Political conversations tend to be the most intelligent and thought-provoking late in the evening--lord knows why. Well, I can take a guess. Fatigue mimics drunkenness and we all become suddenly so much more philosophical, impassioned, argumentative when we're impaired. Ironic isn't it?

So, it's 11pm and I'm talking with LT about the '08 battlefield and how its unclear whether Gore will run for President, but that the Hillarites are watching to see if he starts shedding those post-White House pounds--presumably as an indication he is preparing to submit exploratory committee papers.

It should be mentioned here that LT is a devout presidential historian. When he was a child, he preferred shuttering himself in his room reading books on the Presidents instead of playing outside. He knows every factoid, every date of tenure, and more than enough sordid tales of policy and private lives gone wrong.

"I guess the days of William Taft are over," he complained.

"Of course they're over! With the public health crisis we're facing right now? Having a fat President would be a disgrace, not to mention counterproductive to curbing the obesity epidemic!" I relish saying things like the "public health crisis" and "obesity epidemic." They're smart people phrases like "recession" and "gross domestic product."

"But that's ridiculous! It shouldn't matter if he's fat if he's a good leader. Clinton ran to the McDonald's all the time and he did a good job! Polk died three months after he left the White House it took such a toll on his health and he was a great President!"

At this point, I mention that Polk was also ugly and would never have made it through a televised campaign.

"And that's the problem. We don't have good leaders any more because everyone is too busy trying to look good for the public. It shouldn't be about that. Look at Bush, he's an idiot, the biggest idiot for a Chief Executive we've ever had, and he's fit. Does that make him a better President?"

And Obama, dear Obama who is handsome and wise and decidedly unifying for the Democrats. ::Sigh::

If he wants to maintain his edge at the Oval Office he'll have to quit smoking--especially if he receives solicited or unsolicited money from the tobacco industry.

"It would just look bad if he were a smoker and taking money also from the companies that have had to give billions of dollars to most states to make up for the heavy financial burden of publicly funded care for smoker-related sicknesses and injuries--'cause they knew it was addictive and harmful and did nothing."

But would that be damaging enough to Obama's campaign by itself? Naaaaaaaaah. However, he is now in the precarious position of either successfully kicking the habit or suffering the dreaded "flip-flopper" insult from his opponents and flack from the American Cancer Society. The pressure is on, the paparazzi are everywhere, and the opposition is hungry for just one incriminating TMZ photo to make a mockery of Obama.

Smoking has become a moral issue, much like excessive alcohol use in this country. It's something we know is bad for us, but we do it anyway and sometimes are motivated enough to feel guilty about it.

So what if we'd never have to shoulder the burden of Obama's care if he ever got lung cancer or suffered a stroke. It's the principle. As a candidate for President, he must be able to convince us he can embody all that is good about our country--and that leaves no room for vice (well maybe a little private vice here and there).

And then there's the fact that Americans are dropping like flies from largely preventable chronic diseases like heart disease and some cancers.

The '08 elections will be a mandate on Health care and Hillary's got two birds in hand:
her health care reform proposal which would have worked if it hadn't been for Harry and Louise and the fact that the Clintons banned smoking from the White House. Hillary's only real liabilities (aside from ...ahem..Whitewater and the sex addiction of her husband--which let's face it, Bill's just so charming and doing global charity work that nobody cares) appears to be her acrid expression and embarrassing past relationships with hairbands.

Ok, I know it's a cheap shot considering her face is all wonky...but I couldn't resist.

On the other hand, Obama is a very smart man. He knows the risks. It's not illegal to smoke tobacco. If he enjoys an occasional ciggy but doesn't lie to us about WMDs in Iraq, what's the beef?

Maybe the fact that we Americas really are that irrational and superficial.

We love a good smoke screen. It makes us feel safe. Like the world is in control--especially among those who have access to the big red button. So smoke away Obama, just make sure you screen your audience first :).

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