Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 2, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

LIGHTING UP....A cigar-smoking friend of mine points me to this story in the Sacramento Bee:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fired up a stogie during his trip to Canada this week, but did he break U.S. law to do it?

The celebrity governor known for his love of premium cigars was in Ottawa Wednesday on his way to the airport when his motorcade made a detour to a hotel. There, Schwarzenegger picked up a Cuban Partagas cigar in a shop, with the $15.99 bill paid by an aide traveling with him, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported.

His office wouldn't confirm or deny that the governor indulged in a forbidden smoke while in Canada, where he was on a trade mission...."There's no way of telling now because he smoked it," [spokesman Aaron McLear said.]

...."Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are prohibited from purchasing or importing Cuban cigars, regardless of where they are," U.S. Treasury Department spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said in a statement.

My stogie-loving pal thinks this whole thing is stupid on so many levels his head is spinning. But I think he's missing a bet. Schwarzenegger ought to fess up to smoking contraband tobacco and then dare the ATF (or whoever) to prosecute him. Arnie can afford the attorney's fees, it would reinforce his reputation for macho behavior, and the resulting publicity would be a giant step forward in demonstrating just how dumb our Cuba policy is. Hell, even JFK thought our Cuba policy was dumb, and it was his policy in the first place.

So c'mon Arnie. Fess up! Make it a federal case. America's cigar smokers will celebrate you for it.

Kevin Drum 1:12 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (58)

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If nothing else, they can bust him for destroying evidence.

Maybe he and Michael Moore can take on the Cuba embargo together.

Posted by: Grumpy on June 2, 2007 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

JFK ordered dozens of Cuban cigars the day before he signed the ban -- is this also about Fred Thompson?

Posted by: Al on June 2, 2007 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

All this articles proves is that the breadth of celebrity-centric journalism is a mile wide and an inch deep.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on June 2, 2007 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

"[T]his articles" -- my English, it don't speak so good tonight.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on June 2, 2007 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

I believe that he violated the Trading With the Enemy Act, for which the maximum fine cannot exceed $50,000 (in practice fine never that high).

In other words, you're right that there's no downside to it.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on June 2, 2007 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

Haven't you been paying attention ... the Bush justice department views the laws only as recommendations when it comes to Republicans like Schwarzenegger and Fred "Montecristos" Thompson.

Taxpayer money is better used for punishing Bush's critics (Michael Moore) even where there is no evidence of any legal violation.

Posted by: Macswain on June 2, 2007 at 2:45 AM | PERMALINK

If the governor, whom I detest, were a Democrat, he would be under investigation and the appropriate news outlets would be expressing the common man's outrage over the breaking of a law designed to persecute political opponents.

Posted by: Brojo on June 2, 2007 at 3:20 AM | PERMALINK

he's already admitted to smoking cubans, at the state capitol no less.

Posted by: matt on June 2, 2007 at 3:42 AM | PERMALINK

I wanted to be the first to make the Michael Moore "Sicko" connection, but Grumpy beat me to it. Darn. However, I'm sure the governor will be subjected to the same amount of scrutiny

Posted by: DevilDog on June 2, 2007 at 4:52 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think Schwarzenegger violated any laws. If the cigar was purchased and smoked within the borders of Canada he would not be subject to U.S. jurisdiction...right?

Posted by: clem on June 2, 2007 at 5:28 AM | PERMALINK

Has anyone made a complaint to the Treasury Department? Maybe Michael Moore should to get even more free publicity.

Posted by: blowback on June 2, 2007 at 6:27 AM | PERMALINK

What profiteth a man to smoke a seegar when he could have been toking a spleef?

Posted by: bad Jim on June 2, 2007 at 6:32 AM | PERMALINK

No post on Cuban cigars can go without somebody quoting perhaps the only clever thing Al Haig ever said. He was caught lighting up a Cuban once when he was a defense industry CEO, and the guy with him said, Al, isn't that trading with the enemy?

To which Haig snapped: "No, I'm burning their crops."

Posted by: theAmericanist on June 2, 2007 at 6:59 AM | PERMALINK

He's a Republican. I don't think there's a US Attorney who would touch it with a ten foot pole.

Posted by: rewolfrats on June 2, 2007 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

At a recent family gathering, my youngest brother gave my oldest, mostly-Republican brother a Cuban cigar he'd bought in the People's Republic of China. You can see it's all part of a plot to bring about the moral collapse of the GOP, which will lead to the 1000-year rule of the Antichrist.

