Several short news pieces this morning--amidst the thick reporting on the tax deal or non-deal--about White House press secretary Robert Gibbs' discussion of President Obama quitting smoking--or to more precisely follow Gibbs' comments, not having seen the president smoke for the past nine months or so. You can view the relevant excerpts of the press conference here.
It caught my eye because I had been thinking about this not too long ago, and in fact brought up the topic over dinner when Washington Post White House correspondent Anne Kornblut visited the Maxwell School in October. I had been struck by the lack of attention the White House press core had apparently given the subject in recent months, which I found odd in light of the scrutiny the president's health normally receives, and the fact (I think) that Obama is the first president since Richard Nixon to regularly smoke cigarettes (as opposed to the occasional cigar). The treatment of Obama's smoking--all I could recall hearing about it was the report from his otherwise aced health exam that his doctor had recommended that he stop--struck me as almost Kennedyesque in its looking the other way. Add to that the moral overtones surrounding the habit, and the silence was even more puzzling.
Kornblut acknowledged that it wasn't getting attention, and wasn't sure why.
Given the stress that the president has obviously been under in recent weeks, with the mid-term elections and now the mutiny among his own party on his tax deal, it's natural that a reporter would ask whether the president was lighting up more frequently. And thinking back on when he supposedly stopped and the political deals that have been struck since, members of the Left wing of his caucus might want to convince him to pick up the habit again.
Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.
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