McClellan First Noticed Bush’s Habit of Lying during Campaign Flap over Cocaine Use

McClellan’s book offers another indication that George Bush used cocaine over a period of at least 20 years

In his new tell-all book, “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception” (Public Affairs), former Bush flack Scott McClellan says the first time he caught George Bush lying was during the 2000 campaign when Bush was being accused of having used cocaine:
Video: Bush Drunk at Wedding in 1992
An amateur wedding video shows George Bush obviously quite high in 1992, years after he was supposedly clean and sober.

McClellan tracks Bush’s penchant for self-deception back to an overheard incident on the campaign trail in 1999 when the then-governor was dogged by reports of possible cocaine use in his younger days.

The book recounts an evening in a hotel suite “somewhere in the Midwest.” Bush was on the phone with a supporter and motioned for McClellan to have a seat.

“‘The media won’t let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors,’ I heard Bush say. ‘You know, the truth is I honestly don’t remember whether I tried it or not. We had some pretty wild parties back in the day, and I just don’t remember.'”

“I remember thinking to myself, How can that be?” McClellan wrote. “How can someone simply not remember whether or not they used an illegal substance like cocaine? It didn’t make a lot of sense.”

Bush, according to McClellan, “isn’t the kind of person to flat-out lie.”

“So I think he meant what he said in that conversation about cocaine. It’s the first time when I felt I was witnessing Bush convincing himself to believe something that probably was not true, and that, deep down, he knew was not true,” McClellan wrote. “And his reason for doing so is fairly obvious — political convenience.”

In the years that followed, McClellan “would come to believe that sometimes he convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment.” McClellan likened it to a witness who resorts to “I do not recall.”

“Bush, similarly, has a way of falling back on the hazy memory to protect himself from potential political embarrassment,” McClellan wrote, adding, “In other words, being evasive is not the same as lying in Bush’s mind.”

And McClellan linked the tactic to the decision to invade Iraq, a decision based on flawed intelligence.

“It would not be the last time Bush mishandled potential controversy,” he said of the cocaine rumors. “But the cases to come would involve the public trust, and the failure to deal with them early, directly and head-on would lead to far greater suspicion and far more destructive partisan warfare,” he wrote.

In 2004, Eric Boehlert, writing in, reported on allegations that Bush was restricted from flying during his time in the Texas Air National Guard because of cocaine use:

One of the persistent riddles surrounding President Bush’s disappearance from the Texas Air National Guard during 1972 and 1973 is the question of why he walked away. Bush was a fully trained pilot who had undergone a rigorous two-year flight training program that cost the Pentagon nearly $1 million. And he has told reporters how important it was to follow in his father’s footsteps and to become a fighter pilot. Yet in April 1972, George W. Bush climbed out of a military cockpit for the last time. He still had two more years to serve, but Bush’s own discharge papers suggest he may have walked away from the Guard for good…

McClellan’s revelation is just the latest confirmation that George Bush was a habitual cocaine user for at least 20 years — a fact that is becoming harder for Bush, the GOP and the mainstream media to ignore.
[Skeptics] have speculated that Bush might have dropped out to avoid being tested for drugs. Which is where Air Force Regulation 160-23, also known as the Medical Service Drug Abuse Testing Program, comes in. The new drug-testing effort was officially launched by the Air Force on April 21, 1972, following a Jan. 11, 1972, directive issued by the Department of Defense. That initiative, in response to increased drug use among soldiers in Vietnam, instructed the military branches to “establish the requirement for a systematic drug abuse testing program of all military personnel on active duty, effective 1 July 1972.”

…During the early stages of his 2000 campaign for president, Bush was dogged by questions of whether he ever used cocaine or any other illegal substance when he was younger. Bush refused to fully answer the question, but in 1999 he did issue a blanket denial insisting he had not used any illegal drugs during the previous 25 years, or since 1974. Bush refused to specify what “mistakes” he had made before 1974.

