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Alan M. Webber

Alan M. Webber

Alan Webber, a founding editor of Fast Company magazine, is an award-winning editor, author, and columnist. His most recent book is Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Yourself.

The $400 haircut

Barack Obama still sneaks cigarettes. Gordon Brown has a mean temper. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin struggles with her weight. At what point do a leader's personal vices begin to undermine effectiveness? Is it better to hide them or acknowledge them?

This question brings up a deeper issue: the inferences we can make about the true nature of a leader based on the discrepancy between who they say they are and how they truly act.

We've learned over the last few decades to decode the deeper truth of a leader's nature by looking at some of the surface clues. Take an elected official who urges us all to practice more discipline in our lives, to be conservative in our habits--and then falls prey to addictive pain pills. The pain pills aren't the issue; it's the discrepancy between the advice--and the vice.

Or take a leader who's grotesquely overweight, unable to rein in his own appetites, and yet who encourages the voting public to adopt measures that require self-sacrifice and self-control. Again, being over-weight isn't a vice--the problem is the deep discrepancy between what the leader advocates and what the leader does.

Another example: a leader who campaigns as a champion of the poor, the down-trodden, the poverty-stricken--but is seen in public paying narcissistic attention to his own grooming, the richness of his wardrobe, the details of his personal appearance. Alarm bells should sound--again, not because there's anything automatically wrong with wanting to look good in public, but because there's such a discordant note struck between espoused values and everyday behavior.

The examples go on and on: a world-champion golfer who is so controlled in public, so unflinching under pressure, it's hard not to believe that something turbulent is going on under the surface; an elected official who is so fixated on hunting down gays and persecuting them, it comes as no shock to learn that he himself has a powerful attractive to pages under his supervision.

And it's not even a new phenomenon: "Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look," after all, wasn't a comment on Cassius' need for a high-protein snack at the Roman Senate cafeteria. The suggestion was that Cassius' appetites ran more toward power than food. And Julius wasn't offering his friend Brutus a second helping on figs when he said, "Et tu, Brutus?"

So pay less attention to the vice as vice, and more attention to the disparity between who a leader pretends to be and what the behavioral clues tell you they actually are in real life. After all, no one is really as pure as Caesar's wife.

By Alan M. Webber

 |  March 2, 2010; 5:15 AM ET
Category:  Leadership weaknesses Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: 'The vices I admire' | Next: Not a character flaw


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Mr. Webber,

Thank you for your article. I respectfully submit that your premise is mistaken, and that you don't even recognize it as a premise.

Our discomfort with so-called leaders' hypocrisy is not a symptom of something wrong with them; it is a symptom of something wrong with us -- specifically, our media-bred expectations of them. Polititicans are people who have entered a profession in which they must play the part of a hero/philosopher/all-around-great-guy and fool enough people in that role to win popularity contests (elections) every couple of years. This is a sure-fire self-selection formula for narcissists and hypocrites, and we should not be surprised to find that the formula works.

So-called leaders in other areas may not stand for election, but they must play the same role with the media and public to maintain their favored positions.

We should ask ourselves why we assume that a man who drives straight on the fairway must be playing straight with his wife, or even further, why we should let it bother us if he doesn't.

But I don't expect this to happen, because it's so much easier to blame our 'leaders' for their failures than to question whether we should have such an emotional investment in their purity.

Maybe the problem isn't that celebrities, politicians, so-called 'leaders', etc. come up short of perfection. Maybe the problem is that we expect them not to.

Posted by: mhof | March 3, 2010 12:33 AM
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I thought that leadership was to be measured in terms of vision and competent policy design and implementation. This kind of "cultural", psycho-sociological, or whatever approach to leadership may be valuable in religious institutions. It may not, however, help you assess the qualities associated with the cooperation, even among conflicting groups, required to achieve a relevant political, social or economic goal.

Sorry for being much older than you are and for having studied Latin as a result. The correct sentence is: Et tu, Brute? Julius Caesar would have used a vocative case (not a nominative, reserved for a noun when it is the subject of a verb). And he would have done it with the predictable correctness. After all, he did not write De Bello Gallico in vain.

Posted by: gpcarvalho | March 2, 2010 10:46 PM
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Good grief. Everyone has a gap between their public image and their reality. Psychologists call it the "persona" and it is a normal part of being human. The question is when that gap is relevant to their leadership.

