Lansing lawmakers: driving drunk or quacking up

Doug Spade, Mike Clement and Major.
Doug Spade, Mike Clement and Major.

The comedy world lost a genius last week. Everything about Gilbert Gottfried was over-the-top — from his perpetual squint to his smarmy smirk and facial contortions to the exaggerated hand and arm movements that dominated his stand-up routines. Even his name was funny. With his idiosyncratic personality and peculiar behavior, there was no question about it.

Gilbert Gottfried was one odd duck.

So it was only natural that he become the voice of the most famous duck around — with the possible exception of Donald. The Disney Donald, that is. Not the other guy. Truth is, you find a lot of strange folks in the comedy world. But if you’re looking for the place where the odd ducks really come home to roost, just take a gander at the upcoming August primary ballot.

Or under the dome in the Capitol.

Take state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud. A few years back, he tried to lower the drunken-driving standard to 0.05. It didn’t go anywhere. Then there’s former state Rep. Tom Hooker, who tried to raise the state beer tax 250%. An ardent teetotaler who boldly declared that alcohol was poison. That made him super odd. No wonder he didn’t fit in with the Lansing “Party on Wayne; Party on Garth” crowd. The ones who take the Foghorn Leghorn approach, “There’s somethin’, I say, there’s somethin’ kinda ‘eee-yew’ about a lawmaker who don’t quaff a brewski or two.”

Seldom does a legislative term go by without several of them being pulled over for drunken driving — three during the past year alone, along with a host of others over the previous two decades. Whether Republicans or Democrats, the details are pretty much the same. Either their vehicles were spotted weaving across the interstate or they were involved in accidents. One inebriated legislator last year rolled his car shortly after leaving his driveway. Another years earlier crashed into two stopped autos. Generally, they can’t accurately remember where they’ve been or where they’re going, fail field sobriety tests, and have blood alcohol content levels approaching two to three times the legal limit. Some get jail time. Most get probation, fines and costs, and maybe community service.

One took his own life.

Some were people we knew and once worked with. Others were familiar only from afar. Invariably contrite and appropriately embarrassed when caught, they’d declare the incident a wake-up call and vow to never, ever, ever drink and drive again. Some, to their credit, kept their noses clean. But for others — no matter how well-intentioned — it was a pledge too often followed by another fall off the wagon.

Not much different really from the general public.

FBI statistics suggest the average drunken driver — legislator or not — has driven that way at least 80 times before ever being arrested. And with judges routinely allowing repeat offenders — not to mention those facing “super drunk” status with enhanced penalties for a blood alcohol content of 0.17 or greater — to enter pleas to far less serious charges such as operating while impaired, it’s no wonder so many think a few tall ones before hitting the road is no big deal.

Particularly when there are now 1,000 fewer cops on the streets than there were three years ago.

Perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect everyone in the House or Senate to toss back nothing stronger than coffee or cola. But when lawmakers get the urge to chug-a-lug before getting behind the wheel, they should just stick an ice cube between their cheek and gum. And get real water flavor.

Sound crazy? What did you expect?

We’re odd ducks too, you know.

Talk Back with Doug Spade and Mike Clement is heard every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to noon Eastern Time on Buzz 102.5 FM and online at and

This article originally appeared on The Daily Telegram: Talk Back: Lansing lawmakers: driving drunk or quacking up