President Clinton got it right in May. According to the White House, when Air Force Captain Scott O'Grady was rescued in a daring raid inside Bosnia, National Security adviser Anthony Lake called the president to tell him of the feat and said, "I don't know about you, but I'm going to have a cigar." President Clinton responded by inviting Lake over to the Truman balcony where they shared a cigar at 1 a.m. It's a powerful and wonderful image: The president of the United States celebrating a great rescue of a downed American airman by lighting up a cigar.
Celebration. Victory. That's part of what makes cigars so appealing. There is no better way of acknowledging a job well done than to sit back with a favorite smoke and savor the moment. Given his understanding of a cigar's potent symbolism, President Clinton should end the charade that he just chews cigars, and admit that he is a cigar smoker. With one simple gesture, President Clinton can cement the image of cigar smoking as a pleasurable pastime that is enjoyed in moderation by millions and millions of Americans.
Cigar smokers have come a long way in the last three years. It was in September 1992 that the first issue of Cigar Aficionado hit the newsstands. There were plenty of skeptics, and more than a few naysayers who resorted to using negative imagery about cigar smokers. While ignoring the reality that cigar lovers are really just the guy next door, they resorted to caricatures of notorious criminals chomping cigars between felonies, corrupt politicians jammed into smoke-filled rooms and sweaty construction workers puffing away between cat calls at passersby. Those images haven't disappeared. Just recently, a New York/New Jersey Port Authority poster in the area's airports showed a leering, pot-bellied, gypsy cabbie holding a half-smoked stogie, and the line, "Don't let them take you for a ride."
But in truth, those negatives images are outdated. If there's one thing that's been proven since 1992, it is that cigar smokers come from all walks of life, and include the young and old, men and women. Cigar smokers can be found among top corporate executives, the world's top actors and comedians, great athletes in every professional sport, beautiful and successful women, and, of course, the leader of the free world, President Clinton. Even his love of cigars falls in with a long line of world leaders who enjoyed a great smoke, such as Winston Churchill and John F. Kennedy.
Thanks to the widespread and growing popularity of cigars, every cigar smoker should be an ambassador. The mission shouldn't just be a crusade for personal rights, but also an endeavor to tell the world about the pleasures that cigars bring to life. Celebrations like births, weddings, birthdays, promotions all should be treated like forums to show off the pleasure of a great smoke.
President Clinton also should remember just how powerful a message he sent to the world that night on the White House balcony. And, he should keep on lighting up. We'll all be celebrating with him.
Marvin R. Shanken
Editor & Publisher