06/01/2008 03:23 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

If Bush Had Been Drinking at Fallujah

The humorist James Thurber once wrote a story called "If Grant Had Been Drinking at Appomattox," in which he imagined General Ulysses S. Grant surrendering his sword to the Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the drunken delusion that his Union forces had been licked in Virginia. Our present Commander-in-Chief is proving even more hallucinatory than Grant since, along with his equally deranged Vice President Dick Cheney, he has actually convinced himself we are winning the war in Iraq. The difference is that both of them hold these delusions while stone-cold sober.

Bush is not only booze-free, he is promoting his own brand of sobriety as an ultimate form of wisdom. In a speech to the graduates of Furman College in South Carolina, Bush warned against the temptations that might distract them from their public responsibilities, such as "alcohol, drugs, or promiscuity." Deaf to a protest over his political incompetence by 200 Furman College professors and students, the President went on to confess, "There was a time in my life when alcohol competed for my affections, but I found salvation in my family and in my faith."

In What Happened, Bush's former press secretary, Scott McClellan, quotes his former boss as saying that he might also have tried cocaine once ("we had some pretty wild parties back in the day"), but he couldn't honestly remember. Imagine how much happier the world would be today if President Bush had just ignored those competing rivals for his alcoholic affections, and followed his evangelical passions for wild parties. As for giving up John Barleycorn for John Calvin, most people I know have behaved much more sensibly under the influence of alcoholic spirits than under the sway of spiritual advisors like Jerry Farewell, Pat Robertson, the Reverend Jeffrey Wright, or the Reverend Michael Pfleger. There are many ways to get high, but the great advantage of Absolute Vodka over absolute religions is that grain alcohol gives you an opportunity to sober up, perhaps in time to take responsibility for your errors. If only for that reason, Bush should rethink his apostasy from "alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity."

I note that Barack Obama had just resigned from Trinity United Church of Christ in protest over some of the more recent lunacies being uttered there. This is a wonderful opportunity for a presidential candidate to finally shut up about his religious devotions and keep his church-going life a secret between him and his God. It is a rare opportunity for him to become one of the few chief executives since Jefferson and Lincoln to recognize that religious faith is not the soundest basis for political decision-making, and that American civil government was never designed as a secular extension of the Protestant Church. I'm not recommending that Barack get drunk before pulling our troops out of Iraq. But if he does, he will find plenty of grateful and happy companions eager to join him, bellying up to the bar.