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Remember when drunks used to be funny? Comedian Foster Brooks, Dudley Moore in “Arthur”, Carlton the Doorman from “Rhoda” and Otis Campbell, the fictional town drunk of Mayberry, NC, from “The Andy Griffith Show” come immediately to mind.
These lovable, blotto buffoons were somehow endearing in their hammered state, becoming more beloved with each garbled word, wobbly saunters or devilish antic.
Hell, Otis even locked himself in jail after a particularly indulgent bender.
The ‘problem’ part – in those environments at least – was rarely shown as being a characteristic of ‘problem-drinkers.’
There is absolutely nothing humorous or likeable, however, about an admitted drunk who not only serves in the state legislature (and formerly on the House judiciary committee responsible for crafting laws the delegate can’t seem to follow), but also crashes his water craft into a boat full of kids, is cited for illegal crabbing and plays the “two beers” card after being stopped for allegedly operating his motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
No, there is nothing charming about the saga of Maryland State Delegate Don H. Dwyer, who according to Anne Arundel County Police was stopped in the wee hours on Tuesday morning for committing, “numerous traffic violations in a short period of time that posed an immediate safety risk for all other drivers.”
And he did so almost one year to the day after he piloted his boat – while sporting a blood-alcohol content measured at three times the legal definition of poo-faced – into another vessel in Sillery Bay.
The delegate pleaded guilty and District Court Judge Robert Wilcox sentenced Dwyer to 30 days in jail, one year supervised probation and a $1,000 fine as a result of his nautical disaster.
Dwyer appealed, pleaded guilty again, and was awaiting an October sentencing when he apparently decided to have a couple beers in a Baltimore tavern and motor his 2001 Cadillac back to his Anne Arundel County home.
As one astute political observer quipped: let’s hope the delegate doesn’t have a pilot’s license.
According to the police report, Dwyer greeted a second Anne Arundel County officer with a “strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his breath.”
The officer noted that the delegate had red eyes and a flushed face and that his speech was slow and slurred. Dwyer was then given three field sobriety tests – failing them all – and was transported to the Eastern District Police Station (in Pasadena) where he refused to take a breathalyzer test.
Dwyer was stopped under a current police program called “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over”, a statewide crackdown on drunk driving that is in effect through Labor Day.
Enter irony: During the 2103 General Assembly session Don Dwyer co-sponsored a bill (HB 150) that would have “required a police officer who detains a driver who was involved in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in the death of or a life-threatening injury to another person, to require the driver to submit to specified drug and alcohol testing.”
The bill didn’t pass.
No, Dwyer’s allegedly impaired excursion neither killed anyone nor caused a life-threatening injury, but what if it had?
According to police, Dwyer’s car – traveling 70 mph in a 55 mph zone – was being driven “erratically to say the least. It crossed over several lanes of traffic multiple times, onto the shoulder several times as well, even getting in front of vehicles.”
Seventy in a 55? Good thing it wasn’t a speed camera violation in an unoccupied work zone – that really would have cost him.
In an interview with WJZ-TV not long after he was first sentenced for the boating incident, Dwyer asked for voters’ forgiveness and said that “no one should be drinking while operating a motor vehicle or a power boat.”
Both he and his attorney told reporters that he’d voluntarily entered an alcohol treatment program and his lawyer noted that Dwyer had “been sober since the day of the incident.”
“Once you admit you’re an alcoholic it’s not something that goes away,” Dwyer added. “It’s something you deal with the rest of your life.”
And apparently the delegate is still dealing with it, but not in a manner that is doing anyone – Dwyer included – any good.
At the very least, Don Dwyer’s behavior is an embarrassment to both his constituents and the Republican Party – and it’s not like the MDGOP can suffer much more humiliation.
At most, the delegate’s behavior is going to prove harmful to either his health, to the lives of others, or perhaps both.
