The Dole Terror
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date rank Jenna and Barbara need a stiff drinkJune 4, 2001Jenna and Barbara need a stiff drinkNational Post
I raise a toast to Jenna and Barbara. The teenage Bush babes are all over the papers for attempting to buy margaritas with fake ID at a Mexican restaurant in Austin, Texas, last Tuesday night. This comes two weeks after Jenna was ordered to undergo alcohol counselling and perform community service for having been found in possession of a bottle of beer. According to Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of America's leftie dronefest The Nation, Jenna Bush has "a problem." "Our DWI President has set a very, very bad example for his impressionable girls," tuts Margery Eagan at The Boston Herald. "The apples have not fallen far from the tree."
Just for the record, the apples weren't driving, weren't intoxicated, and they didn't fall near the tree or anywhere else, though they may have been walking a little unsteadily and mangling three-syllable words. But then so does their dad. And, if Jenna Bush has a "problem," then what does 16-year-old Euan Blair, son of Tony, have? He wasn't attempting to order a sophisticated beverage with a meal. Instead, he was passed out in his own vomit in the middle of Leicester Square. Most Britons, in an admirably nonpartisan spirit, agreed he had a serious drycleaning problem.
No, the only "problem" Jenna has is getting a drink. She and her sister Barbara are 19 years old, and in all 50 states it's illegal to drink alcohol under the age of 21. Jenna can drive, vote, marry, own a house, join the army, buy firearms, and hop a flight to Vermont with a lesbian, get one of the state's new "civil union" licences and spend the night enjoying the pleasures of Sapphic lovemaking. She can do everything an adult can except go into a Tex-Mex restaurant and wash down her incendiary enchiladas with a margarita. You can buy a handgun, shoot up the liquor store and steal the beer. But you cannot walk in and purchase it.
Al Gore drew attention to this anomalous situation a couple of years ago. "Incredibly, while those 18-to-20-year-olds cannot legally buy a beer or purchase a bottle of wine," he said, "they can walk into any gun shop, pawn shop or gun show in America and buy a handgun."
Needless to say, the vice-president was calling for a ban on handgun sales to the under-21s. But what most Britons, Australians, Western Europeans and even Canadians would regard as the incredible part of that sentence is that 18-to-20-year-olds in America cannot legally buy a beer. So Jenna and Barbara are obliged to have "fake ID." To the average National Post reader, "fake ID" probably sounds fairly exotic -- the sort of thing you see in thrillers, where the guy needs to get out of town in a hurry, meets a furtive-looking fellow down by the waterfront, hands over $10,000 in small bills, and says he'll need it by Thursday. But, in America, fake ID is now as common as, well, real ID. In college towns, getting a false driver's licence is as easy as getting a haircut. If you're a manufacturer of small 2"-by-3" cards or you own a photo booth, you'll be able to retire on the swollen fake ID market. And the economic benefits don't stop there. Fake IDs have prompted the development of machines that can detect fake IDs. The shares of one such company, Intelli-Check Inc., went up 20% on the news of Jenna's latest run-in with the law.
These developments are relatively recent. Until 1984, some states had a legal drinking age of 21, some of 18, and some had no restrictions at all. But then a lunatic control freak in the Federal Transportation Department decided she knew better than anyone the age at which people could drink. And, although she lacked the constitutional authority to legislate in this area, she had some financial muscle. She informed all 50 states that she would take away the federal government's highway funding from any jurisdiction that refused to raise the drinking age to 21. South Dakota went all the way to the Supreme Court, but the crazed regulatory megalomaniac won and took her legal team out to celebrate, presumably with Diet Coke.
The maniac's name was Elizabeth Dole, and two years ago she resurfaced, as a Republican presidential candidate. On the stump, the helmet-haired Mrs. Dole conceded that she wasn't happy with the legal drinking age of 21 she'd forced on the nation. No, these days Nurse Ratched thinks it should be 24. 24! I'd like to see her telling that to her husband Bob back when he was getting shot up on that hillside in Italy. But she's serious: In Elizabeth Dole's America, you wouldn't be able to start drinking until you're 24. It'd make more sense the other way round: You'd have to stop drinking when you're 24. You can spend 10 years doing Euan Blair impressions and then it's time to sober up and go to work.
I've no wish to go the Anglo-Celtic route, where villages that no longer support a store, post office or church have four packed pubs; I don't pine for the traditional 11 o'clock rituals of rural England: the baying, mooning, urinating and the, ahem, "pavement pizza." But immaturity comes in different guises. In the U.S., adulthood is so deferred that many Americans exist in a state of perpetual childhood, grown men and women reduced to 300-lb. toddlers waddling down the street sipping supersized sodas from plastic bottles with giant nipples. It's at least arguable that it's healthier for Jenna and Barbara to have a couple of glasses of wine than the sugary Pepsis and Mountain Dews the law all but forces them to drink. Excessive late-teen soda intake may well be the reason why so many chipmunk-cheeked perky-breasted high-school cheerleaders are bloated, pustulating lardbutts by the time they're 22.
It doesn't have to be like that. In Quebec, they have the same relaxed attitude to alcohol that distinguishes the Catholic countries of Continental Europe. You can drink at 18, the bars are open till 3 a.m., and the danseuses nues weigh under 250 lbs. The jurisdictions that have the least alcoholism are those where drinking is most socially acceptable and integrated into family life. In Quebec and France, they enjoy drinking. In England and Ireland, they enjoy getting drunk. In the U.S., they enjoy getting drunk on insane stigmatizatory regulation of alcohol.
It's obvious Jenna Bush is going to be hounded by the press every time she's within a hundred yards of a cocktail olive. So she may as well become a role model, not for victims of alcoholism but for victims of the Dole terror. According to polls, the majority of 18-21-year-olds break Dole's Law every single month. Mrs. Dole's discriminatory, targeted mini-Prohibition deserves to be overturned. The unjustly criminalized Jenna Bush doesn't need alcohol counselling or community service. After the last month, she needs a stiff drink. And, if she's ever up in northern Vermont or New Hampshire, I'll happily drive her over the border to Magog and buy her one.
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