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Right On: Capitol Hill Republicans

The Young, Conservative Cigar Caucus of Capitol Hill Is Celebrating Its Newfound Power with Plenty of Cigars
Alejandro Benes
From the Print Edition:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Summer 96

(continued from page 2)

"I spent most of my trip trying to find cigars. Once they even took me to a barber shop," Cooper recalls. "I just couldn't seem to make them understand that I was looking for cigars. Then I discovered that the hotel had a Dunhill shop downstairs, but it was on my last day there. I wish I had budgeted better so I could have bought more cigars." On the flight home, Cooper experienced what is now forbidden on all domestic airlines and most international flights. "I got to smoke on the plane. It was great. I had to ask the flight attendant and she said that if it was all right with everyone in first class, then it was all right with her. Since most of the people were from the same tour I was with, they didn't mind. So there I am being able to smoke, in the air, in an airplane. I smoked three or four great cigars on the 17-hour flight."

Cooper will not admit that the cigars were Cohibas until Roff reminds him that he was flying over international waters. Cooper is smiling as he finishes the story and as his colleagues joke with him about a restaurant that went out of business after it named a new cigar friendly dining room after him. He quickly, though unsubltly, turns the conversation back to politics. "Do they grow tobacco in Bosnia? What is our compelling interest in being there?"

"I think we really need somebody to run against Clinton who actually believes in what he's saying and that there's no doubt that he believes in his convictions," says David Lehman, legislative counsel to Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas. Lehman, whose favorite cigar is the Cuban Romeo y Julieta Churchill, has been quiet until this point, but now he speaks up about Pat Buchanan. "I also think there is a person who does that, that no one seems to like and he just won New Hampshire. He's a force to reckon with. And there's no doubt that people think he believes in what he says."

Hazeem is listening to Lehman, with whom she has a personal relationship outside of Capitol Hill. "I liked Gramm. I really liked what I thought he would do," Hazeem says. "I liked Buchanan and, as I said to someone, I didn't get the memo as to why suddenly free trade is the issue for Republicans....There are other reasons that people don't like Buchanan and it's not about that. I like Bob Dole and I think that Buchanan has really forced Bob Dole to come out and say what he stands for, what he really believes as opposed to what kind of president he would be."

"I would concede this with Buchanan: He certainly says what he believes," says Lampkin. "You know where he stands, but--and it's a huge, capital but--he's not truly a leader because he's playing into the same kinds of things that leaders don't. When he's anti-trade, that's playing to the common denominator, " he says, mimicking Buchanan now, " 'The reason we're losing jobs and the economy's not growing, it's because we're being sold out overseas.' That's not leadership. America has been successful in competing and we don't need to have protectionist policies for us to compete. We have always made better products that sold across the border."

"Let me reclaim the time! Let me reclaim the time!" Hazeem appeals (perhaps thinking she's on C-Span?). "I don't understand why, and Pat Buchanan has raised this, why you can't just say, 'I disagree with him on his trade policy.' Why does every attack on Pat Buchanan turn into an ad hominem attack?"

"Why does he have these kinds of attacks?" asks Lassiter, somewhat incredulous. "Because, quite frankly, I think he deserves them. Based on some of the statements he's made in the past that come across as being racist, he comes across as not being a man who looks across the United States and thinks about the community in terms of people and individuals and Americans; rather, [he breaks] it down based on gender and race and other things. I don't think he's done a good job articulating that. Maybe those comments were taken out of context, but he does not have the character or reputation that a presidential candidate needs."

"He is running a Democratic, liberal, Jesse Jackson-style attack, the rich guy versus the poor working stiff. That's not what Republicans do," says Lampkin. "That's where the Forbes message is the most resonating. You know, he says, 'Let's not take from Peter. Let's not say [AT&T CEO] Bob Allen shouldn't make his $5 million. Let's make sure the economy is growing enough so that business everywhere can thrive.'"

"That's a fair criticism to say that the consequence of [Buchanan's] policy is something we don't like," Cooper says as he mediates the discussion, "but I don't think it's fair to say at all that his motive is not a sincere desire. Number one, his view is not the most popular view, by the way. A majority of Republicans don't agree with him and a majority of Democrats don't agree with him, according to a survey I saw yesterday. So, he could be demonstrating leadership by saying, 'This is my position and I want to persuade the public.' I happen not to agree with him and I'll give you one reason. We can look at the Depression. Historians say that the single reason that the Depression was as severe as it was, was because of the existence of the Smoot-Hawley tariffs and the effort internationally by all countries to say, 'We want to husband our own resources.' What was the consequence of that? The world's greatest depression. What was the consequence of that? You name practically any acronym that's out there on K Street or Pennsylvania Avenue. They were created as a response to the dramatic problem caused by the Depression. So I do not want to say, Let's create an environment where the greatest growth in government is possible again, where we're the enemies of the people, where the big government activists get to come in and say, 'You're downtrodden, you're destitute, the economy is smithereens. Here, let's do this for you.'"

"I don't think it's a question of articulating free-trade policy. I think most Americans are free-traders," Roff says. "I think that as we're moving into the third wave, the information age, the global economy, people are afraid of what may be coming and they are afraid that they are going to lose their jobs to low-wage growth economies in South America, in the Pacific Rim countries. What I dislike most about Buchanan is the foundational negativism of his vision. What made Forbes' rise so meteoric was, in a sense, growth, hope and opportunity. Stylistically, he was a Reaganite in a field of otherwise Nixonian Republicans."

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