Thursday, January 18, 2007

Light On, Dude!

So he smokes, we hear – this Barack Obama, senator from my own state of Illinois and all but official presidential candidate. Critics take note: this could be the big one.

Smokers, of course, have become a great demonized class second, perhaps, only to pedophiles in public scorn. In town after town and state after state laws have been enacted not so much in the name of public health, but more in the name of hey, it turns out we can kick your asses so what the hell. Let’s do it!

A recent letter in an advice column even asked the advisor how he could go about asking his father-in-law not to smoke anywhere on his property – not inside, not outside, nowhere. Clearly, the issue here went well beyond secondhand smoke.

Nevertheless, as a smoker myself, I can warm to the near-candidacy of this man. It’s appealing to think of a candidate who needs (to the extent that we can even call it a weakness) a few moments of pleasure during the day, and who chooses to have them in a manner other than diddling some poor assistant or congressional page.

In a sea of cool, plasticized, robotic politicians (Oh how Howard Dean was blasted for showing emotion !), I like to think of the First Puffer as a man who gets a bit nervous now and then, who needs a moment to himself along with a small dose of nicotine to put things in perspective.

More than anything, though, smoking is hugely personal, and I like to think that out of all these extroverted, hand-shaking, other-oriented candidates there is at least one with enough personhood left to think just me, just for a few moments.

Even a president, after all, needs to remember that it’s still all about people with their individual needs, weaknesses, foibles, and follies – and not just about policy.


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