Bush: I never thought about a drink in White House
Alcohol ‘became a love’ he says, but wife Laura helped him quit
Matt Lauer will sit down with George W. Bush in the former president’s first one-on-one television interview since leaving office. The interview will air Monday, Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. ET as a special primetime “Matt Lauer Reports.” President Bush will then join Lauer live on TODAY on Wednesday, Nov. 10.
Former President George W. Bush describes the love affair he once had with alcohol in a revealing new memoir, candidly discussing his drunken escapades and how he was able to kick the habit and remain sober throughout his presidency.
In his book “Decision Points,” officially being released Nov. 9, Bush writes about behind-the-scenes details of eight eventful years that began with the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and ended with an economic meltdown.
Bush, who says he quit drinking in 1986, told Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview that even in the most stressful moments of his presidency, he never thought about taking a drink — despite rumors that he had fallen off the wagon.
“Right after I quit drinking I was thinking about drinking,” he said. “But by the time I got to the White House, I hadn't had a drink in a long time. No, I've never had a drink of alcohol since then. When I go to church, if there's a wine in the communion, I don't take the wine in the communion.”
Bush recalled an embarrassing moment fueled by alcohol at a dinner party.
“I'm drunk at the dinner table at Mother and Dad's house in Maine. And my brothers and sister are there, Laura's there,” he said. “And I'm sitting next to a beautiful woman, friend of Mother and Dad's. And I said to her out loud, ‘What is sex like after 50?’”
At the time, his comment was greeted with complete silence and “serious daggers” from the guests.
Years later when he turned 50, the woman returned the favor with a note: "Well, George, how is it?"
Bush discusses DUI, how he quit
Bush also looked back at the DUI he received over Labor Day weekend in 1976 and called his decision to stay quiet about the DUI later in his life “one of the top stupidest decisions I made.”
“All of a sudden, I'm in politics, and my girls are getting ready to drive,” Bush says in the interview. “I make the decision not to go public with this story because I didn’t want them to say, ‘Hey, Dad did it, and so can I.’ I mean, I was worried about them driving and drinking. And it was — I made a huge political mistake, and a miscalculation.”
His DUI came to light days before the 2000 presidential election, sparking a major scandal.
“If I had to do it over again, of course I would have disclosed,” Bush tells Lauer. “I mean there was nothing to hide. I — yeah, I drank too much. I had been pulled over. And I quit. It was a good story with a good ending, poorly timed.”
“When you think of drinking as a younger man, what role did it play in your life?” Lauer asked.
“Well — it became — a love. And therefore, began to compete for my love with my wife, and my daughters,” Bush said. “For awhile, I was a rootless guy, and drinking didn’t compete with anything.”
“I could easily have a beer or two, or a martini before dinner, bourbons, B&Bs. I was a drinker,” Bush continued. “I was a drinker. Now I wasn't a knee-walkin' drunk. And I have concluded I was not chemically addicted, like some of my friends were, who required a 12-step program for some.”
Bush quit drinking the morning after he turned 40, 10 years after he paid a fine for driving under the influence of alcohol. He recalled waking up at hotel in Midland after getting “drunk as a skunk” at his birthday bash.
“I’m through,” he told Laura Bush.
She replied, “I’ve heard this before.”
But this time, Bush meant it. He realized that alcohol played too central a role in his life and he risked everything.
Bush said that with the help of Laura Bush and the Rev. Billy Graham, he embarked on a “one-step” program. He quit drinking “cold turkey,” adding that he never would have become president if he had not given up alcohol. His career took off after he did.