At present, this elected official is in the midst of what seems to be a pattern of drunken behavior, poor judgement, and yes, hypocrisy. If one is to continually tout ‘core conservative principles’ then one of the mandatory values must be personal responsibility.
Thus far, Delegate Dwyer has blamed his ‘drinking problem’ on both a failed marriage and a perceived betrayal by fellow legislators when they changed their positions in support of same-sex marriage.
And while he took the first step in admitting that he is indeed an alcoholic, Don Dwyer has yet to demonstrate that he is honestly seeking the treatment he so obviously needs.
Full disclosure: this columnist once defended Delegate Dwyer in Examiner and Red Maryland commentaries, written not long after his initial arrest for drunken boating.
The column in no way supported Dwyer’s behavior; instead pointing out the hypocrisy of those who called for his resignation and rail-ride out of Dodge – or Pasadena, as the case may be – given the same outcry never materialized for elected and appointed state Democrats who were also charged with similar violations – minus the fracturing a child’s skull part, which was a consequence of the drunken boating episode.
This time the outcome could have been equally horrific – or worse – and in spite of members of both parties now howling for his resignation and his head on a stick (not necessarily in that order) Dwyer must now do what he should have been doing all along: the right thing.
That, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with all of our politicians. None of them can ever seem to do the “right thing” – unless, of course, they find that it will further their careers oft-times at our expense.
And a legislator who chooses to not do the right thing certainly shouldn’t have the ability to influence our laws when he now continually demonstrates the inability to follow those very laws.
Enter irony part deux: Dwyer, upon being stopped, was found to be driving on a suspended registration thanks to not having his state-mandated emissions test. Well, in 2007 “core conservative” Dwyer voted for a bill that gave Maryland auto emissions standards equal to those in California.
Yesterday, the Maryland House Republican Caucus issued the following statement on Dwyer’s DUI Charge: “We are deeply troubled by the latest reports charging Delegate Don Dwyer with a DUI. We are grateful that the police were able to intervene before anyone was harmed. We urge Delegate Dwyer to seek treatment immediately.”
Here’s hoping the behind-the-scenes admonishments had a bit more bite.
One delegate who did call for Dwyer’s resignation was fellow Anne Arundel Countian Ron George, who issued a statement saying that given the latest incident occurred while Dwyer was appealing a prior charge there was only “one appropriate action he can take as an elected official,” and that is to step down.
“I wish him the best,” George said, “but stand on my belief that his personal demons present a weakness and obstacle to repairing our state.”
Well, with the main obstacle being the voters who keep sending the same majority-party Democrats back to Annapolis.
An admirable initial effort by Del. George, had he left it at that. But given the media was more than willing to repeatedly broadcast his call for Dwyer’s resignation – as well as the delegate himself being a Republican gubernatorial candidate – by the end of the day George was left looking like a political opportunist knowing full well that thanks to the aforementioned “demons” he could secure more name-recognition for his campaign with each interview he granted.
Credit George, however, for pointing out said demons, because they extend beyond the alcohol problem.
On Sunday, just hours before Dwyer’s recent DUI, he was involved in a violent confrontation with a Pasadena neighbor.
According to the police report, the man, allegedly under the influence of the drug PCP, threatened Dwyer with a knife, had his 100-lb bulldog attack him, slapped him across the face and then threw the delegate off a pier and into the water.
Man, after a day like that a fellow could sure use a drink.
What, too soon?
To say that Delegate Dwyer has had a tough year is akin to saying that the Egyptian government is merely experiencing a little difficulty with its citizenry.
This is a man with both a troubled soul and a questionable future, because alcoholism left untreated can only end badly – and end that way for everyone concerned.
In the 1986 television movie “Return to Mayberry”, it is revealed that Otis the drunk is now completely sober and employed as the town’s ice-cream man.
In Dwyer’s case, one wonders if he has the intestinal fortitude to begin such a journey by throwing himself in the lock-up.
Tags: Anne Arundel County, Del. Don Dwyer, Del. Ron George, Maryland Drunk Driving
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