I'm impressed by the intolerant right wing responses which underscore their own validity gap- they didn't care about W and Cheney et al being lying, greedy, grafting, corrupt crooks. They haven't cared about the massive Republican deficit spending 1981-1993 and 2001-2008. Maybe they should read Jesus's advice about specks and planks.

Posted by: Ilikemyprivacy | March 2, 2010 10:11 PM
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Edwards is a lying, fake.
Hillary and Bill are lying, fakes.
Biden is a lying, fake.
O'Bama is a lying, fake.

One thing they all have in common, in addition to the lying and faking is that none of them were EVER honestly and fairly investigated and scrutinized by a leftist, propogandist media and investigative reporting.

Shame on Organized Politics and Media.

Posted by: Accuracy | March 2, 2010 9:45 PM
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John Edwards was the biggest phoney of his generation. He lied from day one. His wife was a conniver.

Posted by: cpameetingbook | March 2, 2010 9:37 PM
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Let he who is without a single vice cast the first stone. Well, go ahead....

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The new year approaching, click in. Let's facelift bar!

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Sunglasses(Oakey,coach,gucci,A r m a i n i) $16

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Posted by: qitkonlyyou | March 2, 2010 8:41 PM
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Since we all vote privately, EVERYTHING is relevant. Discusses about whether flaws should matter are all fine and good and irrelevant.... What matters is what matters to each one of us and customarily on such matters we can NOT be persuaded that they don't matter!

Posted by: lovinliberty | March 2, 2010 8:24 PM
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You can also look for signs of integrity in someone like Warren Buffett, who still lives in a house he bought before he made his billions. And he is now giving away billions through Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And Melinda Gates is a wonderful example. Unlike some of the rich (who choose to buy outrageous jewelry and spend their time at Hollywood parties, drinking thousand dollar bottles of alcohol), she convinced her husband to go to Africa and learn what they could do to help that continent.

Posted by: Georgetowner1 | March 2, 2010 8:21 PM
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Obama smokes and drinks too much, what a wonderful role model...

Posted by: Phil6 | March 2, 2010 8:06 PM
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Based on Mr.Webber's sanctimonious post, I suppose we should denigrate the accomplishments of such venerated Americans as FDR, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton.

FDR was a chain smoker who enjoyed his daily cocktail hour (he particularly enjoyed martinis), while Americans were struggling to feed their families and find jobs, farmers endured the dust bowl, and many became migrants to the west coast. I guess he should have sworn off cigarettes and booze, and gone on the road with the "Oakies" to be relevant. Should I also mention that FDR left Eleanor to bum on a sailboat (possibly with a mistress) before he was elected presidents?

Thomas Jefferson was a slaveowner who is suspected of fathering offspring with one of his female slaves. i guess he shouldn't have been chosen to write the Declaration of Independence.

Benjamin Franklin as ambassador to France during the revolution, was well known as a "ladies man" at the French Court. I supposed that we should ignore his contributions as one of the founding fathers based on his personal indiscretions.

Alexander Hamilton as Treasury Secretary overstepped his powers by personally waging war on western Pennsylvania farmers who resisted the whiskey tax, was an ally of New York financiers looking to make big money by buying up Revolutionary War debt, yet he left a legacy to our Country that remains significant. Note: Our esteemed first president, George Washington, was an absentee landlord of many of the Pennsylvania farmers that Hamilton wanted to subdue.

People are not inherently morally or intellectually consistent, (particularly in the moral sense). Individuals who have questionable personal characteristics often rise above moral indiscretions and achieve great things in spite of personal "character flaws".

Posted by: MillPond2 | March 2, 2010 7:53 PM
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"W" and his conservative GOP congress borrowed $5 trillion dollars, convinced America that torture was legal, and invaded another country based on made up charges. Their actions caused the death of 4,000+ American military. Because his Dad lost the election based on "its the economy stupid" "W" allowed the Fed to print money and keep interest rates low -- the prime cause of the housing bubble. We've seen no great outcry from the right over the foregoing. However, the right finds betrayal and evil in Obama's inability to quit smoking and they see nothing wrong or silly in their beliefs/analysis. And people wonder why the US is going down the tubes. I don't. It is happening because the right in its narrow minded bias must make the left evil to mask the wrongs of the right. In other words, the right is silly and this is silly season.

