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Alive With Pleasure

By Kevin Robinson in News on Dec 4, 2006 5:50PM

As much as Chicagoist loves to rail against the corruption and graft that plagues our fair city, occasionally our obsession with back-room deals and hereditary peerage takes a back seat to more mundane fascinations. With this in mind, today we bring you this interesting tidbit: Barack Obama is a smoker!

2006_12_smoke.jpgWe stumbled across Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Michael Currie Schaffer's meditation on what makes a candidate more real, a person more than a media hack's carefully crafted package. In a day and age where lots of politicians have admitted to smoking marijuana (if not inhaling), and even trying a little blow, it's weird to try and picture Barack Obama standing in the alley behind the Senate lighting up a Kool or a Newport Wide. Considering that smoking is now a vice no longer associated with sophistication, wealth and leisure, but with poverty, lack of formal education and disease, we're left wondering a few things about this revelation. Does Obama's continuing struggle with nicotine make him seem more human to people? Does it take just enough of the shine off his starry-eyed idealist image to give him a piece of relationship with other, everyday folks?

Showing your "human side" is a time honored political play. When Richard Nixon and John Kennedy debated on television in 1960, many who listened to the debate on the radio felt that Nixon won the debate. Among television viewers, however, Kennedy was perceived as the winner, looking tan, rested and generally more in control than Nixon. Fast forward to 1992 when George Bush impatiently checked his watch frequently while debating Bill Clinton, or Al Gore's awkward kiss with Tipper at the Democratic Convention in 2000. Say what you will about George W. Bush as he fumbles his way through a major policy speech; most people get the sense that he's a regular guy, and that carries a lot of weight with the average voter.

Although we don't expect to see Obama lighting up on Oprah anytime soon, this little piece of Obama trivia just adds to his street cred of being a regular guy. And now, for your own entertainment, here's Barack apologizing to a reporter for messing up his "game" with a female intern at a press conference. What Obama will do in '08 is still up for speculation.