Absence costs Bush victory

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The Independent Online
THE DEFECT that lost George W Bush his expected victory in Alabama was not the cocaine question that had dominated the previous week's political discourse in the United States, but his perceived disrespect to the voters by staying away.

It seemed, in fact, that the US media were allowing the allegations about his drug use, which he was still refusing to address beyond saying that he had not partaken since 1974, to remain in the closet largely because of the lack of any public outcry. With much of America on holiday and a great many baby-boomers in responsible jobs as worried as Bush might be about revelations from their distant past, an informal truce has been declared.

US commentators, led by the New York Times columnist Frank Rich, declared Mr Bush the temporary victor, largely thanks to the public's acceptance of his claims that he would be able to pass background checks for White House employees of a decade ago that required 15 drug-free years.

Mr Bush's escape from the insistent questioning was greatly assisted by one of his rivals for the nomination, Senator John McCain, who said he thought Mr Bush was entitled to keep his past private.

Mr Bush was also helped by the admission of Lincoln Chafee, a Senate contender from Rhode Island, who went public about taking marijuana and cocaine in his youth and a contribution from Gary Johnson, the Governor of New Mexico, who admitted his cocaine use during his first campaign for the governership. Mr Johnson said that he had come clean because "I knew I should fess up", not because anyone would have known about it.