Smoke 'em for the kids!

The “normally brilliant” Tom Maguire responds to Allahpundit’s resounding “meh” to the anguish of Jake Tapper over Barack Obama’s apparent deception on smoking. Tom notes that Obama himself made his smoking-cessation effort a campaign issue on several occasions, and makes the case that we should hold Obama more accountable for his apparent dishonesty. However, like AP, I just can’t gin up enough outrage over a recidivist smoker:

Well, if it were totally irrelevant to the campaign I probably couldn’t find “Quit Smoking With Obamaat his campaign website.

If it were totally irrelevant to his campaign I probably couldn’t find him trying to score “family guy” points on the talk-show circuit (here with Ellen D on YouTube).

And if it were totally irrelevant to his campaign I probably couldn’t find a spate of stories from early 2007 in which Obama made a big deal out of this in a bit of pre-announcement publicity.

Look, Obama is performing delivering a valuable public health service by getting up in the face of Jeremiah Wright’s message that cigarettes were invented by the CIA in order to enslave black men. But if he is lying to us and to his wife, not to mention whiny reporters, well, that is modestly newsworthy.

Tom makes good points here, but it does leave out one important consideration, and that is how tough it is to actually quit smoking. People try quitting and fail honorably, and try again. It’s not easy, and having the national media hound a smoker about it doesn’t make it easier, either. I can accept the idea that Obama honestly wants to quit but hasn’t been able to shake the nicotine addiction — but that may be because I used to smoke and understand the issue better than some. I wasn’t much of a smoker, either — maybe a pack a month — and after 15 years, there are still times I wish I had a cigarette.

Besides, if we want to hit Obama for his dishonesty, why not focus on actual campaign issues? We have all sorts of targets of opportunity, ranging from character issues (his association with Jeremiah Wright) to policy (Iraq) to the campaign (100 years of war). We could even ask him about his math after claiming that the March on Selma led to his conception — five years before the march. We don’t need to check his nicotine levels to call his honesty into question, and it just makes him seem more of a victim to pursue that.

In fact, if he wanted, Obama could turn the negative into a positive. Mindful that the Democrats want to expand S-CHIP on the backs of smokers — who tend towards lower-income, working-class groups — Obama could say that he wants to show solidarity with the underprivileged. He’s already having trouble establishing his street cred, according to Howard Kurtz, with bad bowling and cheesesteak snobbery; maybe lighting a cancer stick will help voters relate to him. He could even claim to be helping kids get health care by martyring his own health.

Better to leave it alone, I say.

Addendum: The scare quotes around “normally brilliant” are just in fun. Tom really is normally brilliant, but we need a good blogfight on a Friday afternoon.