It’s a high-pressure job, the presidency. Think about how badly the Osama bin Laden raid could have gone. The worst case — Navy SEALs trapped in a firefight with Pakistani forces — could have made “Black Hawk Down” look like a cakewalk.
Yet the night after he gave the “go” order, President Barack Obama hit the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and had to grin his way through canned laugh lines working over The Donald.
Stressful! You couldn’t blame the guy if he wanted to take the edge off with a smoke. Alas, he quit a year ago. It was “a personal challenge for him,” the first lady said she never “poked and prodded.”
Of course not. It’s obnoxious to hector your loved ones. “Poking and prodding” is what good government does to perfect strangers.
You’re not a real president until you fight a metaphorical “war” on a social problem. So, to LBJ’s “War on Poverty” and Reagan’s “War on Drugs,” add Obama’s “War on Fun.” Like the “War on Terror,” it’s being fought on many fronts:
Smoking: Last fall, the FDA released proposed “graphic warning labels” on cigarettes, including “one showing a toe tag on a corpse” and another where “a mother blows smoke on her baby.” In December, a federal court rebuffed the administration’s plan to squelch “e-cigarettes,” which allow smokers to ingest nicotine vapor without carcinogens or secondhand smoke. But they stand ready to regulate menthols, because, like clove cigarettes (banned in 2009), they taste good, so people might like them.
Alcohol: Similar logic drove the FDA’s November ban on caffeinated malt liquors. Capitalizing on a minor moral panic over Four Loko, which packs less punch than the ever-popular Red Bull and vodka, the agency threatened four companies with “seizure of the products” on the dubious grounds that caffeine becomes an “unsafe food additive” when combined with alcohol.
Poker: Last month, the Department of Justice shut down five major online poker sites, seizing their domain names, issuing arrest warrants for executives, and seeking billions in asset forfeiture.
Food: A year ago, the FDA announced its plan to “adjust the American palate to a less salty diet,” ratcheting down the amount of sodium allowed in processed foods.
Author C.S. Lewis once wrote that “of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”
On the whole, I prefer House Speaker John Boehner’s attitude. When an interviewer asked the Ohio Republican, “Why don’t you stop smoking?” Boehner replied, “It’s a legal product. I choose to smoke. Leave me alone.”
Examiner columnist Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute and author of “The Cult of the Presidency.”