Mrs. Hanson was a pretty, somewhat faded woman of forty, who sold corsets and girdles, travelling out of Chicago. For many years her territory had swung around through Toledo, Lima, Springfield, Columbus, Indianapolis, and Fort Wayne, and her transfer to the Iowa-Kansas-Missouri district was a promotion, for her firm was more strongly entrenched west of the Ohio.
Eastward, she had known her clientele chattily and had often been offered a drink or a cigarette in the buyerâ€™s office after business was concluded. But she soon found that in her new district things were different. Not only was she never asked if she would like to smoke but several times her own inquiry as to whether anyone would mind was answered half apologetically with â€œItâ€™s not that I mind, but it has a bad influence on the employees.â€
â€œOh, of course, I understand.â€
Smoking meant a lot to her sometimes. She worked very hard and it had some ability to rest and relax her psychologically. She was a widow and she had no close relatives to write to in the evenings, and more than one moving picture a week hurt her eyes, so smoking had come to be an important punctuation mark in the long sentence of a day on the road.
Helen Rittlemeyer, evidently the Dorothy Parker of the ultramontane Catholic Right
Not long ago, I came upon an excerpt from Jonah Goldberg’s new anthology Proud to Be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation and quoted and linked the criticisms of the young men of today leveled by a female conservative from Vanderbilt, along with the alternative viewpoint of the Former Chairman of the Party of the Right at Yale.
Just yesterday, another essay from the same collection turned up online.
This defence of smoking from a religious ultra-traditionalist perspective is by Helen Rittlemeyer, another female Sometime Chairman of the Party of the Right, and also requires attention.
[N]othing breeds mutual affection like huddling under a shop overhang in a New Haven sleet storm because Anna Liffeyâ€™s wonâ€™t let you smoke inside anymore. We smoked on principle. It was reactionary, libertarian, spiritual, and aesthetic all at the same time. Cigarettes Are Sublime, Richard Kleinâ€™s tribute to nicotine, was our Bible, because it had sentences like this: â€œWhen the religious dignity of smoking is completely obscured, we have lost a right to pray in public.â€
That our tobacco habit had something to do with freedom should be obvious. …
Smoking bans bothered us because they gave the modern cult of health the force of law, which was more than we thought it deserved. The little joys of cigarette smokingâ€”a moment of late-night camaraderie, an excuse to talk to an attractive stranger, just the right prop for an emphatic gesture, or simply a moment of relaxation at the end of a long dayâ€”these were all more important to us than health. There was something unappealingly technocratic about the stateâ€™s attempt to boil the argument down to heart-disease rates. Unlike the libertarians, we thought smokers should have to make a convincing case that the benefits of smoking in bars outweigh the costs. Unlike the Left, we thought unquantifiables like the way good bourbon mixes with a Marlboro should count.
Ms. Rittlemeyer is becoming famous.
She also made the Daily Caller yesterday when an ex-boy friend delivered an extemporaneous critique of the impact on her social life of her extremist positions on CSPAN.
Walter Shapiro finds that Barack Obama’s customarily deft public performance deteriorates markedly when he encounters negative questioning.
(I)n response to the next question â€“ about the potential consequences if Iran continued to suppress demonstrations â€“ Obama said with a sharp edge in his voice, “We don’t know yet how this thing is going to play out. I know everybody here is on a 24-hour news cycle. I’m not. Okay?”
Now I am not going to claim that the First Amendment requires presidents always to wear smiley faces when taking questions from reporters. Nor am I going to deny that occasionally â€“ very occasionally â€“ the short-term mindset of the press pack can be irritating for presidents with a more transcendent view of global events.
Instead, I am bringing this up because I want to tentatively advance a larger theory about the president’s public moods. Obama tends to drop his cool veneer and sound exasperated when he knows that he is in the wrong.
When it comes to Iran, Obama has at times spoken in particularly mealy mouthed fashion because he is fearful (as he has repeatedly explained) that his words could be hijacked by the Iranian theocrats. Even during Tuesday’s press conference, Obama ducked condemning the Iranian election as totally fraudulent by carefully saying, “We didn’t have international observers on the ground. We can’t say definitely what happened at polling places throughout the country.” Obama â€“ who more than most leaders understands the power of inspirational rhetoric â€“ has been forced to keep his most potent weapon (his moral outrage) sheathed through most of the Iranian crisis.
But it was on a far smaller matter (and not one that often comes up during his morning national security briefings) that Obama really put his ire on the fire. What set the president off was a question trying to link Obama’s own smoking history with new legislation giving the FDA the power to regulate nicotine. In response, Obama claimed that the reporter just thought that it was “neat to ask me about my smoking, as opposed to it being relevant to my new law. But that’s fine. I understand. It’s a interesting human — it’s a interesting human-interest story.” (Words alone cannot convey Obama’s mocking tone and his obvious disdain for this “human-interest story.”)
Smoking, of course, is the secret vice that humanizes Obama. He cannot be that perfect â€“ that in control of himself â€“ if he cannot kick his yen to inhale carcinogenic smoke. Obama, in fact, likened himself (maybe a bit melodramatically) to “folks who go to AA.” Small wonder Obama becomes annoyed when he is asked for a monthly update on his cigarette consumption.
The truth is that the Obama White House certainly does not resist human-interest stories when they portray the president in a favorable glow. Obama’s grumpiness about the smoking question was not about an intrusive boxers-or-briefs press corps, but about the president’s own frailties.
Which probably explains why the President preferred, with respect to the sensitive topic of Iran, to answer a previously-arranged softball question from an editor of the Huffington Post.
In what appeared to be a coordinated exchange, President Obama called on the Huffington Post’s Nico Pitney near the start of his press conference and requested a question directly about Iran.
â€œNico, I know you and all across the Internet, we’ve been seeing a lot of reports coming out of Iran,â€ Obama said, addressing Pitney. â€œI know there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?â€
Pitney, as if ignoring what Obama had just said, said: â€œI wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian.â€
He then noted that the site had solicited questions from people in the country â€œwho were still courageous enough to be communicating online.â€
â€œUnder which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad, and if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn’t that a betrayal of the â€” of what the demonstrators there are working towards?â€
Reporters typically donâ€™t coordinate their questions for the president before press conferences, so it seemed odd that Obama might have an idea what the question would be. Also, it was a departure from White House protocol by calling on The Huffington Post second, in between the AP and Reuter. …
The Huffington Post reporter was brought out of lower press by deputy press secretary Josh Earnest and placed just inside the barricade for reporters a few minutes before the start of the press conference.