Perhaps realizing that explanation pointed reporters toward possible drug use during his time as a guardsman, Bush insisted he hadn’t taken any drugs while serving in the Texas Air National Guard, between 1968 and 1974. “I never would have done anything to jeopardize myself. I got airborne and I got on the ground very successfully,” he told reporters on Aug. 19, 1999. But today we know that for his last 18 months in the Guard, from April ’72 to late ’73, Bush didn’t have to get airborne, because he simply quit flying. Moreover, if Bush in fact took no drugs at all after 1968, that would mean his drug use, if any, stopped at age 22 — an unusual age to swear off recreational substances for someone with the partying reputation Bush had at that time.

Unanswered questions continue to swirl around Bush’s Guard service in part because he refuses to release the full contents of his military records.

But Bush’s cocaine use may have continued well beyond the 1970s. In 2004, Kitty Kelley wrote in, “The Family,” her book on the Bush dynasty, that George Bush’s former sister-in-law claimed she’d seen Bush do cocaine at Camp David when his father was president — so sometime between 1988 and 1992. Sharon Bush quickly denied the story, but Kelley insisted Sharon had told her otherwise in 2003:

…Sharon Bush, who is divorced from the president’s brother Neil, said in a statement: “I categorically deny that I ever told Kitty Kelley that George W. Bush used cocaine at Camp David or that I ever saw him use cocaine at Camp David. When Kitty Kelley raised drug use at Camp David, I responded by saying something along the lines of, ‘Who would say such a thing?’

“Although there have been tensions between me and various members of the Bush family, I cannot allow this falsehood to go unchallenged.”

Doubleday, Kelley’s publisher, was quick to dispute her account.

“Doubleday stands fully behind the accuracy of Ms. Kelley’s reporting and believes that everything she attributes to Sharon Bush in her book is an accurate account of their discussions,” said Associate Publisher Suzanne Herz. “Ms. Kelley met with Sharon Bush over the course of a four-hour lunch on April 1, 2003, at the Chelsea Bistro in Manhattan.”

The next day, Herz said, Kelley had a 90-minute phone conversation with Bush in the presence of Peter Gethers, her Doubleday editor. Gethers confirmed the accuracy of the statement yesterday.

Kelley “has notes to corroborate both these conversations,” Herz said, and Bush “understood that anything she said could be used for publication.”

The conflicting accounts will undoubtedly become fodder in the emerging debate over “The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty.” White House and Republican Party spokesmen have denounced the book as “garbage” and “fiction.” Publication day is set for Monday, when Kelley will begin three days of “Today” show interviews, but some of the allegations have already leaked to a British newspaper.

McClellan’s revelation is just the latest confirmation that George Bush was a habitual cocaine user for at least 20 years — a fact that is becoming harder for Bush, the GOP and the mainstream media to ignore.


  • May 28, 2008 - 8:09 am | Permalink

    I agree with Scotty. You didn’t just not know if you were doing coke, even back in the day. For one thing, it was Very Expensive and unless you were the rock stars who partied like rock stars, you were a little careful with whom you shared. Also, there were and are many white, powdered substances with which to imbibe, some of them you’d want to identify and avoid, like heroin. I think what Bush probably meant to say was not, “I honestly can’t remember if I did cocaine,” but “I did cocaine so many times, I honestly can’t remember each individual one.”

    Given all that, I find who did coke in college, whether it’s Bush or Obama, a meaningless issue. It’s as relevant as saying, “I drank beer in college.” What does that have to do with now? Only the darkest age witchcraft flat earther types would think there is a residual effect that lingers from your early 20s to your late 40s or 50s or beyond. Heck, if the buzz lasted 20 or 30 years, everyone would do it.

    Here’s what matters: Bush, as Jon points out, lies about it. Obama tells the truth. Unlike Bill Clinton, Obama even said inhaling was the point, which we already knew.

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  • Delta
    May 28, 2008 - 9:20 am | Permalink

    Here’s the thing, gang. I don’t give a fat happy rat’s damn what people do when they’re kids….but the latest brain research makes clear that POLY-SUBSTANCE abuse…and that is what Bush did….Jim Beam and coke for sure…damages brain function.