Posted by: Freethotlib | March 2, 2010 7:27 PM
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I don't give a "crap" about any politician, sports figures or anyone else smoking, sleeping around or doing anything other than their jobs. If the President of the United States is able to get us out of the mess that this country is in, the he/she can smoke anything and everything that comes into their cigarettes.

When will this country stop trying to make human beings anything other than humans? Humans come with vices and frailties but they either do or don't get the job done. The same goes for newspaper commentators who seem to have a shortage of commonsense.

Posted by: nb3c | March 2, 2010 7:00 PM
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According to Mr. Webber, self-indulgent politicians can't tell their nation to sacrifice. Well, there goes Churchill's right to inspire the British in WWII, as he was nothing if not a lush with a taste for luxury. Shakespeare's Ceasar wasn't accusing Cassius of looking too power hungry; he was accusing him of "being" too power hungry, which is a very public sin. I'm not accusing Mr.Webber of hiding his bad habits; I'm accusing him of writing an inane column.

Posted by: jdnathan | March 2, 2010 6:23 PM
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Despite wide unemployment, dysfunctional Congress, and global issues resisting solutions, things must not really be so bad when the internationally-circulated newspaper of our nation's capital dwells on whether the President ought not smoke those nasty, legal cigarettes within the first pane of news presented to readers.

Please folks, we elect people to these jobs. Let them struggle privately with the minor differences between who they are and who they aspire to be. I'm not interested in any elected officials' sex lives, whether they smoke, or sit too close to the TV, or bite their nails.

I'm dismayed that a couple of decades of finger-wagging by society's scolds has us dwelling on such trivial BS.

Please folks, isn't there more important stuff for us to discuss?


Posted by: FelixTheCat1 | March 2, 2010 5:56 PM
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If all you posters are so anti smoking write your Virginia delegates and ask them to support raising the cigarette tax from 30 cents to $1.34 (national average). Virginia ranks 49th in cigarette tax rates. Perhaps this will stop Virginia children from smoking. The proceeds could be used to fund Virginia schools and roads.

Posted by: waxtraxs | March 2, 2010 5:55 PM
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Of course it matters of President Obama smokes... he's sponsoring health care reform. He should take his sponsorship as an opportunity to quit, cold turkey.

Obviously, part of reform is preventative medicine. The President is missing an opportunity here.... a big one.

Posted by: kenhyde | March 2, 2010 5:20 PM
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Teapartypatriot has so much hate that I actually feel sorry for him. He posted on March 2 and you should read his blog to experience first hand how much hate one person can have. I wonder how he actually walks around on any day with that much rage inside him.

Posted by: karst | March 2, 2010 4:44 PM
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The founding fathers sought their leaders from the ranks of shippers, farmers, scientists, retirees, and men like Abraham Baldwin who had served as a minister. Yet we keep returning often times to imaged and flawed candidates. We nominate and elect men like Edwards, Patterson, Ingle, Sanford, Blagojevich to name a few. Perhaps its time we change and nominate honest ethical working men and women.

Dr. Alan Phillips

Posted by: ctw46 | March 2, 2010 4:25 PM
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Americans, in ever increasing numbers, are awakening to realize that they were duped by the slick campaign and endless lies, distortions, half-truths, baseless slime and propaganda by the socialist media into supporting the worst, most unqualified candidate for president in history.

Americans now see hussein for what he really is: a shallow, arrogant, platitude-spouting, inexperienced, Marxist, drug-addicted, elitist, narcissistic, flip-flopping gas-bag who is so mentally deficient from extensive drug use he even has to plagiarize his hollow platitudes, who hijacked the nomination with fewer votes than Hillary received, and who stole the election with extensive ACORN fraud.

He is nothing more than an artificial creation of the loony-left socialist media with no more substance or depth than a Daffy Duck cartoon. Wherever there are no mirrors, no cameras and especially no teleprompters (heavy drug use significantly impairs short-term memory), hussein vanishes.

Posted by: TeaPartyPatriot | March 2, 2010 4:12 PM
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Is it better to hide or acknowledge smoking? The author says, "This question brings up a deeper issue". Maybe, if you're a superficial and empty-headed professional commentator who needs a topic to fill up some column space. Not since the furor over flag lapel pins have so many chowderheads sounded off in solemn tones about absolutely silly, pointless nonsense.

