Thursday night, a Portland, Maine news reporter broke the story that as a 30-year-old, Bush was arrested for drunken driving. His blood alcohol level was .10. "I'm not proud of that," said Bush at a hurriedly called news conference. What Bush does seem to be proud of is his harsh treatment of drunk drivers in Texas.
The day the story broke, Bush sermonized on CNNfn, "I believe we need to encourage personal responsibility so people are accountable for their actions." Perhaps he meant to say, "so other people are accountable." According to the Bush campaign, he paid a $150 fine and lost his driving privileges in Maine for a period of time.
Though Bush refused to reveal his drunk driving conviction on the campaign trail, he did boast about increasing penalties for drunk driving in Texas. "In Texas, we've reformed our criminal justice system . . . cracked down on drunk driving, [and] established boot camps for disruptive juveniles," he boasted at a campaign event in February. (Bush's running mate, Dick Cheney, has been up front about his two arrests for drunk driving when he was in his 20s.)
In fact, Bush strongly endorsed and signed a bill that lowered the legal blood alcohol limit to .08 for drunk drivers. Under Bush's own law, his .10 blood alcohol level at the time of arrest would have been well over the .08 legal limit. "My main priority when it comes to drinking and driving is .08," said Bush during the debate over the measure. Texas' penalties for drunk driving include a fine up to $2,000 and/or jail time up to 180 days, according to the Texas Attorney General's Office.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving pushed the measure because of the lethal effects of drunk driving. In 1994, 1,170 Texans died and 34,060 were injured in drunk driving accidents, for example.
Bush, who campaigns in a plane named "Responsibility One," lied about his arrest to a Dallas Morning News reporter, according to Salon. When the reporter asked whether he had ever been arrested after 1968 (when he was apprehended for stealing a wreath from a hotel) Bush replied that he had not. In fact, the drunk driving incident occurred in 1976.
Governor Responsibility has also been vague about other crimes on which he cracked down in Texas. For example, Bush has pushed for coming down hard on drug offenders during his tenure. Bush has always refused to answer questions about past drug usage -- including a flurry of inquiries about whether he had ever used cocaine. Asked whether Bush had ever had problems with other substances at a news conference Thursday evening, Bush's spokeswoman Karen Hughes reiterated that Bush has acknowledged that he had problems in the past, but will not comment further than that.
Hughes responded to another question about whether Bush had been arrested other times by noting that he has been arrested three times in total: once for drunk driving, once for stealing the wreath, and once for being rowdy at a sporting event. All those times, it seems, he was a disruptive young man -- not a "disruptive juvenile" like the ones on which he cracked down in Texas.