Pubdate: Wed, 20 Oct 1999
Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: of Telegraph Group Limited 1999
Author: Toby Harnden in Washington


Pressure was growing last night on George W Bush, the front runner for
the Republican presidential nomination, to confront rumours about past
drug abuse after publication of a book containing detailed allegations
of cocaine-taking in 1972.

Mr Bush denied an accusation by J H Hatfield, a Texas journalist and
author, that he had been arrested for cocaine possession 27 years ago
but had his record expunged because of his father's political

Mr Bush, the governor of Texas, said at a press conference in Arizona:
"It's totally ridiculous what he suggested and it's not true. I would hope
that reputable journalists . . . would not respond to science fiction."

The allegation was contained in Hatfield's Fortunate Son: George W Bush and
the Making of an American President, published yesterday by New York's St
Martin's Press. Fortunate Son had earlier been touted at the Frankfurt Book
Fair as containing unspecified information that would "grab world
headlines" and affect the US presidential election.

Hatfield, also the author of a biography of Star Trek's Patrick
Stewart, wrote that Mr Bush was arrested in Houston, Texas, in 1972.
At the time, his father, a former Texas congressman, was US Permanent
Representative to the United Nations.

The record of the incident, Hatfield claimed, was deleted from police
records after Mr Bush agreed to work as a youth counsellor with
underprivileged children. This deal had been arranged by his father
and a Texas judge said to have Republican sympathies.

Mr Bush has confirmed that he worked as a youth counsellor with
Project Pull (Professionals United for Leadership League) in 1972 but
denied this had anything to do with being arrested for cocaine abuse.

His spokesmen yesterday played down the allegations, stating that they
were not new. Scott McClellan said that Mr Bush had "never been
arrested for a drug possession offence". Mindy Tucker, Mr Bush's chief
press officer said: "He [Hatfield] is obviously trying to sell books."
Jean Becker, a spokesman for Mr Bush Snr, said: "It absolutely did not

Although most American newspapers ignored the story yesterday because
it could not be verified and was based on three unnamed sources, the
seriousness of the allegation could force Mr Bush to make an
unequivocal statement about the issue.

In August, Mr Bush said that he had not taken drugs for seven years
and then, the following day, that he would have passed a 15-year drugs
background test for White House employees when his father, George Bush
Snr, became president in 1988.

This meant that he had ruled out any drug abuse since 1974. When
pushed further on the years before then, he responded that he had
"made mistakes in the past" but would not engage in the "politics of
personal destruction" by talking further about the issue.

The cocaine allegations appear to be the main potential block to Mr
Bush winning the nomination. There have also been allegations, again
unsubstantiated and denied by the Bush campaign team, that Mr Bush
avoided service in Vietnam by his father pulling strings to get him
accepted into the Texas Air National Guard.

Hatfield characterises Mr Bush in 1972 as flying part-time at weekends
"while spending most of his days in Houston drinking heavily,
chain-smoking and, according to friends who partied with him in the
early Seventies, occasionally getting high on marijuana and snorting

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