When did drinking become a bad thing?

History is rife with hardcore drinkers. Noah, Ben Franklin, Winston Churchill, Sam Houston, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, Dorothy Parker, Babe Ruth and Frank Sinatra are just a few of the luminaries who enjoyed a cocktail or five on a daily basis — and weren't afraid to admit their affection for libations. "I feel sorry for people who don't drink," Ol' Blue Eyes said. "When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day."

Unfortunately, Sinatra's defiant drinking ways are becoming a thing of the past. Today's imbibers are, by and large, pussies — and I'm not even talking about the Red Bull 'n' Whatever crowd who are doing their best to reduce drinking to the equivalent of mainlining speed-balls. But that's a rant I'll save for another column.

This week's pressing question is, "What has happened to the drinking class in recent years?" When did coming home and pouring a whiskey and water become a bad thing? My favorite Americans still consume something close to their body weight in booze per week, but all of a sudden there's a stigma. And that's just not right.

When it comes to the blame game, I prefer to start at the top, which means I'm going to work a little Bush bashing into this column because, well, unlike a dead horse, I find endless enjoyment in whipping that male cheerleader turned war president. As you already know, Dubya's a reformed drinker — and coke sniffer, depending on whom you ask — with such weak willpower that he can't even sit down and sip a 3.2 with the troops.

Some folks might see this as his virtuous commitment to abstinence, but it makes me think even less of him, if that's possible. I don't trust people incapable of enjoying a beer. They all should be sequestered in Utah or Kansas — places where they can't harm the rest of us Real Americans. And run for office.

As much as I love to stomp on Bush's name, especially now with time running out on his shitstorm reign, he's actually a minor culprit in the vilification of booze. To Dubya's credit (did I just type that?), he got sober long before worming his way into the White House and — despite screwing the pooch in a manner so profound it made Nixon wince from 6 feet under — never blamed his past fuck-ups on booze. It's one of Bush's few redeeming qualities. Well, that and creating Jenna. Love that girl.

On the other side of the aisle (don't worry, I'll be slamming a Republican again in a 'graph or two), you've got that silver-spoon-sucking Kennedy boy Patrick, the congressman from Rhode Island, who a couple years back tied one on Papa-Ted-style and rammed his 1997 Ford Mustang convertible into a barricade outside Capitol Hill a few minutes before 3 a.m. If that had been you or I, friend, we'd still be doing time in a cramped, cold cell with a bunch of Saudis on terrorism charges. Kennedy? He was driven home by the po-po. Which is to be expected — he's a Kennedy. But then he wanted to save face so he entered rehab. What a twat. Didn't his old man teach him anything?

But it gets worse. (Here's another promised GOP slam.) The same year Patrick Kennedy tried to park his car on the West Lawn after last call, pederast Republican congressman from the Sunshine State Mark Foley tried to seduce a teenage boy via e-mail, got busted and blamed his randiness on the bottle. What bullshit. We all know a drunken man's words are a sober man's thoughts.

The Beltway has nothing on Hollywood, though, a one-time beacon of debauchery that's become so full of rehab weaklings there's now a reality show hosted by that hack Dr. Drew. Being a D-list celebrity is no doubt tough, but these twerps choose to publicly humiliate themselves by appearing on a TV program that falsely attempts to blame a litany of personality and psychological flaws on alcohol. But hey, a paycheck's a paycheck, I guess, no matter how much you have to humiliate yourself. Dean Martin must look down from the heavens and beg God for the opportunity to offer these miscreants a few kicks in the head.

Speaking of the Rat Pack, we'll end with another Sinatra quote. I came out hard against nondrinkers in this column, and maybe I shouldn't have. In short, my philosophy is the same as the Chairman of the Board's. "Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night," Sinatra said. "Be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels."

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