As we approach the 100 days in office mark next week for President Barack Obama, we look at certain milestones and achievements -- but if you're me, you look at what everyone else is talking about at water coolers around the nation.
Today, it's: is the President smoking again?
Anyone who's ever smoked will tell you, it's hard to quit once you're hooked, and times of stress can bring you right back to the smoker's club.
Who has more stress than the most powerful man in the world?
President Barack Obama has been an on-again, off-again smoker most of his adult life (the picture here is from Obama's days at Occidental college) and a story out today is again sparking the possibility that he's on-again.
It all stems from a letter from a former Illinoisan who wrote to President Obama, begging him to quit smoking for the sake of daughters Sasha and Malia. The man enclosed a photograph of his own father, a longtime smoker who died of cancer.
It was the response that that letter that raised a few eyebrows. Most people would assume, if you've successfully quit smoking, you would say so in response to a card like that. The President's reply:
There is no spell-check for hand written notes so I'm going to let it slide that the President appears to have misspelled "advice," but the note says:
Michael -- Thanks so much for the wonderful letter, and the good advice. I am returning the picture, since it must be important to you, but I will remember your dad's memory. Barack Obama
His answers to whether he's had a cigarette since taking up residency in the White House have been consistently vague. He has said he would not smoke IN the White House, and has admitted to falling off the wagon.
In fact, some think that the man with his finger on the button SHOULD be able to smoke; check out this story in Slate:
OK, so Obama isn't going to start a nuclear war because of the well-meaning but counterproductive no-smoking rule.
At least, I hope he isn't. I don't smoke, but I know smokers, and I know smokers trying to quit, and they scare me.
Which is why those who say a president who smokes in the White House would be a bad role model are all wrong.
In fact, consider the possibility that he'd be a better, perhaps more effective, negative role model. He'd teach the nation's youth how scary an addiction smoking is: Even the most powerful man in the world is putty in its tobacco-stained hands.
Interesting point. Comments on NBCla.com seem to point to the idea that if he smokes, he should just own up to it:
Yes, when asked about it before the election, he didn't even have the backbone to be honest about it, giving instead a very roundabout answer. No backbone.
Hey Obamee if you do it OWN IT. Don't be a wimp. Its OK to smoke if you want to, your and adult. But if you end up with cancer you cant systematically take down the cigarette companies.
OMG...let the man smoke if he wants to...it's his choice. Hey, I'm an exsmoker, but if I was president, I would cetainly consider buying a pack. Cut the guy some slack. The issues he has to deal with are huge. And, he's a grown man and knows the risks.
It's a filthy habit, but it's not illegal. Nor is drinking and we've seen a bottle of wine on his kitchen counter.
In FACT, this smoking story coincides with another story on nbcla.com that says Obama is the nation's first "hip" President:
Consider how, during the campaign, Obama used his personality — the smile, the jaunty stride and the hip-hop verbiage — to disarm critics, charm supporters and persuade fence sitters to elect him president. In an against-the-odds campaign, Obama never lost his poise as he forged a rapport with a new generation of voters while keeping old heads on his team. He could go professorial on the need for health care reform or describe the minutiae of Middle East politics. Still, he begged to bring his BlackBerry into the Oval Office, a signal that he intends to remain in touch with the 21st century. Very hip!
And for what he does to his health by (probably) smoking, wouldn't most people agree he makes up for it in fitness and eating right? I mean, HELLO, this picture on the Washingtonian says it all.
So, Bill Clinton didn't smoke, but I distinctly remember him stopping at a McDonald's in the middle of an afternoon jog. Gerald Ford, I'm told, is the last President who smoked regularly while in office. (Check out this story in Cigar Aficionado for a historical look at Presidential smoking habits)
But maybe it's not the financial crisis or the war that's the tipping point in the President's battle against a stress smoke ... it might be lack of sleep.
Yet another story out today says that the new First Dog is a monster. Okay, so Bo is a puppy, and there's a reason baby dogs are so cute (if they weren't, we would certainly kill them!) The tongue-in-cheek story, titled "Crazed Animal Stalks White House Corridors," says
Obama thought he was getting a puppy. He got a lot more than that. Now the president and his wife lie awake at night as they listen to the febrile skritching of a maniacal hell-hound chasing a ball up and down the hall, forever and ever, much like those creepy little girl ghosts in The Shining.
Bo, hounded (ahem) by the White House Press corps, had no comment.