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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Psst! Senator Obama! Got a light?

From Ellen DeGeneres' interview with Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) on Thursday, February 28, 2008 (my transcription, from a video clip that is available, at least for now, on YouTube):

DeGENERES: Here's the big question: Have you been able to not smoke? When there's so much pressure and so much stress, to try to do such a — it's such a horrible, hard habit to break, and I know, because I struggle with it myself. Have you been able to stop?

OBAMA: I have — I've been able to do it [sic]. I've been chewing on this Nicorette, which tastes like you're chewing on ground pepper.  But, uh — but it does help. And, uh — you know, this was, this was a deal-breaker for Michelle. And I was — I had been sneaking three cigarettes, four cigarettes a day for a while, and she said, If you're going to do this, you've gotta stop, because — precisely because the stress is gonna increase. And it'll just get worse. So that's an example of my wife making me a better man once again.

So just how much has Barack Obama learned not only from law school, but from studying famous law-school trained dissemblers like Bill Clinton? Certainly his interrogation from DeGeneres on this question couldn't have been a slower, bigger, or more ambiguity-inviting softball. Why didn't he just say, proudly, "Yes, I've stopped smoking"?

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL)But let's assume that by saying he'd "been able to do it," he meant to convey that he indeed had stopped smoking. Is there still an evasion in his answer? Was he using a literal, if partial, truth to conceal a whole truth to which the candidate did not wish to admit? Would a "whole-truth" answer have been: "I've been able to stop smoking. (For a day or two at a time, and then I've started back again.)"

Was the admission that he "had been sneaking" cigarettes in the past, even though (and precisely because) it was a "deal-breaker for Michelle," a subconscious pointer, to alert us to the likelihood of present dissembling?

And is there really much doubt that those "three cigarettes, four cigarettes" a day were really at least half a pack, at least on some days? (Medical professionals are often taught to record precisely the admissions that patients make about the amount of their smoking and drinking, but then to assume for purposes of those patients' treatment that the real numbers are twice as high.)

Although it's posted in several places around the internet, I can't vouch for the authenticity of the photograph I've included in this post. Maybe it's photoshopped. However, the very fact that I can't find a photo or video of Obama smoking a cigarette on, say, Reuters.com, despite his public admissions of having been a smoker until at least very recently, tells you something about how effective Sen. Obama and his minions have been in diverting attention from his habit.

*******

If he's a smoker who's quit and then relapsed repeatedly, Sen. Obama would have plenty of company. Me, I was a smoker for years. It's an awful, filthy, unhealthy, wasteful, smelly, thoughtless, and depraved habit. I was thoroughly familiar with all the downsides and all the risks. And yet I enjoyed every cigarette I ever smoked, even as I hated them and hated myself for smoking them.

Oh yeah, I quit! (And restarted.) In fact, I probably quit a dozen different times — once for over a calendar year, before lapsing again back into a pack-a-day habit. I often went out of my way to try to avoid drawing attention to my smoking. And while I didn't generally lie outright about it, I certainly understood the motivation to do so, and I found (and find) it pretty easy to forgive those who have.

Does the current number of times that Sen. Obama has quit smoking exactly equal the number of times that he's started, or is the former still less than the latter by exactly one? A better question from DeGeneres would have been: "When did you last have a cigarette, Senator?" That's a question which is tougher to avoid answering through word-games.

I very distinctly remember the last time I had a cigarette. It was just after 1:00 p.m. on Monday, July 11, 2005. I finished it as I was climbing out of my car, in the parking garage at The Methodist Hospital's emergency room. I ground it out on the pavement, then thoughtfully disposed of the butt in the waste-can outside the elevator doors. I decided to take the stairs down, and walked into the ER, where I asked them to reassure me that I wasn't having a heart attack. It turned out that they couldn't give me that reassurance, because I was.

Yet even with that powerful, and so-far successful, motivator to quit smoking, I'm still tempted. And I deliberately avoid situations in which I know the temptations may be especially acute. For me, the answer to the question, "When did you last really crave a cigarette?" will always be another question: "What time is it now?"

