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In defense of drinking politicians



Winston Churchill drank a lot of booze. I consider myself something of a student of the Second World War, having read an enormous body of literature on the topic, and I find it interesting that all three of the Allied leaders, Churchill, FDR and Stalin, liked to drink. FDR preferred his cocktails. Stalin, needless to say, liked vodka. But FDR always kept his input limited to a few rounds, while Stalin was known to have his butler substitute water for vodka at parties, when dozens of toasts might be proposed, and even his top aides would collapse from drunkenness.

But Churchill outdrank them all. Port, wine, whiskey, Champagne, Cognac, he mixed them all, frequently starting in the morning as soon as he woke up, and going until the small hours of the next morning. (There’s a story that he almost refused to meet with the Saudi king because alcohol would not be served.) FDR loved Churchill, who often stayed at the White House for weeks at a time, plodding about in his bathrobe and even meeting people naked in the tub; but FDR always breathed a sigh of relief when Churchill finally returned to England, because keeping up with Churchill’s hours, and his boozing, was close to impossible.

The fourth man of WWII leadership was famous for being a teetotaler. Adolf Hitler did not drink. While there are published reports of him occasionally sipping a glass of wine or beer, they are rarer than hen’s teeth. I have always thought it interesting that the Good Guys in that war drank while the Bad Guy didn’t.

As I survey our current political scene here in America I note that some candidates profess to not drink alcohol. I, myself, would prefer a President who does enjoy a nip now and then, and not just a nip: I like a man or a woman who takes his or her booze seriously enough to have favorite drinks and pursue some understanding of sourcing and quality. This is not a Republican or a Democratic thing. I just think that people who drink with some desire to know about what they’re drinking, who study their beverage and meet with its producers and apply some intellect to the experience of drinking, are superior to people who don’t drink.

Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood. If somebody is an alcoholic and has a problem with booze, then obviously they cannot and should not drink, and that does not make them a lesser person. I’m in no way suggesting that. But if I had to vote for somebody who really likes his booze and somebody who chooses not to drink, or to drink only very little and with no understanding of what they’re drinking, then I will always choose the former. Ronald Reagan was a discriminating wine drinker who promoted California wine. President Obama is a dedicated beer drinker who makes his own brew in the White House.

I think the reason I trust drinkers over non-drinkers is because drinkers seem more well-rounded to me as human beings. It’s easy to become rigid and ideological about stuff, but when you drink and get a little buzzed, the edges of life get softer. Ideologies tend to fuzz up; alcohol opens the heart chakra and in general makes you friendlier and happier and more accepting of life. Aren’t those qualities we want in our leaders, instead of anger, bitterness, closed-mindedness?

The Welsh poet, W.H. Davies, put it well: Teetotalers lack the sympathy and generosity of men that drink. But maybe Ol’ Blue Eyes expressed it best: I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.

  1. I’ll drink to that!

  2. From The Wall Street Journal “Review” Section
    (December 19-20, 2015, Page C5ff):

    “Booze and Big Government”

    Book review by John Fabian Witt
    Professor of Law and History at Yale

    “The War on Alcohol:
    Prohibition and the Rise of the American State”

    By [Harvard historian] Lisa McGirr
    (Norton, 330 pages, $27.95)


  3. From the Associated Press Online
    (December 3, 2015):

    “Southern Churches Lose Clout;
    Sunday liquor sales in once-dry towns are a sign of waning religious influence.”

    Alternate link:

    By Jay Reeves
    Associated Press

    [Run in the Los Angeles Times “Main News” Section on December 7, 2015 on page A8.]

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