Party Faithful Raise Their Glasses for Bush’s State of the Union

By Max Gross

Published January 30, 2004, issue of January 30, 2004.
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Marc Melzer, a law student at the University of Pennsylvania, was in his apartment with a few friends last Tuesday night, watching President Bush’s State of the Union address. The president inveighed against rogue states that harbored terrorists. These states, the president said, could supply terrorists with “nukular weapons.”

Suddenly the room went wild. More than 20 of Melzer’s friends raised bottles of beer and took swigs.

Melzer and his friends were playing the State of the Union drinking game.

The game operates under the same principle as other drinking games to be played while watching television that have cropped up on college campuses over the years. The Ally McBeal drinking game requires players to take a sip of booze whenever series star Calista Flockhart is seen in her pajamas. (The more adventurous knock back a full shot.) “Beers for Cheers” calls for participants to take a swig of beer every time actor George Wendt touches his mug of beer on an episode of “Cheers.” The Jerry Springer drinking game requires brave souls to drink every time an expletive is bleeped out during the raucous talk show.

In the State of the Union drinking game, any mention of Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, required participants to drink. Any time Bush mentioned Saddam Hussein, another sip had to be taken. Whenever the camera panned to show a Democratic presidential candidate, yet another drink.

If Bush used any Bushism (for example, “misunderestimate” or “subliminable”), participants were required to drink, but if he said the most beloved of Bushisms — “Don’t mess with Texas” — participants must, according to the bylaws of the game found on the Web site, “locate the nearest Texan; mess with him/her; then drink.”

There was also a bonus round that required the truly committed to drink whenever phrases like “alienating our allies” or “liar, liar, pants on fire!” were uttered by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi or Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in their rebuttal after the address.

The drinking game is the brainchild of Melzer and his friend Howard Deutsch, who conceived of the game two years ago when they were seniors at Princeton University.

“It was pretty spur-of-the-moment,” Deutsch told the Forward. The two young men were staying on campus during winter break to work on their senior projects. “One night there was a party at one of the [eating] clubs; it was a joint birthday party/State of the Union party.” Melzer and Deutsch suggested doing shots every time the president used certain catchphrases.

The game proved so successful that Melzer and Deutsch organized another State of the Union party last year, giving players more than 40 different phrases or actions that would trigger drinking. This year they posted their rules on the Internet. But to save viewers from alcohol poisoning (last year’s State of the Union required participants to drink more than 150 times), this year Melzer and Deutsch recommended taking only a sip of booze rather than full shots whenever a catchphrase was uttered.

Melzer and Deutsch were political creatures in college. Both were political science majors, and Melzer (Democrat) and Deutsch (Republican) would constantly argue over politics when they were roommates. But through the drinking game, they have found a great accord.

Deutsch said he anticipated changing some of the catchphrases, but keeping the spirit of the game intact, if a Democrat were elected to the White House.

The drinking game has become widely known on college campuses around the country.

Mira Kogen, a junior at Columbia University, watched Bush’s State of the Union and played the game with friends. The next morning, as she sat down in class, she was stunned when a professor asked the class if anyone had played “the drinking game last night.”

Deutsch said the Web site got more than 250,000 hits the week of the address. Since the State of the Union, the site has been bombarded with email describing blinding political revelations.

One of Melzer’s guests might have put the drinking game in its best — or worst — light. When the evening was winding down, the guest remarked, “The drinking game was such a success this year that I found Nancy Pelosi incredibly attractive.”

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