During the 2008 campaign, the American public wrestled with some very thorny questions. Were we ready for an African-American president or a woman president? Did we want to end the war in Iraq or not? And NAFTA, did we care about that thing, really?
But the most important moral dilemma of all, raised repeatedly over the course of the year, was whether an alleged smoker could plausibly claim to have abandoned his filthy habit once and for all while enduring one of the most stressful contests ever devised by man: Which is to say, a presidential campaign.
Reasonable people just assumed that Sen. Barack Obama, if he ever had really quit, had doubtless taken up with Demon Cigarettes once again on the long and painful Road to the White House. Even a superhero occasionally experiences a moment of frailty, and in the wide catalog of human sin, smoking ranks somewhere between public nose-picking and adultery.
And yet every now and again, a shocked member of the press would post some angry article about how the Senator was SMOKING, and even worse, he was asking his staff to cover up for him:
They denied it. He’d quit months before, in February, they insisted. He chewed nicorette.
But I knew what I’d smelled and I asked his campaign to double-check and to ask him if he’d had a cigarette.
That outrage occurred, let's see, right around this time last year. So we're about due for another installment, yes? Feast your eyes on this: The story of a former Illinoisan who wrote to President Obama begging him to quit smoking, for the sake of his daughters. The man enclosed a photograph of his own father, a longtime smoker who died of cancer. The president's response:
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.
Well, that clears up ... exactly nothing! The president, like his hero FDR, is probably just a smoking fiend these days, and using a jaunty cigarette-holder, too.
Nonsmoker Sara K. Smith writes for NBC and Wonkette.