    Specifically, Bush shows signs, and has all along, of damage to what’s called the “executive function” (No, this is not a medical joke.)

    So, sure, a partying president isn’t a big whoop but one who has physical damage to the brain is.

  • May 28, 2008 - 9:32 am | Permalink

    Delta, you mean you can do Coke and not drink? Who knew?

  • nikolai
    May 28, 2008 - 10:39 am | Permalink

    It’s funny that the same folks who are so “morally upright” / uptight about(past) drug usage are the same ones who think it’s perfectly ok to bomb innocent men, women and children into oblivion.

    Nice morals, you fu*king hypocrites.

  • OH
    May 28, 2008 - 4:26 pm | Permalink

    It isnt drugs if the President does them

  • Helen Rainier
    May 28, 2008 - 4:56 pm | Permalink

    ReTrish’s comment at 0809 am, there is one major difference between drinking beer in college and doing cocaine:

    Alcohol is a legalized drug.
    Cocaine is NOT.

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  • Kathy
    May 28, 2008 - 7:16 pm | Permalink


    Alcohol may be legal, and pot is not. Alcohol is far worse for your body than pot is. For the record, I don’t smoke pot often (about once a year) and have a couple of glasses of wine just about every day.

    So, I don’t think the fact cocaine is illegal that makes it so bad…what’s bad is it fries your brain

  • Fed up #456,774
    May 29, 2008 - 6:20 am | Permalink

    Is this book going to expose anything new? These always dogged Bush, and what Presidential Press Secretary DOESN’T lie? Good grief. I mean, these stories were always out there and you believed them (which I did) or you poo-poo’d them (which the “Base” seems to like to do), or you ignored them.

  • Deb
    May 30, 2008 - 12:37 am | Permalink

    It doesn’t sound like McClellon’s book is much of a revelation to anyone even half way paying attention for the past few years. The President was, is and always will be a mentally stunted, toe rag. He’s lied every time he opened his mouth. He simply has no sympathy, compassion or thoughts of any kind for anyone but himself and his legacy. He’s sent over 4,000 soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans to their deaths because being a war president made him look good for his legacy. This is a person who is so wrapped up in himself that he doesn’t care that something like 70% or more of his fellow Americans would like it if he left office today. He would be a sad figure if what he’s done just for a legacy, wasn’t so disgustingly immoral. Worst of all, it looks like he’s going to get away with all of it. Wars, trashed economy, illegal spying, loss of civil rights and destruction of our infrastructure just to fund our broken military

  • Smedley Valet
    May 30, 2008 - 1:11 pm | Permalink

    This book is important in that it comes from the mouthpiece of the administration post-invasion. Yes, he does reiterate old things, which is not surprising since we all enjoy the temporal world, but it is his viewpoint which differentiates him from the rest of those who wrote about their WH experience. And he was there to vet the liars in the Plame outing, which is still an open case, folks. I see a subpoena in his future, courtesy of Fitzpatrick.

  • Yeske
    May 31, 2008 - 11:39 am | Permalink

    I think most young folks experimented with some kind of partying drug back in the day but what makes Bush so pathetic is the fact that his use was so bad that he couldn’t serve in the Air Force. It affected his ability to fly an airplane. It’s not right as leader, to be hypocritical about your militaty experience. And then have the nerve to start a war! 4,000+ die on the direction from someone who couldn’t even serve due to cocaine use! And anyone who disagrees with the war supports terrorists and are Al Quida types. It MATTERS if you are our leader to be honest which Bush never has been, not once. McClellan makes the excuse that Bush’s intent was idealistic and wanting to spread democracy in the Middle East. BS. Its about oil and greed. I am glad Scott came out with some confirmation of what we knew about it, that the media kept silent (and they aren’t lookin so good right now either). Maybe more of them will come out of the Whitehouse closit and McCain’s agenda will be history as Repblicans become more and more disillusioned.

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  • July 25, 2012 - 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a Bush video that you should see:

    From his recent interview on Uncommon Knowledge…

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