Q: Was it the protest that eventually led President Bush to label you 'Congressman Kickass?' Was that an ego tripthe president singling you out as the guy in Congress who could get things done?
A: The president had a propensity to establish nicknames for people. The 'Congressman Kickass' reference from the president really came out of 9/11 when we were having a battle over funding and where it was going to go and who it was going to go to and how much it was going to be. But it was probably an accumulation of 9/11, the recount and some legislative interaction we had with the White House. I saw the president at a reception with a relatively large group and he said, 'Ah, there's Congressman Kickass,' and that's where it started.
I will tell you that at a different time, when I disagreed with him on something, he quietly leaned over and told me, 'I'm changing your name to 'Congressman Pain-in-the-Ass.'
Q: As a member of Congress, you staked a decidedly conservative positionopposing gun control, supporting prayer in public schools, banning adoptions by gays and requiring drug testing of all federal employees. Have you changed your position at all since leaving Congress?
A: I think what I did largely represent the consensus of the constituents that I had. I am certainly right of center. I believe in liberty. I believe in a restrained government and a small government.
If there is any change, I think my experience over the past four or five years has allowed me the opportunity to develop a measure of humility. I don't necessarily have to be as hard-edged as I once was in order to be successful. I think I have developed spirituality in my life. I now realize that there is a higher power, and it ain't me. But in terms of where I am now on the big issues of the day, I am pretty much where I have always been.
Q: Your fall from grace was as meteoric as your rise and seemed to coincide with a number of embarrassing mattersa domestic episode at your home just before the 2006 election, a couple of DWI incidents, one of them resulting in a felony indictment and 16 days in jail. How did you fall so far, so fast?
A: I can't honestly answer that, but I openly acknowledge that I suffer from the disease of alcoholism and that it is a progressive disease.
As I look back at the period where my spiraling occurred, it was all part of a progression building through my life. I was entirely functional and was able to mask it, in some ways. On the other hand, I was contemplating ending it all, actually planning it. I had reached a point where I couldn't stop drinking. I would get up every day and say I'm not going to drink today and by noon I'd be drinking. That is about as desperate and hopeless a place you can be. I'd lay in bed feeling sorry for myself.
Then, one of my children was having some difficulties and needed me, and that was the point where I stopped [drinking] and started thinking about what I'd done. I had to go through those experiences to appreciate what selfishness does to the people around you.