Why are Republicans claiming Joe Biden wants to take away Americans’ beer?

‘Let the people drink their beer!’ conservatives howl

Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 29 August 2023 21:12 BST
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White House laughs off report Biden wants to limit Americans beer consumption

Republicans have whipped up a storm in a beer glass over baseless fears that Joe Biden’s administration is secretly plotting to limit Americans to no more than two alcoholic drinks per week.

“Democrats are trying to control every aspect of your life,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz told Fox News Digital. “We saw this especially during Covid and it’s continued throughout the Biden administration. All it’s done is erode trust in public health bureaucrats.”

Troy Nehls, a GOP congressman from the same state, told the same channel that the “rich men north of Richmond are once again recommending what hard-working Americans should and shouldn’t do… Two beers a week? What a joke. Let’s not forget that JFK snagged 1,200 Cuban cigars just hours before banning all Cuban products from the United States.”

Also providing a warning from history was Brian Mast, Mr Nehls’ Florida counterpart, who snarked on X, formerly Twitter: “We tried something similar to this before. It was called Prohibition. There’s a reason we ended it. It was terrible. Let the people drink their beer.”

Tennessee Rep Tim Burchett, a teetotaller, chimed in: “This is what happens when 30 million Americans don’t vote. Overpaid unelected bureaucrats sticking their fat noses somewhere it does not belong. I am a non-drinker, but this is ridiculous. If they want to look at abuse, look at the spending in Washington and the overreach by the White House.”

Iowa senator Joni Ernst also joined in the condemnation, posting a link to a Fox story about George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, with the withering comment: “Another Biden ‘czar’ – this one wants to take away Americans’ beer. Absurd.”

Mr Koob, as Senator Ernst indicated, appears to have prompted the uproar after giving an interview to The Daily Mail in which he made some really rather innocuous comments about the possibility of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) revising its alcohol intake recommendations to match Canada’s.

America’s northern neighbour moved in January this year to urge its citizens to reduce their consumption of alcoholic drinks to just two per week in the interests of their health – a well-intentioned, non-binding suggestion, not an order.

In the United States, the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans has been for women to have no more than one beer, glass of wine or shot of liquor per day and men no more than two since the 1990s, but that is up for review in 2025, hence the question being put to Mr Koob about which direction the recommendations might go in.

“I mean, they’re not going to go up, I’m pretty sure,” the official answered. “So, if they go in any direction, it would be toward Canada.”

Such a modest answer, which does not even rule out their staying the same, hardly amounts to the declaration of a new Volstead Act, which banned alcohol outright in the US between 1920 and 1933 and gave a major boost to organised crime as gangsters built empires catering to the demand for bootleg hooch across the nation, in turn fuelling the hedonistic speakeasy culture of F Scott Fitzgerald’s “Jazz Age”.

Joe Biden and Barack Obama enjoying a beer with Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr and Massachusetts police sergeant James Crowley on the South Lawn of the White House in July 2009

Elsewhere in the interview, Mr Koob admitted to enjoying two glasses of “buttery Californian Chardonnay” a week himself and expressed optimism that, if such advice were to be issued, the public would recognise that it might be in their best interests and act accordingly.

“If there’s health benefits, I think people will start to re-evaluate where we’re at,” he said.

“Most of the benefits people attribute to alcohol, we feel they really have more to do with what someone’s eating rather than what they’re drinking.

“So it really has to do with the Mediterranean diet, socio-economic status, that makes you able to afford that kind of diet and make your own fresh food and so forth. With this in mind, most of the benefits kind of disappear on the health side.”

But it takes less than that to spark fierce debate in our age of never-ending culture wars and, sure enough, conservatives came rushing to the barricades to decry yet another (theoretical) assault on American freedoms that no one is actually conducting.

When Peter Doocy of Fox raised the matter with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about it at her daily briefing last week, she simply laughed it off, asking in bafflement: “Where is this coming from?”

She continued: “Let me tell you what I’m not going to get involved in, in that question right there. I have no idea, I’ve not seen the data. I cannot speak to this. I will leave it to the experts.”

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