• U.S.

PROHIBITION: Whass Bizness … ?

2 minute read

It is a hard thing to prove that a man is drunk, or even that he has been drinking. And the more prominent the man, the harder the proof.

There were no names, and little prospect of there being any names, connected with “a change of policy” announced last week by the Washington News, Scripps-Howard tabloid.

Said the News: “This newspaper proposes, from this time forward, to publish as news the appearance on duty of any so-called dry member of the House or Senate in an obviously intoxicated condition. . . . When a fire-eating prohibitionist wanders aimlessly about the Senate chamber during the discussion of important business and finally interrupts to ask the presiding officer, ‘Whass bizness before House?’ or when a similar exponent of the Volstead act has to hang hard to the edge of his desk, while his legs weave unsteadily under him as he attempts to make a speech, or when a champion of the 18th amendment relapses from maudlin inattention into snoring sleep in the midst of a Senate session, the News will undertake to make his condition clear to its readers.”

The News explained that it was “not setting out to stop drinking among statesmen. … It merely insists that the sickening hypocrisy in high places, now too general, shall no longer be accepted as a matter of course.”

No one should be more aware that Congressmen drink, often to excess and not infrequently during legislative hours, than Senator Caraway of Arkansas. His practice of wandering moodily all over the Senate chamber while his colleagues are sitting brings Senator Caraway close to more colleagues on both sides of the aisle than he could inspect if he sat like them at a desk. Yet none knew better than Senator Caraway the difficulty for the News of escaping libel damages if it became explicit. Therefore, and perhaps because he thought his wandering habits had been hinted at by the News—for he is a militant Prohibitionist, though no hypocrite—Senator Caraway challenged the News to publishsome names. There the matter rested. No names ap peared, Ohio’s dry little Fess said: “I fully endorse that editorial. It is fine.” Other Congressmen watched each other’s steps.

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