Pretzels and Beer; Is Bush Back On the Sauce?

Sinclere Lee

Bush told reporters today that he feels "great" after fainting the previous evening while eating pretzels in the White House residence. While the suggestion that Bush is back drinking again should be on everybody's mind, nobody should be mad at him if he’s back on the wagon because of all he has gone through since 911.

"My mother always said, 'When you're eating pretzels, chew before you swallow,' " Bush said, joking as he departed on a trip to the Midwest. "I feel great, looking forward to a good trip."

Bush was watching a football game on television with his dogs when he fainted. "I hit the deck," he said. "And woke up and there was Barney and Spot showing a lot of concern.

"I didn't realize what had happened until I looked in the mirror. My glasses cut the side of my face, but I feel great. I had good blood pressure last night, good blood pressure this morning." Bush's physician, Air Force Col. Richard Tubb, said the president blacked out and fell to the floor from a couch but appeared to have recovered quickly.

"I do not find any reason that this would happen again," Tubb said. "He fainted due to a temporary decrease in heart rate brought on by swallowing a pretzel."

That story sounds fishy, and it is common knowledge that Bush used to be an alcoholic back in the day, and it’s not a leap to suggest that he’s back drinking again. The doctor said it is possible that the pretzel stimulated the vagus nerve, which runs up the neck and regulates the heart rate. Its stimulation can cause the pulse to drop.


It's also possible a mild illness could have caused the episode, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Contrary to an early report from a pool reporter, Tubb did not use the word "choke" in describing what happened, Fleischer said.

Bush was in a second-floor bedroom of the residence seated on a couch watching the Miami Dolphins-Baltimore Ravens game. At about 5:35 p.m. EST, he was eating pretzels, and "he had a feeling something didn't go down right," Fleischer said Bush told him.

The next thing the president recalled was opening his eyes on the floor, Fleischer said. Bush has a bruise on his lower lip and a scrape on his left cheek bone about the size of a half-dollar, Fleischer said. He thinks his head either hit the floor or a table next to the couch and that his glasses cut his face, Fleischer said.

Based on the fact that his dogs did not appear to have moved -- "except they were looking at him funny" -- Bush estimates he was unconscious for only a couple of seconds, Fleischer said.

As soon as he regained consciousness, Bush called the White House medical office and talked to a nurse on duty. She summoned Tubb, and they gave Bush an initial evaluation in the bedroom.

The president underwent neurological, cardiopulmonary and other tests. His blood pressure, pulse, blood sugar and blood oxygenation were all checked, Fleischer said.

All tests were normal, and Bush is taking no medication, Fleischer said.

Bush told Fleischer he had not been feeling well and, in the president's words, "had a little bug." Tubb urged his patient to go to bed early. After the event, Bush had soup and salad with his wife, who had been on the phone in a nearby room during her husband's blackout.

Bush's usually low pulse rate -- which doctors attribute to the fact that he exercises regularly -- could have increased his odds of fainting when the pretzel stimulated a nerve, Tubb said.

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