Posted by: DrBB on June 2, 2007 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Arnie really should take on the Bush Admin over Cuba. He's effective.

He met with provincial premiers of Ontario and BC to sign global warming agreements on a state-province basis. There, he provoked Bush so much that Bush made his own proposal on global warming to try to take the attention away from Arnie.

But the US is still way sick on Cuba. I wish Arnie had made overtures to Ian Delaney, a businessman who pisses off the American right with his investments in Cuba. Wee George would have been dancing with rage.

Posted by: Bob M on June 2, 2007 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Schwartenegger is a prima dona who doesn't believe the law applies to him. Smoking Cubans in California and now in Canada; or riding his motorcycle for years without a license, the law does not apply to him.

And he's right. I don't see anybody bringing up charges.

Posted by: Wapiti on June 2, 2007 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

When you have a dysfunctional political party that produces immoral retards like this , what is there left to say? Ahnold is a steroid-fried moron whose decades-long artificially elevated testosterone level obviously produced severe cerebral atrophy.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on June 2, 2007 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

What's the statute of limitations on this heinous crime? I smoked a Cuban cigar in Vancouver about 30 years ago - am I still at risk of prosecution?

Posted by: JHM on June 2, 2007 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

I hate to break it to everyone, but Cuban cigars are overrated, at least in the twenty-first century. The island is trading on the mystique of pre-Revolution Cuban cigars, a reputation that was well-deserved at the time. However, nearly all the master planters, master rollers, and best seed fled Cuba during the Revolution. Modern Cuban cigars are poorly made compared to their forebears, and are notorious for unraveling as they are smoked. Given that Cuba's planters, rollers, and seed ended up scattered throughout the Caribbean and Central America, a modern premium Dominican or Honduran cigar is a better approximation of an early twentieth century Cuban cigar than a modern Cuban cigar.

I might buy a high-end Cuban cigar if I were overseas just that I could say that I had one, but generally speaking, if I had $25 to spend on a top-shelf cigar, I'd buy a Dominican, Guatalmalan, Honduran, or Cameroon cigar before a Cuban.

Posted by: Andrew Wyatt on June 2, 2007 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

A year or two ago (maybe longer), the Federal agency (OFAC) responsible for things such as enforcing the Cuban embargo, issued a regulation that made it a crime for any American to buy or use any Cuban product anywhere in the world. The Official Pamphlet is here:

The first paragraph states the possible penalties, the second to last bullet on the first page is what we're talking about.

So, yes, Ahhnold violated that regulatory law, and is subject to the fines, prison terms, and CNN obsessions specified within.

Given Cuban prices and Canadian taxes, it sounds like someone greatly underpaid for the stick. Maybe it was counterfiet, and he could get off on a technicality?

What's worse: at last report, OFAC had fewer employees tracking terrorist financial networks than working to track and enforce the embargo.

Posted by: Prof. Marc on June 2, 2007 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

There's no way of telling now because he smoked it.

He smoked the f@#%ing wrapper and receipt? Did he smoke the MBNA server and the credit card statement?

Posted by: B on June 2, 2007 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

And since the aide paid for it, we can assume it was put on the expense account -- paid for with tax money.

Posted by: focus on June 2, 2007 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Did Monica pay for Bill's cigar?

Posted by: chance on June 2, 2007 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

I think his med insurance premiums just went up. He's certainly not the Fed. Health Program rep anymore. And I'm sure all that smoke blew right back into Canada. No foul.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on June 2, 2007 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

chance: "Did Monica pay for Bill's cigar?"

Heh-heh. He said "cigar"...

Posted by: Kenji on June 2, 2007 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

I cannot vouch for this story (which sounds too good not to be apocryphal), but I recall reading that back when he was Reagan's Secretary of State Alexander Haig was discovered savoring a Cuban stogie at a fashionable Georgetown garden party, eliciting a teasing reproach from the hostess: "Secretary Haig! A man in your position, subsidizing the Cuban economy!" Haig: "I don't regard it as subsidizing their economy," (taking a deep drag, exhaling) "I think of it as burning their crops."

For what it's worth.

Posted by: Rand Careaga on June 2, 2007 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

I understand the point of the story, but yes the whole thing is silly. Esp since all of Washington's cigar smoking power class have their own humidors stocked w/ Cubans

Posted by: Simp on June 2, 2007 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Schwarzenegger seems to have changed his brand. Arnold Schwarzenegger's garbage seems to confirm his penchant for Casillas Cuban cigars.

