I am on vacation with my family this week, and one of my nephews said something like "Barack Obama smokes," in a decidely derisive way.
Now, I don't really care where YOU fall on the smoking spectrum (since this blog is about MY opinions), but, I see smoking as one of those last bastions of freedom that have been under assault now for half a century by do-gooders who have decided they know everything that is well and good and, by God, if we would just submit to their will, this would be such a wonderful, perfect, utopia.
So, what does this have to do with Obama, and what does the fact that Obama is somewhat of a closet smoker, tell us about Obama, and, what do I wish it told me about him?
Smokers fall into two categories. Those that openly and somewhat proudly smoke, and those that are closet smokers. Usually the latter are addicts who know they are endangering their health, but, they just are addicted and when times of stress come along (or alcohol), they find a compelling need to just light up. However, these people at other times are agonizing over quitting and keep telling themselves and others they are going to quit, yet, they never can work up the will to go completely cold turkey. In their minds, they know that when the going gets tough, they'll resort to their old familiar crutch, and clutch a cigarette for the comfort it gives them. In other words, they are human. Nothing wrong with them, except, for my purposes, I'd prefer they just relent to the reality of the situation - they aren't heavy smokers, they probably aren't putting themselves under much risk, like some who want a stiff drink, or who need other outlets in times of stress, they just find the cigarette somehow comforting - and admit it, they're smokers, they have no intent of quitting completely, and they reserve the right to light up when they damn well please.
The other category of smokers is much easier to deal with. They're the addicts who already don't give a crap what you think about it. I like this group. They recognize their addiction (they may deny it, but usually their denial includes an "I enjoy smoking" statement), and they aren't stopping, health risks, and the banishment to the outdoors be damned. They're kind of becoming the rugged outdoorsmen of the 21st century, as they congregate in undesirable areas of the corporate campus, or sneak outside during a smoke free meal, or have to watch ball games from the 20x5 foot section on the outside of the stadium (where does one smoke a victory cigar these days?).
Where does this leave Obama?
Like many on the Left, Obama knows what his constituency wants - and it does not want him smoking. Smokers are either grungy artists, disinterested politically, or they are part of the great unwashed, bitter, gun-owning far Right. The first group holds an appeal for the Left (but they don't vote) and the second group gets their disdain. Obama belongs in neither, and while I would hope that would scare the Left, unfortunately, even in smoking, he manages to pander to them, acknowledging all the time the health risks and pledging to quit, because, let's face it, it is what they want him to do.
So, if Obama would say, "Hey, I enjoy a cigarette in my times of stress. I like the 5 minute break to think, and watch the wisps of smoke emanate from my lips as I ponder an important decision," I might even vote for him.
But, he's not going to say that.