Posted by: alloleo | March 2, 2010 4:02 PM
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Your headline sure does fit the President

Posted by: Obama_TRAITOR_in_Chief | March 2, 2010 3:50 PM
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What a bunch of sanctimonious prairie fertilizer!

Considering how the media intrudes itself into the tiniest bit of personal life, it is no wonder that some people try to cover up what may appear to others as a personal vice.

Smoking?? Reducing weight???

This is how we're supposed to judge hypocrisy???

You are daft.

Your moral compass is spinning in so many directions you need to hit the reset button.

Cheating on one's spouse is a horrible thing to do, but it is something human beings find difficult to resist. But it has NOTHING to do with how a person leads or governs.

FDR would have been out on his ear in this day and age. And what would we have made of good ol' Ben Franklin? Thomas Jefferson? Probably the only founders clean in your lens would be John Adams and James Madison.

The blatant and intentional confusion between the public and private spheres of life is solely for the benefit of the media. The media is ruining this country, and pieces like this help lead that charge.

Posted by: ethanquern | March 2, 2010 3:49 PM
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You neglected to cite the most frequent and glaring example of such hypocrisy: the all too common political leader who advocates monogamy and the sanctity of marriage while running around with one or more mistresses. The list of such people is too long to track.

Posted by: roscoe911 | March 2, 2010 3:25 PM
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And my in-laws [they're gone now] from Missouri always told me what a morally corrupt guy Harry S. Truman was. Times have indeed changed.

Posted by: johnson0572 | March 2, 2010 2:42 PM
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My view is that the writer of this post a empty headed, and stupid and fake moralist...perhaps a right wing zealot as well.

Posted by: kevin1231 | March 2, 2010 2:23 PM
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The story about Bill Clinton shutting down the airport for 2 hrs has been debunked so many times, I stiil cannot believe people are still using it.

Posted by: clarendon67 | March 2, 2010 1:41 PM
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Shaw's advice on sincerity is instructive .

Posted by: borntoraisehogs | March 2, 2010 1:27 PM
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"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

Seems to be a lot of sin-less posters out there.

Posted by: arancia12 | March 2, 2010 1:16 PM
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In short you are asking "should we care about integrity?"

If you need to ask, you wouldn't understand the answer.

Posted by: autisticview | March 2, 2010 1:13 PM
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Phil S.

The Tin Man didn't have a heart because the Tin Smith forgot to give him one. The Scarecrow didn't have a brain because he was "only straw".

What's your excuse?

Posted by: shadowmagician | March 2, 2010 1:02 PM
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My objection is that these types of stories tend to demonize the people that are the subject of the articles. I don't believe "smoking", "weight" or other behavior are moral issues. All are legal activities.

Posted by: abc1 | March 2, 2010 12:46 PM
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Clinton used cigars, never hurt him! Give Obama a break, at least when it comes to smoking. I guarantee that he is catching it from his kids! He is a good man. John Edwards is not. He is lucky (very) he wasn't married to MY daughter.

Posted by: rlmayville | March 2, 2010 12:44 PM
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The best reason to not make a big deal about it is so that kids don't see Obama smoking and think it's glamorous.

I think harping on it is fairly despicable. It's used as shorthand by political opponents who want to use it to make him look smaller.

But the result is that you're telegraphing to kids that Obama smokes. That's not going to change their views on Obama -- but they may change their views on smoking.

You don't want to see the man with his finger on the button quitting while in office.

Then, you wouldn't see him being so conciliatory to obstructionist Republicans, either.

Posted by: chabot744 | March 2, 2010 12:36 PM
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I am surprised that a self controlled person like Obama smokes at all. However, our governator smokes cigars and he was a Mr. Universe champion body builder and I do not see the Republicans commenting on that.

I think Obama is doing as good a job as possible considering the circumstances. personally I think he should be more like FDR and sow the Republicans for what they really are. Mean spirited ideological obstructionist who are more interested in power and control, than in the actual welfare of the country.

Posted by: bikesac | March 2, 2010 12:22 PM
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Poor analogy.

If the President was for legislation that prohibits smoking in public places, then was seen surreptitiously smoking in a restaurant, that would be equivalent.

The issue with smoking is not that it's a vice, but a health hazard to fellow humans.

