Alcoholic Presidents?

I’ve come to the teeming millions to settle an argument: have there been any alcoholic Presidents of the United States of America?

For clarity, answers should be separated into:

1.) Known after they left office (i.e. Reagan had alzheimers).
2.) Known during their term but not re-elected.
3.) Known during their term and re-elected.

Thanks for your help.

I doubt you can get a definitive answer to this, but there are at least two Presidents whom people suspected of drinking problems while they were in office that I can think of:
Franklin Pierce
Ulysses Grant

Pierce was ridiculed as being “the victor of many a hard fought bottle”. The fact that he passed out during a Mexican-American War battle didn’t help his cause.

Grant liked to drink and that was before the Civil War, whether or not it was a problem large enough to be considered a disease is for others to decide.

You can rule out Polk and Hayes, whom I both believe forbade drinking in the White House. Hayes’ wife was nicknamed “Lemonade Lucy”.


Hasn’t GWB sworn off the sauce?

Nixon hit the bottle pretty hard during The Final Days, according to Woodie and Bernie.

Harry Truman was known to start his day with a shot of bourbon.

He passed out because he got a pommel of a saddle slammed into his groin. :eek: I think most men would pass out, under the circumstances. I don’t know about his drinking while in the White House (this indicates he was an alcoholic, but the report is second-hand and only says that he drank a lot – but everyone of his generation did*), but there was a good chance he was clinically depressed over the loss of his son.

Grant was a problem drinker – he didn’t drink much, and he didn’t do it regularly, but it hit him hard when he did. Most of his drinking was prior to the Civil War; he remained sober afterward. In a clinical sense, he might have been what nowadays would be termed an alcoholic, but he avoided drink so kept it under control.

The big problem in determining this is defining “alcoholic.” What would be considered signs of alcoholism today would be normal behavior in the 19th Century (see note below).

*In the 1830s, for instance, everyone, including children, drank alcoholic beverages (usually cider). They were safer than water (which often was polluted) or milk (which wasn’t pasteurized), and it were the only drink that could be kept for any length of time.

Last time I read much about it, Grant’s problem wasn’t so much that he drank alot, but that he couldn’t hold what little he did drink. Some people just aren’t very good drinkers.

As to Bush II, he went on the wagon after he challenged his dad to a fist fight in the streets.

Supposedly, Andrew Johnson was drunk when he was sworn in as vice president, but that might just be a rumor. He did drink a lot, though. So did Warren G. Harding.

And, here’s Cecil’s answer:

This site has some interesting quotes from historians of various viewpoints regarding Grant’s supposed drinking problem. The following I think is pretty reasonable:

Like Cecil said in Captain Amazing’s link, define alcoholism. A lot of politicians drink heavily, but heavy drinking doesn’t necessarily mean that one is an alcoholic. Besides, the disease is typically self-diagnosed and it wouldn’t be the best of career moves for any public official to stand up and announce that they have a drinking problem.

That said, I have the impression that Lyndon Johnson drank almost continuously after he walked away from the presidency (all considered, I can’t blame him), so we could add his name to the list.

Johnson was suffering from a severe cold or flu when he was inaugurated and he poured back one too many shots of whiskey before he went to the Capitol to be inaugurated. But there was little other evidence that he was an alcoholic.

He just had the misfortune of pulling the 19th Century equivalent of drinking too much Nyquil before going out on stage.

At that time, the Vice President was sworn in the Capitol separate from the President. Johnson started to give a speech, but he was more or less incoherent and he was pulled off the podium more or less.

Needless to say, this was the first exposure most people had to Andrew Johnson and this didn’t exactly inspire confidence in him when he became president.

Seriously? Cite?

I believe that Clinton was visiting a pro golfer in Orlando(?) one night during his administration. Anyway, on the way out he slipped on the pavement and twisted his ankle. A handful of right-leaning pundits quickly surmised that Clinton had had a few too many.

But of course, having a few too many every now and then does not an alcoholic make.

That was Greg Norman’s house, and it was the stairs leading down to the foyer. Never heard of alcohol being involved.

Now to the older Presidents. I’d love to see a SDMB board back then for, say, Grant. He’s a drunk, here’s a headline! Rebutted by, No he was ill and lost his equilibrium! Some things never have, nor ever will change.

The story about Grant–that Lincoln said “find out what brand of whiskey he drinks and I’ll send some to my other generals”–was traced by Lincoln to King George II of England, when told that General Wolfe was mad, said, “If General Wolfe is mad I hope he bites some of my other generals.”
In Dictionary of Misinformation, Tom Burnam notes:
“As a matter of fact, the whole issue of Grant’s drunkenness looks most dubioius when examined. In a recent biography, Grant Takes Command (1969), the respected historian Bruce Catton maintains that the whole thing is a myth started by a John Rawlinson, who misunderstood the nature of Grant’s participation on a rather wet evening–but one involving some of Grant’s aides, not Grant himself. In fact, says Catton, it was Grant who broke up the party, when he found out about it, with a few words that ‘raised blisters.’ There is little doubt that Catton believes Grant to have been ‘as abstemious as any man needs to be…’”

Partying with his 15 year old brother, challenging dad to fisticuffs. Cites abound – search for “Bush drunk mano a mano.”

Now wouldn’t that be a great item for the Kerry campaign staff to seize on?