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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Tom Cole on Smoking and Politics

 At Politico, Ryan Lizza talks to Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), new chair of Appropriations and a cigar aficionado:

I’m a big believer in open humidors and open bars because they bring people together. I used to tell this to Boehner. I said, “Quit the cigarette stuff. That’s an addiction.” I mean, you’re sitting *makes sucking noises* for three minutes or something.

With a cigar, you’re going to sit down for 30 to 45 minutes, and if you’re doing it with somebody, you’re going to talk, you’re going to have a relationship. You’re going to find something in common with one another. It’s a lovely way to build a relationship and to socialize with people in a way that the cigarette generally isn’t. You never see a 15-year-old kid standing outside a building with a $20 premium cigar, sucking it up. They don’t do that. This is an adult product that leads to adult conversations and can quite often lead to some really interesting relationships and, frankly, good relationships between people that don’t often get along.

One of the worst things Pelosi ever did, and I know she did it for health reasons… You guys won’t like this, but…

I know where this is going.

… When you quit smoking in the Speaker’s Lobby and when you let in the press, you just destroy one of the places where bipartisan relationships are built. That’s how I got to know Barney Frank. That’s how I got to know Jesse Jackson Jr. when he was up here. Sit down, have a cigar, build a relationship. They were smoking cigarettes and in Frank’s case I don’t think he was ever a big cigar guy, but Jesse was.

There’s got to be some spaces where people can get together. We used to do this in the Rules office — one of the best smoking venues in the Capitol. But you’d get members from different generations there. I mean, Hal Rogers is there all the way to freshmen. There are different committees and most people live their life within their committee. I don’t know what the hell’s going on over in Ways and Means or Energy and Commerce until they produce a product and head it toward the floor. But it’s really interesting when you sit down and hear, “This is what we’re doing in Science, and this is what we’re doing in Ag. This is why we have ag crop insurance or whatever.”

If you’re not in those committees, you don’t know. Over a cigar people talk about their work. Even their questions are interesting. Their observations are interesting. It’s an enjoyable thing, but it’s also a great way to learn information, build relationships and frankly in some ways, educate people because most people learn politics by listening to stories. They’re not reading political science books for God’s sake. They talk to real politicians and they hear real stories and that’s interesting.