It makes perfect sense to support legislation that limits where someone can smoke, then follow those limits yourself.

Posted by: iamweaver | March 2, 2010 12:20 PM
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One of the most dangerous traits of leaders in our country is narcissism. The love of self is a sure fire way for big mistakes to take place that jeopardizes the rest of us. John Edwards paying $400 for a haircut is a signal. Bill Clinton keeping Air Force One at LAX an extra 2 hours forcing the cancellation of many flights so that he could get a haircut is another example. Watch the self serving for they are making themselves out to be God - their delusional behavior suggests with certainty that they are not putting service to country ahead of themselves. At minimum our leaders should meet or exceed this standard. When they don't they should resign, or like Charles Rangel be forced from office for they put our country at risk. John Kennedy is so idolized as a great leader, but was he really - with all of his own narcissistic tendencies I always worried that he was putting his own needs ahead of his duties, seeking self gratificiation with women and drugs how could he live up to the leadership standard so easily applied to him.

Posted by: andystewart | March 2, 2010 12:06 PM
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I said its not your business. GFY

Posted by: Phil5 | March 2, 2010 12:04 PM
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You mean like the corporate business leaders who talk about the customer being king and they value their employees and relationship with their suppliers and then behind everyone's back they cook the books to get a huge bonus for making their quarterly earnings forecast, only to leave ahead of the whole mess collapsing leaving the employees, customers and suppliers bankrupt while the CEO's lead a life of luxury on the backs of everyone else. You mean that kind of phony leadership?

Posted by: dlpetersdc | March 2, 2010 12:02 PM
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I suppose that Obama's addiction to nicotine isn't as bad as when he was smoking marijuana and cocaine in his younger years. At least tobacco is legal, though I am not a smoker and hate being around smoking myself.

Posted by: honorswar26 | March 2, 2010 11:52 AM
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Have you ever lived with someone trying to quit smoking?

As someone married to a man who smokes and has repeatedly tried to quit...I'd say, the nation would be better off, if he quits after he leaves office.

Posted by: nduh | March 2, 2010 11:24 AM
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I love smoking. I guess that's the only thing I have in common with President Obama.

Posted by: Regis09 | March 2, 2010 11:17 AM
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Good lord with this "column." Really?

Posted by: monk4hall | March 2, 2010 10:58 AM
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Sure, the pres should give up the cigs but maybe it would be helpful to try a joint instead.

Posted by: Davidd1 | March 2, 2010 10:45 AM
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you know what this means, right? smoke, or be labeled a racist. on my way to get some camels now

Posted by: project_mayhem | March 2, 2010 10:42 AM
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It doesn't matter that Obama smokes. What does matter are his dubious connections in Illinois politics and the manner in which he and his wife benefitted from them.

Posted by: ttj1 | March 2, 2010 10:41 AM
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how many people did lawyers like obama put out of work by destroying the tabacco industry? dems are toast in 20/2012. rino's too. bye bye.

Posted by: 12thgenamerican | March 2, 2010 10:38 AM
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Liberal Democrat politicians should be allowed more leeway in chasing women, taking graft, and cooperating with crooked organizations that get out their vote- because they "are for the people." At least that is the way they, and the toady media, look at it.

Posted by: mhr614 | March 2, 2010 10:32 AM
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I'm a life-long Republican, strongly disapprove of the job Obama is doing as President, and I've never smoked a cigarette in my life. However, if Obama likes to smoke a few cigarettes behind the White House then he should be left alone to do so.

Posted by: caiparinhia | March 2, 2010 10:26 AM
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Phil S.: Oliver Wendell Holmes said "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins."

You may not want (or may not be able to afford) health insurance. So what are your plans if you get a serious illness? Everybody gets old, everybody gets sick, some will be involved in an accident through no fault of their own. Some 50% of bankruptcys are due to the huge costs associated with serious illnesses and hospital stays here in the U.S.

I personally would not object if Single Payer got passed. Even the Public Option or expanded Medicare is far better than what we have now. Everybodys' money paying for everybodys health care.

Posted by: shadowmagician | March 2, 2010 10:22 AM
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It takes a strong mind to beat an addiction.
Obummer will smoke until he dies.

