Busted Again In Margaritaville

About half of college freshmen admit to drinking beer, down from about 75 percent two decades ago, according to a study by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. At the University of Texas, ranked No. 2 in the nation for "lots of beer" by the Princeton Review, a college guide, the party goes on. The underage drinkers who use fake IDs to patronize the many bars of Austin usually do not have to worry about being fingered by other patrons or turned in to the cops by the bartender. But the daughter of a president lives in a different world.

So Jenna Bush was reminded last Tuesday at about 10:15 p.m., when the 19-year-old was caught using a borrowed ID card to buy a Margarita. She pleaded--or, according to some accounts, demanded--to be let off the hook, but the restaurant bartender reportedly replied, "You think I'm going to put my liquor license on the line for you?" The manager called 911 instead. The police arrived and two days later Jenna and her twin sister, Barbara, were cited by the authorities for underage-drinking violations.

When George W. Bush was pondering a run for the presidency in 1998, his 16-year-old daughters implored him not to, fearing the impact on their college experience. Foreboding, however, did not necessarily instill prudence. This was Jenna's second brush with the law in less than two months. Caught drinking beer by an undercover cop at the Cheers Shot Bar at 1:30 a.m. on April 27, she had just been ordered to attend six hours of alcohol-awareness class and perform eight hours of community service (clerical work at an art museum). With a repeat offense, the customary, if fragile, restraint on press coverage of presidential children collapsed. The White House tried to shame the media into ignoring or downplaying the story. But images of the twins at last year's GOP national convention and at their father's Inaugural played over and over again on cable-TV news, and the tabloids had their sport. JENNA AND TONIC, jeered the New York Post.

The president let his daughters know that he was "not happy" with their behavior, according to a White House aide. Both girls spent a long-planned weekend with their family at Camp David. It's doubtful they relaxed. Also present was their acerbic grandmother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, who is known by her family, with a mixture of fear and affection, as "the Enforcer."

Family friends dismiss any suggestion that either girl is troubled or somehow out of control. They are not behaving very differently from their father at the same age. The president, who was best remembered at Yale for bellying up to the Deke House bar, recently joked to the college's graduating seniors that he had no memory of some of his time in New Haven. (After one particularly raucous night, George W quit drinking in 1986.) His dark-haired daughter Barbara, who just finished her freshman year at Yale, is generally described in the press as the quiet and studious type, while blond twin Jenna is pictured as the good-time girl. The reality is more complicated. Barbara, too, likes to party, according to her Yale friends and classmates, but she is usually more discreet, though not always. Last October she was caught using a fake ID at a New Haven bar called Toad's Place. The security guard, Bill Coale, did not call the police, but he did keep the ID, which is now framed and hanging in his family room. The ID identifies the president's daughter as "Barbara Pierce" (her grandmother's maiden name), adds exactly three years to her birth date and gives a bogus Baltimore address. Some friends call Barbara "the instigator," and say that Jenna is just the unlucky one who gets caught. While charming and ebullient, Jenna is a little "spacey," say her friends, and prone to pratfalls. At the Inaugural ball, her strapless dress slipped down while she was dancing with her father.

Some friends of the Bush family have dubbed Jenna "Barbara's revenge," meaning that George W is now getting his just deserts for tormenting his own mother when he was a boy. Last week, in a speech to the Junior League of Indianapolis, former First Lady Barbara Bush drolly remarked that she was amazed the president was the same person she had to nag to clean his room. She added, rolling her eyes, "He is getting back some of his own."

The Bush twins may not get much sympathy from the public, but they do from the children of other First Families. The real story, scolded Ron Reagan Jr., is not "something as mundane as trying to buy beer with a borrowed ID, something that happens 10,000 times a day in every college town in America. The story is the media's inability to resist the lure of ratings and circulation."

Why can't the Secret Service keep the Bush girls out of trouble? Agents follow them everywhere, or try to, but make no attempt to play nanny. According to an irreverent Yale student newspaper, Rumpus, Barbara Bush recently lost the Secret Service at a highway tollbooth while driving with some friends to a World Wrestling Federation match in New York. The agents had to speed to catch up. But there is no escaping the spotlight. Both girls are now marked when they go out on the town. Friendly bartenders may protect them, but others, especially those who disapprove of President Bush's politics, will not. Under a new Texas law cracking down on underage drinking, Jenna could lose her license and conceivably face a little jail time if she gets caught a third time. The strict law, crafted by lawmakers championing "family values," was signed by her father, the then Texas Gov. George W. Bush.