“Public disclosure of once-secret industry documents,” reported the Associated Press recently, “has shown that Big Tobacco privately considered tobacco addictive and harmful at least four decades ago, even as it brushed aside claims that it manipulated nicotine in cigarettes to hook smokers.”

It is now clearer than ever that those seven tobacco-company CEOs were lying April 14, 1994, when they raised their right hands and swore to Congress and the American people that they did not believe nicotine was addictive.

This lie was part of a decades-long attempt to addict millions of people to a product that, in about 400,000 cases a year in the U.S. alone, leads to premature death and, often, terrible suffering.

Why is that perjury not worth investigating and punishing? What would be the downside to the nation if those CEOs suffered some consequence? Yet the Republican-led Congress – financed not insignificantly by the same tobacco interests that so hate the Clinton administration – has in four years called for no action whatever in this regard.

But have an affair and lie to cover it up, if you are president – that is a matter of such gravity that swift and devastating action must be taken. To be the second president in history to be censured is not enough. Remember, we are talking here about SEX between two consenting adults. This – and lying about it in hopes of getting away with it without dragging everyone through the mud – rises well above the small matter of 400,000 premature deaths a year.

Thus it is perfectly appropriate for Congress to deluge the Internet and airwaves with precisely the sort of material they fervently hope our young people will not see. It is perfectly appropriate for Congress to risk destabilizing global economic confidence by plunging the government into paralysis and possibly beginning impeachment hearings for only the second time in the history of the republic. After all, the president had an affair and lied about it!

Let me turn the sarcasm off for a moment and acknowledge that the president’s behavior truly was disappointing. He is not perfect.

And I understand people legitimately differ on the gravity of his actions (both the sex and the deception). But if you are one who believes he should actually be forced out of office, at least promise me this: that you will scream bloody murder until the tobacco CEOs are called to account. And until the congressmen who have protected them – mostly the same ones so outraged by Clinton – are voted out of office for their incredible hypocrisy.

If you don’t think all those congressmen should be kicked out of office (surely condoning willful deception that contributes to widespread death and disease is more serious than an affair), then maybe, upon reflection, you don’t really think the president should be kicked out of office either.

 

 

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