Withering in the haze of secondhand smoke

It will be hard for Bob McDonnell to portray himself as anything other than an ideologue after this debate over smoking in restaurants in Virginia is over.
“He generally believes this is an issue that should be solved by the free market and not government,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said of the attorney general and presumptive Republican Party gubernatorial nominee’s position on the bipartisan smoking ban compromise announced by Gov. Tim Kaine and House and Senate leaders this week.

This puts McDonnell on the same side of the issue as the ultraright Americans for Prosperity, which has hired a robocall company to make tens of thousands of phone calls to the offices of state legislators to pressure them to vote against the proposed smoking ban.

“Our members are upset that the Speaker has chosen to trust big government to solve our problems instead of consumers,” Ben Marchi, the group’s state director, told The Washington Post. “This is a consumer rights issue. This is the government telling consumers they aren’t smart enough to decide for themselves where to patron.”

Or maybe this is us, since we, the people, are the government, telling restaurants that they don’t have to kowtow to the small but vocal minority that insists on exposing the rest of us to their poor personal health decisions.

Nobody is telling smokers that they can’t continue to puff their lives to a quicker end, as Mr. Marchi is well aware, just that they can’t give the 80 percent of us who don’t engage in their bad habits to asthma and lung cancer and an assortment of other respiratory ailments in the process.

I can understand why McDonnell would want to take a position on this issue in favor of “the free market,” considering his ideological predispositions. What I can’t understand is the political common sense of aligning one’s self against the more than 70 percent of Virginians who support this legislation, one, and two, doing so alongside a group like Americans for Prosperity, whose influence over elections in Virginia, like that of the once-fabled conservative base, has been very much on the wane in recent years.

I wanted to give McDonnell more credit than to do something this out of whack with political reality.

The bloom on the McDonnell rose is withering in the haze of secondhand smoke.

 

– Column by Chris Graham


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