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Bush: 'I wasn't a knee-walking drunk'
David Edwards and Nick Juliano
Published: Wednesday December 12, 2007

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'I doubt I'd be standing here if I hadn't quit drinking whisky,' president says

President Bush spent some time Tuesday reassuring a teen girl who struggled with drug-addiction that it wasn't too late to turn her life around. Heck, she could even be president someday if she cleans up her act.

Bush confided to an ABC News correspondent that his battles with alcohol addiction likely would have scuttled his White House ambitions -- if not his life itself -- had he not kicked the sauce two decades ago.

"I doubt I'd be standing here if I hadn't quit drinking whiskey, and beer and wine and all that," the president told Martha Raddatz during an exclusive tour of the White House residence, which aired on ABC Tuesday night.

Bush insisted he put down the bottle "cold turkey" after what one presumes was a particularly blundering bender.

"I had too much to drink one night, and the next day I didn't have any," Bush said. "The next day I decided to quit and I haven't had a drink since 1986."

Although he claimed his alcohol problem wasn't severe -- "I wasn't a knee-walking drunk," Bush stressed -- he said the addiction still was not an easy one to kick.

Bush's encouragement to the drug-struggling teen came after he briefed reporters on teen drug abuse.

"Your president made the same kind of choice," he told her. "I had to quit drinking. Addiction competes for your affection. You fall in love with alcohol."

The president apparently did not mention reports that he used cocaine in the early 1970s, either to the struggling youngster or the ABC reporter.

Although his struggles with alcohol have been widely known for years, Bush's interview on ABC represented his most candid assessment of his personal demons.

Unlike the teen he spoke to at the White House, Bush did not manage to overcome his alcohol addiction until he was nearly 40 years old.

During a trip to Germany earlier this year, the president raised some eyebrows after he was photographed drinking what looked to be a delicious golden brew. Bush hadn't fallen off the wagon, however, he was drinking Buckler -- Heineken's non-alcoholic beer. Of course, as The Guardian noted at the time, recovering alcoholics are advised to stay away even from non-alcoholic beers, which do have a tiny bit of alcohol -- about 0.5 percent.

"But," the Brit paper judged, "it seems compatible with the president's image as a guy who used to drink too much but doesn't any more."

This video is from ABCNews.com, broadcast on December 12, 2007.