now. America would still be the moral leader of the world, rather than being viewed as a colonialistic pariah.

All the above is, of course, pure conjecture, given that recovering alkies span the full political spectrum. But based on the principles as my 12-step buddies have explained them to me, Bush seems the antithesis of those in recovery.

As I understand it, being in recovery means taking responsibility, not passing the buck; brutal honesty, not spinning the truth; making amends, not being utterly guiltless; holding yourself accountable, not blaming others; humility not hubris; spirituality, not my-god’s-better-than-your-god religiosity; willingness to change, not opaqueness in the face of contradictory facts; open-mindedness, not a close-minded resolve; admitting your mistakes, not denying they exist; powerlessness, not shock-and-awe power; and praying for your enemies, not eviscerating, demeaning or killing them.

Bush is proof that putting the plug in the jug is not enough. Without humility, tolerance and a gentle spirituality that places others above self, he has accomplished very little of real value in this life.

There’s an old saying: Just because you quit drinking doesn’t mean you’re not still an asshole.

And another: What do you get when an asshole stops drinking?

A sober asshole.

Sound familiar?

Ogi may be reached at, heard Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. on “The Dusty Dunn Show” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on “Triad Today” Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV 48.