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Jewish World Review June 4, 2001/ 14 Sivan 5761

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports


Jenna Bush's brush with the law

http://www.jewishworldreview.com --
It can't be easy - or much fun - being the daughter of the president of the United States, especially if you're a college gal who enjoys a beer now and then. Most do.

But, like it or not, Jenna Bush is the president's daughter, and what she does matters more than what other people's children do. Her two recent brushes with the law over drinking - once in April and again this week - have thrust her under the media microscope and renewed debates about underage alcohol use.

On one side of the discussion are former college students who remember acting like college students. So the kid had a beer. Bomb Baghdad. On the other side are people like Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, who see Jenna's "problem" as suggestive of the Bush administration's lax attitude toward drug and alcohol issues in America.

Gee. George W. Bush has been in office a little more than 100 days and he's supposed to have solved the drug- and alcohol-abuse problem in the Free World. But then of course he can't, can he, because Georgie Boy had a little drinking problem in his college days and thereafter. "I did not run that red light with that woman, what was her name?" I don't know whether Jenna Bush has "a drinking problem," though arguably getting in trouble for underage drinking is a problem. The Problem, however, isn't so much the fact of her drinking; it's the ludicrous law that makes her a lawbreaker for making an adult choice when she is, in fact, an adult.

Last time I checked, a 19-year-old girl - er, woman - could vote, get killed in war, be prosecuted in adult court, but she can't tap a brewskie? What do we mean by "age of consent" if not consent?

That said, I'm hardly leading the crusade to bring 18-year-olds to the grown-up table. I've been an 18-year-old, and I've helped rear two humans who passed through that arbitrary adult portal. Maturity isn't the first word that comes to mind.

Indeed, under my dictatorship, no one would vote until they're paying the bills. If you're 18 and helping me float the federal government, by all means grab a ballot. Otherwise, do your homework and, as my Uncle Archie would say, "Stifle yourself."

As for wars, I've always been an advocate of all-male armies, minimum age 40. We'd be in and out of those foxholes faster than you can say Kawasaki. Why not women? Because, silly, women don't start wars (please spare me the Cleopatra bio), nor do they demand a sword the instant Mom climbs off the delivery table. If gender stereotypes offend you, you haven't had children.

All of which is to say, we could raise the age of adulthood to 35 and I'd be perfectly happy. As a bonus, I'd be a young adult once again. But that's not likely, nor is it likely that 19-year-olds are going to stop drinking beer. What's more likely is that we're going to waste time and money pursuing young adults and creating havoc in their lives for doing what was legal when most of us were young.

Changing the national drinking age from 18 to 21 in 1984 - following a breathtakingly successful campaign by Candy Lightner, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving - was a colossal mistake. Understandable, given Lightner's personal tragedy - her daughter was killed by a drunken driver - but a mistake nonetheless.

If an 18-year-old is an adult, treat her as an adult. Consequences and all.


JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

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