Slate columnist Bruce Reed has an article today noting some of the more bizarre apparent side effects of the popular sleeping pill, Ambien, and wondering if they don’t explain the Bush administration.
Reed recalls the recent talk blaming fatigue among senior Bush staff for the no-longer slow motion train wreck the administration has become. He offers up a laundry list of examples, to which we can add the apparent schizophrenia on whether or not Iran is arming some elements of the insurgency in Iraq.
Reed isn’t the first to wonder whether Ambien is having an untoward impact on the conduct of our nation’s affairs: in November of 2003, I spotted a Colin Powell interview in which he extolled the benefits of the drug. The president’s father was fond of Halcion, another sleeping aid with side effects that include temporary amnesia and a variety of mood disorders, and that may have been responsible for one of the more entertaining speeches ever delivered by Bush père:
The guy over there at Pease – a woman actually – she said something about a country-western song about the train, a light at the end of the tunnel… I only hope it’s not a train coming the other way. Well, I said to her, well, I’m a country music fan. I love it, always have. Doesn’t fit the mold of some of the columnists, I might add, but nevertheless – of what they think I ought to fit in, but I love it. You should have been with me at the CMA awards at Nashville. But nevertheless, I said to them there’s another one that the Nitty Ditty Nitty Gritty Great Bird – and it says if you want to see a rainbow you’ve got to stand a little rain. We’ve had a little rain. New Hampshire has had too much rain.
But back to Ambien, and Reed’s assessment of its role in the current White House woes.
There’s only one good explanation for Bushie fatigue, and Stephanie Saul of the New York Times has the answer: Ambien. Last week, Saul reported on the remarkable phenomenon of driving while asleep. All over the country, people apparently have taken the drug Ambien before bed, then proceeded to sleepwalk to their cars and sleep-drive into the nearest ditch. A Colorado woman “got into her car wearing only a thin nightshirt in 20-degree weather, had a fender bender, urinated in the middle of an intersection, then became violent with police officers.” A parole officer in South Carolina woke up in jail after going on a joy ride in his sleep.
Harriet Miers, Hurricane Katrina, Dubai Ports World—could there be a better word to describe the Bush administration’s past year than “sleep-driving”? The Bush team doesn’t have a tin ear; they were just road-testing the prescription drug bill.
One could add to the list the president’s last-minute decision, on arriving in India after an overnight flight, that his negotiators should acquiesce to India’s demands regarding terms of the nuclear agreement between that country and the US.
The money quote from the Powell interview:
Question: So do you use sleeping tablets to organize yourself?
Secretary Powell: Yes. Well, I wouldn’t call them that. They’re a wonderful medication — not medication. How would you call it? They’re called ambien, which is very good. You don’t use ambien? Everybody here uses ambien.
Oh, man: you know what would be really cool is if we invade Iraq and change the world.
Of course one can’t blame everything on Ambien; that would just enable the culture of personal irresponsibility that pervades the White House. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the drug shows up on Scooter Libby’s witness list.