Today in low-blow moments in Washington, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke shot back at a congressman’s criticism by attacking his struggles with alcoholism.
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) wrote an op-ed in USA Today calling on the scandal-plagued Zinke to resign. The secretary’s defense was not on the merits of Grijalva’s argument, but to dredge up a three-year-old settlement paid to a former female staffer who accused the congressman of being drunk and creating a hostile work environment.
Grijalva, who is slated to become the next chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, which oversees Interior Department programs, was known to be a drinker. Zinke’s Tune Inn reference is to a beloved Capitol Hill bar that was frequented by Grijalva. The bar at one time had a cartoon of him shirtless on the beach admiring a sand castle that spelled out PUBLIC OPTION, according to the HuffPost. This was during the health-care debate, when Democrats had to concede that the Affordable Care Act would not include a government-run health-care program.
That HuffPost article posted after the bar caught fire in 2011. It was filled with remembrances, including about the night the ACA passed and Democratic members, staffers and journalists descended on the bar for late-night imbibing. (The Democrats to celebrate and the Hill reporters to witness the spectacle, as this Fix reporter can attest.)
Grijalva was there and was described as having “a bottle of Bud and a shot of whiskey in front of him.”
In an interview this year with News 4 Tucson, Grijalva admitted that he once had a drinking problem, but said he had gotten it under control. He did not say how long ago that was.
“I dealt with it, and I feel comfortable that I got past that,” he said.
“Once you wrestled the demons and you beat them, you beat them. And I — and I — feel very comfortable that demon’s beat,” he added.
The Trump White House and Congress have taken addiction seriously, at least as it pertains to opioids, treating it as the disease it is rather than a moral failing. One of the hardest parts of any addiction is the stigma associated with it. A study published in Clinical Psychological Science argued that “shaming people for difficult-to-curb behaviors may be exactly the wrong approach to take” and leads to worse health outcomes, including relapse.
Grijalva responded to Zinke in a statement: “The American people know who I’m here to serve, and they know in whose interests I’m acting. They don’t know the same about Secretary Zinke.”
He also issued this tweet:
Zinke has faced some 17 investigations into his conduct, several of which are ongoing. President Trump has said he plans to review the ethics investigations involving Zinke.
The tactic of attacking rather than defending or owning up to mistakes when being confronted with them is a strategy employed and perfected by Zinke’s boss. Trump calls it “counterpunching” and examples of him practicing that abound.