An NBC medical reporter Wednesday asked President Obama the question that dare not be asked—is he still smoking? She got a response with a tight smile: "I’m doing quite well, thank you." Which, of course, means not so good.
Relax, Mr. President. We're just glad you're not perfect.
You know things had gotten out of hand when the media started writing stories about whether or not President Obama is “too perfect”.
Thank goodness Obama smokes. That’s the only thing that seems to keep him tethered to mortal ground these days.
And in addition to the Obama thrill continuing to run up the leg of the collective media, there has been evidence of Obama himself wandering into dangerously perfect territory. Obama suggested last month that he had read “all the great Urdu poets.” All of them? I would have been impressed with a couple.
The problem with “perfect” is that I think voters are suspicious of someone without any flaws, even if he’s the president. Voters are moved more by humanity than perfection. They want someone who is human, accessible, and real. And they know that no one is perfect. So, if someone tries to come across that way, or is presented that way, the BS detectors come out.
For all their flaws—in fact, because of some of them—Clinton and Bush were and are loved even more.
But Obama? Perfect family. Model father. Terrific kids. Even perfect dog. Great game (who can forget the three-pointer he sank during the campaign?). Good dancer. Ultra cool. Very fashionable. Great orator. Highly literate.
So thank goodness Obama smokes. That’s the only thing that seems to keep him tethered to mortal ground these days.
His staff goes apoplectic when pesky media ask him about it. And when he does get asked, he admits it, but like Wednesday there’s some classic addict denial:
“The president said that he does not smoke in front of his kids or the rest of his family, and compared his situation to that of a recovering alcoholic. 'I've said before that as a former smoker I constantly struggle with it,'” the president said, as reported by CBSNews.com. "'Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes. Am I a daily smoker, a constant smoker? No. I would say that I am 95 percent cured, but there are times where, there are times where I mess up, he added.'”
Hell, I was 95 percent cured for about 15 years.
Of course he should quit. It’s a terrible example and bad signal to send to kids or anyone else from the Oval Office, not to mention just bad for his own health.
But, I’m amused by the notion that he’s sneaking off occasionally and huffing a butt. Don’t you know that in the G-8 meetings someone like Berlusconi is dragging him into a back room for a smoke.
I want the leader of the free world to take a load off. Unpack some stress. If an occasional cigarette helps him relax, I’m for it.
One of my favorite people is a terrific doctor and outstanding athlete who does triathlons and then kicks back and has a cigarette. He’s one of the very few people in the world who can smoke about a pack a year, just at parties, vacations, and after extreme sporting events, and never get hooked. He claims he breathes more chemicals that will kill him from car exhaust riding the roads of Austin than he’ll ever get from an occasional cigarette. Of course, the problem with occasional is that 99 percent of us can’t cut it off at occasional.
The great Texas politician Bob Bullock once said of smoking and quitting, “I only want one more cigarette. I just want it to be a mile long.” And John McCain, who kicked the habit years ago, still says if a nuclear missile were headed our way the first thing he’d do would be to light up.
So I say to the president and to his staff, cut out the denial and the defensive posturing about the presidential habit. For a lot of us, it just makes him more human. And more likeable.
But if you do really stop smoking, please find some other bad habit to replace it.
Because no one is perfect. Not even presidents.
As vice chairman of Public Strategies and president of Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon has helped meet strategic challenges for candidates, causes, and individuals, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Governor Ann Richards, Charlie Wilson, Lance Armstrong, and Bono.