By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
Now we know why Rep. Henry Waxman is such an archenemy of Big Tobacco. He's a reformed smoker. In his new how-to book, The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works, the congressman who's led the fight to regulate tobacco admits on Page 175: "Like many politicians, I have a dirty little secret: I used to smoke."
His book is an insider's account on how to get legislation approved. For policy fans, it's a pretty good read about how he used different strategies on major legislation to get things done, even when the politics were against him. Among his suggestions and tricks are making contributions to lawmakers who support his ideals, horse trading for amendments, using agency leaks to influence the process, and stalling laws he doesn't like. "No issue is ever settled for good," he and coauthor Joshua Green write.
But his chapter called "Tobacco Wars" and his detailed description of how he thought smoking made him look cool are among the most interesting passages. Here's what he writes in The Waxman Report:
Like many politicians, I have a dirty secret: I used to smoke. In high school, I would tool around West Los Angeles in my green-and-white Buick, dragging on a cigarette and imagining myself the epitome of cool. With considerable effort, I quit smoking after college, prompted by the emerging medical consensus that tar and nicotine were dangerous carcinogens. But early in my congressional tenure, I relapsed. It happened on a CODEL, the Washington acronym for "congressional delegation," or one of the formal trips that congressmen take together on business. Everywhere I turned, cigarettes were being provided gratis to members of our party—on the plane, in the hotel. It was all part of the industry effort to gull official Washington into feeling comfortable about smoking. To be sociable, I decided to light up, and because I hadn't smoked in a long time, it packed a punch. Somehow, I convinced myself that I could smoke now and then without falling back into the habit. Before long, I was hooked again—and mortified to be so, since I was already becoming known as a crusader against tobacco. Driven by a deep sense of embarrassment, I managed to quit for good. I rejoined the ranks of ex-smokers, chastened and with a profound appreciation for the tobacco industry's wily influence.
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