Time Magazine has some photos of their man of the year, Presidential Elect Barack Obama, as a Freshman at Occidental college. The pictures were taken in 1980 by then-aspiring photographer Lisa Jack who recently dug the negatives out from her basement. She put her negatives of Obama, a whole roll of film, in a safety deposit box until after the election so the photos couldn’t be used against him in any way. One photo of Obama smoking looks like he could be smoking pot given the way he’s holding the cigarette. MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked Time editor Rick Stengel “what’s he smoking?”
Obama admitted to past marijuana and brief cocaine use in his first memoir, Dreams from My Father. The future President has said that it’s not a secret that he’s done stupid things. “I think that, at this stage, my life is an open book, literally and figuratively. Voters can make a judgment as to whether dumb things that I did when I was a teenager are relevant to the work that I’ve done since that time.” It helped Obama in the election that revelations about his youthful indiscretions were pretty old news by the time he was running for the highest office.
Other photos from the same series make it obvious that Obama was just smoking a cigarette, a bad habit he hasn’t entirely left behind. The photographer also said that he brought a pack of smokes with him to meet her for the session. He said early last year that he’d “quit [smoking] periodically,” has “never been a heavy smoker,” and that he’s been using Nicorette to help, but he’s never declared himself smoke free. In my mind his occasional smoking is worse than whatever he did in college because he’s presumably doing it now. It’s a negative image for the millions who look to the President to serve as an example. There are worse things, though, and I know I’d much rather have a President who sneaks a smoke once in a while than one who is incapable of running the country.
Lisa Jack, the woman who took the classic pictures of Obama now on Time’s website, said that he was “very charismatic, even then,” and that she met him again 25 years later in 2005 in Washington. She said “He knew exactly who I was after all this time.” Jack now works as a psychologist.
Thanks to The Huffington Post for the heads up on this story.