Right On: Capitol Hill Republicans

The Young, Conservative Cigar Caucus of Capitol Hill Is Celebrating Its Newfound Power with Plenty of Cigars

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"You knew I did all those things, I believe," she says to Lehman.

"Well, like Pat Buchanan," Lehman answers, "I believe in my convictions so I didn't just say that in order to, uh..."

Hazeem rescues him, "But I thought it was the greatest come-on line of all time. Because I thought I would never find a man who would think it was OK for me to smoke cigars. I thought this was something I'd have to give up."

"As long as she buys them, it's fine for her to smoke," Lehman says, making clear that aid to staffers with cigar dependencies is not in the Contract With America.

Cigars have always been linked to politics for Marc Lampkin. "I had my first real cigar when I was a sophomore in college," says Lampkin, who attended Holy Cross College in Massachusetts. "A friend of mine, who's actually from a well-known liberal family, had some very good cigars and a bunch of us...."

Cooper interrupts, "You can say Kennedy in this room." Lampkin explodes in laughter and amends his remarks. "A friend of mine from college, he was a Kennedy, he broke out a box of maduros after we won a campaign together," Lampkin says, noting that his "default" cigar is the Ashton robusto.

Roff expresses "shock" that Lampkin was once the political ally of a Kennedy. But it is in jest, because things right now are just fine for this bunch of young Republicans. They are enjoying being taken seriously for the first time in four decades. "Before," says Lehman, meaning when the Democrats ruled the roost, "reporters weren't interested in what you had to say. Now they just act as if the legitimate government has been displaced." He grins.

"A lot more people became interested when we won the majority in both houses," chimes in Roff. "We became an 'overnight success,' " he says with a laugh.


Staying in power always depends on success in the next election, but what has happened to Washington since the Republicans took control of Congress is notable. Government is getting smaller; even President Clinton says so. Cigar sales at local shops are up. Even the House restaurant now stocks premium brands. And on some Friday afternoons, if you just happen to be sightseeing in the Capitol rotunda, you can take a deep breath and follow the aroma to one of the premier smoke-filled rooms in modern American politics.

Alejandro Benes is a journalist in Washington, D.C.

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