Lessons from the First Twins

By Mark Harrison, TNC staff writer

The White House has declared the president's daughters off limits to the media, asking that we respect the First Family's privacy, and we honestly do, but not enough. Consequently, it's almost impossible for First Twins Jenna and Barbara, 19-years-old, to use their fake I.D.s to buy one of America's favorite drugs. Now, bartenders everywhere recognize their parched First Faces and realize that serving them could result in a 911 call, the number now reserved for underage drinking and other emergencies.

Okay, so the guy at Chuy's Mexican restaurant in Austin, Texas who dialed 911 probably wasn't a Republican, but in his defense, maybe he was trying to protect the president's daughters from violating underage drinking laws in a bipartisan manner. This, after Jenna was caught guzzling a beer in a bar a few weeks earlier, bailing her boyfriend out of jail for public drunkenness and the published photos of an inebriated Jenna tripping over reveling students at a fraternity party. Barbara, though busted in the recent incident with evil sister Jenna, has been more discreet by knocking back shots at Playa Del Carmen in Mexico where the legal age is 18. And then there's the reported fashion show where a tipsy Jenna toppled off the elegant runway while in high school, and the marijuana incidents in which the issue of inhaling is left to the imagination.

Seem like normal kids to me. It's their father I'm worried about. Let's face it, Bushy didn't join the Republican Party because he wanted to change the world. He signed up because he thought the GOP stood for Grand Old Party-er.

In fairness, he did discuss his own struggle with alcohol openly and honestly with the nation-just as soon as he got caught concealing his 1976 DUI arrest. When asked on the campaign trail why he failed to disclose this bit of news, the president said he didn't want Jenna and Barbara making the same mistakes. Sounds like our commander-in-chief of the drug war relied heavily on that child-rearing book, "Parenting For Idiots."

The preponderance of research in adolescent psychology indicates that risk-taking is a normal part of growing up. Young adults naturally explore society's boundaries of acceptable behavior, essential in establishing inner restraints necessary to function in a grown-up world. And while adolescents engage in risky but age-appropriate behavior, adult guidance is crucial in reducing the harm that drugs can cause. The office of the U.S. Surgeon General has a report entitled "Call to Action" that focuses on adolescent risk-taking and sexuality. But the White House has withheld its release because the report is not consistent with the administration's total abstinence policies, according to Dr. Lynn Ponton, Ph.D., practicing adolescent psychiatrist, mother of two teens and noted author of three books in the field, as reported by Salon.com.

Abstinence-only programs are believed to be the ideal approach to eliminating teen drug use and sexual activity by moralists and prohibitionists. But this zero-tolerance model fails in research conducted by experts in the field of adolescent psychology. A rational harm-reduction approach of honest, non-reactionary dialogue with adolescents about their exposure to drugs and sex is recommended.

Meanwhile, the nation reacts to the crisis of two college women who drink alcohol and, by the way, are old enough to vote, marry and go to war.

The religious right reacts: After college, the twins are going to hell.

First Mother reacts: "I don't think there should be any (media) coverage," Laura said on CBS, The Early Show.

First Grandmother reacts: "He's getting back some of his own," Grandma said the day her granddaughters were charged.

First Father reacts: I like baseball.

First Grandfather reacts: Not North Korea, Son, Iraq; start your war in Iraq. You can find it on your globe ... that's right, the little Earth you got for Christmas.

Vice President Cheney reacts: Don't have a heart attack.

Attorney General John Ashcroft reacts: Praise God! Can we put the crooks in jail, now? (Secretly, the top cop harbors visions of the First Daughters' heads and hands locked in wooden stocks in front of their respective institutions of higher learning for all to behold their shamed and repentant twin appendages, deprived of the witches brew that brought this dark humiliation.) And, oh, Jenna and Barbara, I'm praying for you.

The Drug Enforcement Agency reacts.

Jenna and Barbara won't react in respect of their privacy.

White House spokesperson reacts: The president's agenda has always been to leave no child behind whose parents can afford it.

And Texas may have to react because Governor Bush signed zero-tolerance legislation for underage drinking in1997. This means that Jenna could be just one strike away from spending six months in one of those overcrowded gulags that daddy is so proud of. Bush may not be soft on crime, but he's a bit soft in the head.

We don't want Jenna or Barbara to go to jail for alcohol possession, as have hundreds of thousands for marijuana possession. And using the drug that results in zero deaths per year should not be more punishable than using the drug resulting in over 100,000 deaths per year; including the recent fatalities of binge drinkers on college campuses.

If alcoholism is indeed a disease, then doctors are needed, not jailers. As for prevention and treatment, Bush says these programs should be "faith-based." And this will require a lot of faith, because the former drug abuser himself spent our historic budget surpluses on tax cuts for those who can afford treatment at the Betty Ford Center.