*******

So I wish Sen. Obama all the best with his Nicorette, or any other methods that he employs to try to counter his addiction. I have plenty of reasons not to vote for him; my vote against him in November, if he is indeed the Democratic nominee, will have nothing to do with him being a smoker, or even a sneaking smoker, whether past or present.

Nevertheless: Regular readers know that I generally loathe and distrust political opinion polls. Notwithstanding that, I'd be interested to learn what percentage of Sen. Obama's current political supporters know of his history as a smoker. I'd be willing to wager that it's less than one in five, and probably less than one in ten. And although Reuters doesn't have, or in any event won't publish, a photo of Obama smoking, about this time last year it did republish the results of an ABC News/WaPo poll which concluded: "Being female or black is less of a liability for U.S. presidential candidates than being over 72, Mormon, twice-divorced or a cigarette smoker." Of Sen. Obama specifically, Reuters described him back then as — yes, of course — "a smoker who says he's quit."

Posted by Beldar at 04:44 PM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink

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Comments

(1) nk made the following comment | Mar 2, 2008 9:27:47 AM | Permalink

Depraved?

(2) Phelps made the following comment | Mar 2, 2008 11:17:06 AM | Permalink

Actually, the thing that jumped out at me in that quote is "how much of his life does his wife run? 100%?"

(3) nk made the following comment | Mar 2, 2008 4:08:36 PM | Permalink

Are you married, Phelps?

Pericles to Aspasia: "Our infant child rules you. You rule me. I rule Athens. Athens rules the world. So please be careful what orders you give me because that is too much power to be exercised by an infant."

(4) Mark L made the following comment | Mar 3, 2008 6:33:27 AM | Permalink

Well, I don't know about the rest of you married guys, but I *always* get the last word in any argument with *my* wife.


I always say "Yes, Dear."

As humbly as possible.

(5) kimsch made the following comment | Mar 3, 2008 10:57:03 AM | Permalink

Since he's one of my senators, I actually emailed him last year recommending laser acupuncture for smoking cessation. It cost me $289 1 year, 10 months, and 8 days ago. And it was magic. I had tried to quit many different ways before cold turkey, little computer thingys, patches, gums, writing them down, etc. and nothing worked until the laser acupuncture. Haven't had a cigarette since, haven't even wanted one. I have been around smokers with no need to bum a drag or a cigarette.

He should have taken my advice, the centers are accessible to him and he can certainly afford it.

(6) nk made the following comment | Mar 4, 2008 10:34:01 AM | Permalink

Ahh, you guys. You don't know what a comfort a cigarette is. You stop feeling hungry. You stop feeling thirsty. You stop feeling tired. You stop feeling worried and muddle-headed. You get new energy and clarity of thought. Sure, it might kill you. Do you want to live forever?

(7) dchamil made the following comment | Mar 5, 2008 11:06:52 AM | Permalink

As the late comedian Phil Hartman said, "Cigarettes are my Little Friends," while patting his shirt pocket. He didn't live forever, 'nk'. Not from smoking-related diseases -- his crazy wife shot him to death.

(8) David made the following comment | Mar 7, 2008 10:25:27 AM | Permalink

Apropos of nothing at all (it just jumped into my head uninvited :-)), I recall G.K. Chesterton said something, resulting from a trip to America (about Prohibition) to the effect that if "they" can take our beer from us, they can take our smokes too...

The very idea of making pariahs of smokers is anathema to me. I don't smoke and in fact never have smoked cigarettes (cigars and pipes were once another story). Oh, in the last 20 years, I have had three pipesful of tobacco (found an old pouch in a drawer, rehydrated it gently and over a couple of weeks smoked most of the dregs in a pipe found in the same drawer before shredding the rest into my compost heap), but it's no longer a passion. *heh*

Folks who would base a vote against Barry Hussein Obama-Winfrey ;-) based on smoking are exactly the kind of idiots who would be denied the franchise by any rational order. But then, the kind of folks who would vote for him (or any candidate) based primarily on "likeability" or "charisma" are of the same order of idiot.

Who would wonder at the Founders' distrust of democracy?

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