A White House smoke screenPresident Flawless, it seems, has a flaw. The White House has been opaque about whether Barack Obama
By: Dale McFeatters, The Dickinson Press
President Flawless, it seems, has a flaw. The White House has been opaque about whether Barack Obama has quit smoking, as he promised his wife Michelle when she agreed to a presidential race. During the campaign, reporters occasionally saw him mooching a cigarette off an aide, but now that he’s president, he’s only seen when he wants and how he wants.
Maybe Fox News’ ambushers are skulking in the shrubbery in case Obama steps out of the Oval Office for a quick smoke, but if so, they’ve come up empty. Nobody from the press or public has actually seen him with a cigarette in his hand.
But at his press conference — held in the White House press briefing room where an ashtray is conveniently just outside the door — Obama let it slip: “Have I fallen off the wagon sometimes? Yes.”
He added, “And, you know, I would say that I am 95 percent cured. But there are times where I mess up.” Likening himself to “the folks who go to AA,” he said a smoking addiction is “something you continually struggle with,” suggesting that maybe he should have a support group. Maybe the basement room is still available where chief of staff Leo McGarry’s AA group met in the TV series “West Wing.”
The president never answered the part of the reporter’s original question where she asked, “How many cigarettes a day do you now smoke?” During the campaign it was said he smoked five a day. Apparently he has improved. He said he is not a daily smoker, and doesn’t smoke in front of his children or his family.
Which raises the question: Where does he smoke? Obama has continued the Clinton and Bush administration bans on smoking in the White House. He could slip out to the Truman Balcony, but then Michelle might catch him. He can’t sneak off to a secluded place on the White House grounds because a security and communications detail would go with him. There’s a pleasant little patio outside the Oval Office that is out of sight of the main White House and the public. Maybe there.
And then there’s the question of where he gets his cigarettes. Theoretically, the presidential motorcade could stop outside the liquor store over on 14th Street while the president runs in for a pack of whatever he smokes but that really would blow his cover.
A best guess would be Reggie Love, his “body man,” which is an actual title in Washington for an aide assigned to look after all the president’s personal needs. The body man typically has on hand a supply of breath mints, cough drops, aspirin and — maybe — cigarettes.
If Obama is down to, say, one cigarette every other day or so, there doesn’t seem to be any reason he can’t quit altogether. But maybe there’s a method in his lapses. He might be stealthily stealing yet another voting bloc from the Republicans — smokers and ex-smokers. Anybody who has ever quit or tried to quit has to sympathize with Obama and his habit of 30 years.
But the world of smokers is getting smaller and not just for health reasons. With his salary of $400,000 a year, Obama is one of the diminishing number of people who can still afford to smoke.
— McFeatters writes for Scripps Howard News Service.