Posted by: brattykathyi1 | March 2, 2010 10:21 AM
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Cigarette smoking is a chemical addiction, pure and simple. Once you start it is EXTREMELY hard to quit as evidenced by the many, many smoking cessation programs and medications on the market. All of our leaders are very human, just like the rest of us, but that does not mean they are hypocrites. There is nothing wrong with educating and encouraging the public to do the best thing for their health. It is called CARING about other people.

Posted by: playswithpaint | March 2, 2010 10:12 AM
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All these people are human. Who cares what they do in their private lives? As long as it doesn't keep you from doing your job and doesn't hurt anyone else. If it keeps those around you from doing their jobs, then it is not ok.

Posted by: celestun100 | March 2, 2010 10:10 AM
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The report said "...continue smoke cessation...". It didn't say anything about stop smoking so your whole premise for the article is based on an assumption that may be incorrect.

Posted by: rlj1 | March 2, 2010 10:04 AM
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The headline of this article should have read: When Leaders are Human. We all have shortcomings. Why hide them? Just acknowledge them and work to overcome them.

Posted by: mbc1954 | March 2, 2010 10:01 AM
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I think the author's point is that if the dissonance between someone's public views or posturing and their private vices shows them to be a hypocrit then it does reflect on their character and leadership ability. But that is about hypocrisy and not about the vice. And the Obama sneaking smokes example is a stupid one to lead with. Advocating healthier lifestyle choices and not always living up to those choices yourself is not hypocrisy. Castigating or punishing others for moral failings that you yourself have, but choose to hide from the world is more problematic.

Posted by: jswift1 | March 2, 2010 9:52 AM
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Of course it matters if he smokes. He wants us to spend a trillion dollars on health when 10 to 30 percent of that number is smoking related. Smokers, as with all those who make poor life style choices, should have to pay greater premiums than those that choose healthy life styles.

Health care is in trouble because basic economics has been removed from the equation.

Posted by: dnichols3 | March 2, 2010 9:48 AM
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Of course, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. While I certainly think that the larger point about hypocrisy is valid, let's not be too quick to over-use it. It is a false equivalence to compare a (presumably) casual smoking habit to, say, the hypocrisy of fighting against gay rights while actively trying to engage in sexual relations with pages. A casual habit should not be blown out of proportion to indicate some underlying disregard for health care overall. A destructive vice that's harmful to others, like soliciting pages, is altogether another matter. To equate the two does a disservice to the public as a whole. It has been well noted that we as voters focus far too much on these inferences than on actual policy. Every election produces a study that shows that Americans are much more likely to vote for the candidate they most want to have a beer with than the candidate whose policies actually match their own interests. Should we ignore these possibly hypocritical tendencies? No. But, please, let's be a bit judicious about how strongly we draw those inferences and how meaningful we make them. Frankly, I don't care at all if my congressman smokes and also votes for a ban on smoking in restaurants. The potential hypocrisy in that case doesn't bother me. My son having to breathe second-hand smoke when we go out to eat and therefore enduring a higher risk of heart attack, heart disease, lung cancer and a multitude of other ailments – that bothers me VERY MUCH. The candidate, smoking or non-smoking, who actually votes for a public smoking ban has my vote every time.

Posted by: minstrels | March 2, 2010 9:38 AM
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It's really nobody's business if you smoke. It's really nobody's business if you have or don't have health insurance.

Posted by: Phil5 | March 2, 2010 9:34 AM
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At what point do a leader's personal vices begin to undermine effectiveness? Is it better to hide them or acknowledge them?"

And one more thing. It's time we started separating a leader's effectivness from their personal life.

Most of the interest in John Edwards' affair is simply prurient interest and had nothing to do with whether he was an effective leader or not. Americans are the most prudish, puritanical, invasive, nosey, judgemental people on the planet.

The fact that we take papers like the Enquirer seriously shows how low we consider "news."

The argument of course, is that if he would lie to and cheat on his wife who else would he do this to? All you have to do is pay attention to his deeds in office and as a politician to see if he is worthy of trust or not.

It's time to get our long, pointy noses out of people's personal lives and go back to be a country that values privacy.

Posted by: arancia12 | March 2, 2010 9:32 AM
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This topic is silly. Every one of us has a persona we project. The television adds a layer of distance between us and who we see. People who think they can ever truly know politicians are fooling themselves.

It's up to each person to judge whether they think a politician is authentic or not. Some are easier to spot than others and for every person who thinks Sarah Palin is a media creation remarkably, there is one who finds her completely authentic. Which one of us is right? I guess we'll never know.

Posted by: arancia12 | March 2, 2010 9:25 AM
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Well the answer is soooo obvious - we can only vote for Christ for any elected office. There, vice issue settled.

Posted by: overed | March 2, 2010 9:19 AM
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My apologies! I just find it funny that these character questions are never placed at the feet of "Republicans". George W. Bush was such a "drunk" that he passed out drinking in the White House and blamed it on a pretzel. The previous owner would have made sure these questions were asked of W. as well as Obama. You Wash. Post guys are soooo fake!

Posted by: mtaper | March 2, 2010 9:15 AM
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Smoking is still legal, isn't it? If not, then there is a problem with Obama smoking, even as little as he does.

Wine is still served at state dinners, isn't it? Of course, the problem of alcoholism is a major one in our country but I don't see anyone ranting and raving about politicians and others indulging in alcoholic beverages.

For gosh sake - lighten up! I don't know of anyone who doesn't fit into someone else's narrow criteria of "bad habits" - be it smoking, drinking, obesity, overuse and/or abuse of medication, adultery, lying and more. Some abuses are worse than others as far as hurting not only the person but also families and friends and, in the case of drugs and alcohol, strangers.

Posted by: Utahreb | March 2, 2010 9:11 AM
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There are two aspects of the same issue that you are dealing with -

First, as a role model even though Obama smokes, he shouldn't be shown smoking or Brown shown yelling at someone. The acknowledgment is good enough. These are simply shortcomings that have nothing to do with hypocrisy. (This generally deals with non-moral choices.)

The second issue is that a leader that can't personally deal with a certain issue, shouldn't get involved with telling others that they shouldn't do it - that is being a hypocrite.

Posted by: cmecyclist | March 2, 2010 9:03 AM
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You described the problem nicely: It's not the vice that bothers people, it's the hypocrisy. It's not the smoking people have a problem with, it's the fact that this Administration is taking (or has plans to take) the nanny state to whole new levels. Educate people on the dangers of smoking and eating poorly, yes, but let people do what they want to do with their own bodies.

All you have to do is look at California and NYC where the conduct police are out in full force. You can't even smoke a cigar on a public golf course in San Francisco. The no trans-fat, no smoking anywhere (including probably eventually your own home), and no sugar nanny staters are making people pay more in taxes and feel guilty for engaging in conduct that isn't morally wrong.

Obama likely has the most stressful job in the world. If he thinks smoking (and it looks like drinking) helps him cope then I'm not going to judge him or tell him it doesn't. After a long week, I like the occasional smoke while having cocktails as well. So do millions of other Americans. There are A LOT of closet smokers out there.

However, don't go and raise taxes on tobacco and preach to us about preventative medicine when you aren't practicing it yourself.

On the right, the Larry Craigs and David Vitters are just as bad.

It's amazing that he has managed to get such a free pass from the anti-smoking nazis on the left from this.

Posted by: riemje011 | March 2, 2010 8:36 AM
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First off I'm a hair more conservative than Pinochet.
But I have no problems with Obama smoking as there's nothing morally wrong with having a smoke.

Bill Clinton banned smoking in all Federal facilities but smoked in the White House and used his cigars as a sex toy on Monica.
That's immoral AND creepy.

John Edwards is just as creepy as Clinton. Worse actually.

Posted by: Etek | March 2, 2010 8:05 AM
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Polticians in general seem to have an (erroneous) attitude that they are better than the rest of us, simply due to their job. As they are allegedly 'better than us', they believe they are somehow entitled to tell us how to live, while being not willing to set the example for us. For example, they blather on about 'fiscal responsibility', at the same time they are adopting new legislation that there is no money to pay for; they adopt expensive, frivolous legislation which primarily benefits a wealthy campaign donor, not the general US population.

I could go on . . .and on . . .and on . . . but I'll let plenty of other people put in their examples of politicians excessive behaviors . . . .

Posted by: momof20yo | March 2, 2010 7:43 AM
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For one thing, I'd like women politicians to be completely open about their cycles every day.

The men should quit bending the truth to look better than human, sure.

But the women should tell us about their cycles.

Posted by: michaelniland | March 2, 2010 6:41 AM
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