Posted by: Steve Crickmore on June 2, 2007 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Sheesh, the very idea that our gummnt thinks it can reach across borders to control our consumption habits whilst in foreign lands should appall folks of whatever political stripe. Dumb. Unenforceable. No story.

AntiCuban pandering in deference to the Florida primary is as idiotic as proethanol pandering to Iowa.

Posted by: Trollhattan on June 2, 2007 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

What the heck excuse do we have anymore for putting embargo on Cuban trade anyway? It made some sense in the 80s when Cuba was sponsoring insurgency in Angola etc., but now - it's just a sop to the mostly Republican Cuban expat community.

Posted by: Neil B. on June 2, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Siggy Freud (allegedly)

Posted by: Caslon on June 2, 2007 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Who's to say the aide wasn't canadian?

Posted by: toast on June 2, 2007 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't he have a triple by-pass a few years ago? brilliant guy!!

Posted by: duh on June 2, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Fresh off our victory in the Libby case, I think that Global and I would be willing to assist in Ahnolds defense if he wishes to take a stand. I'll support any decent challenge to the moronic Cuban policy we have, even if it means siding up to Ahnold.

By the way, Don in Hawaii, my condolences.

Posted by: bmaz on June 2, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry to break it to you, but you can buy Partagas by the box from Finck's Cigar Co in San Antonio Texas. They cost about $6 each when you buy them by the box.

Sad but true, my buddy in Canada tells me I buy LaBatts beer at about half the price he would pay. So a six-dollar cigar here might well be a fifteen-dollar cigar in Canada.

Posted by: serial catowner on June 2, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Schwarzenegger, Clinton, all of 'em are creeps to smoke cigars. Every kid their celebrity encourages to smoke goes on to influence many more. These "leaders" should be ashamed.

Posted by: JohnHenryCouldHammer on June 2, 2007 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

A few years back, when the cigar fad was at its peak, practically every Silicon Valley exec was smuggling Cuban cigars on almost every overseas trip.

Posted by: Joe Buck on June 2, 2007 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

So isn't torture illegal in Cuba? No Cuban jurisdiction? No U.S. jurisdiction in Canada, then.

Posted by: doug r on June 2, 2007 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to know if anyone has actually been charged under the 'buy something Cuban in a country where it's completely legal' provision.

But it's amusing that there's far greater sanction (in theory, at least) from smoking a Cohiba in Amsterdam than smoking a joint.

Posted by: ahem on June 2, 2007 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

Assuming Bill and Monica's cigar was a cubano, did the wet foot - dry foot rule apply?

Posted by: pavo on June 3, 2007 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

umm, Kevin, Ahnold didn't buy the cigar, he just smoked it. It was his aide that made the purchase, and that is the illegal part, from the text you quoted.

One could argue that the aide made the purchase on Ahnold's instructions, but that would be harder to prove than having the purcase on camera.

Posted by: Michele on June 3, 2007 at 8:24 AM | PERMALINK

I had no idea US citizens weren't allowed to buy Cuban cigars in other countries - I have, many times, in Canada and Germany. Very much to my enjoyment.

Posted by: jerry on June 3, 2007 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

OR...get someone with an even bigger budget ...like RUSH...sure he breaks this "rule" daily...proudly...and all his "dittobrains" love him for it! Just another hyprocisy...

Posted by: Dancer on June 3, 2007 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Canadian cigar shops prominently advertise Cubans in popular tourist areas, they're aimed at American visitors and they are overpriced.

(Moreover, I'm pretty sure the sin taxes on booze and tobacky are higher up here.)

Posted by: Soviet Canuckastani on June 3, 2007 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

On a business trip to Brussels about 10 years ago, I went to Davidoff with my boss so she could acquire Cuban cigars to bring back for clients. My impression is everyone knows this is going on and no one really cares... and really, should we? If Arnie gets his cigar on over there, it seems to me he's only highlighting the absurd nature of our "antiCuba" stance in practice. Do we really need to do something about this?

Posted by: weboy on June 3, 2007 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like your stogie loving pal has his head screwed on right.
Great idea!

Posted by: slanted tom on June 3, 2007 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

"If the governor, whom I detest, were a Democrat, he would be under investigation..." If the governor was a Democrat, the Sacremento Bee would never have reported it in the first place and there would have been no story. It's a liberal media.

Posted by: Dave! on June 3, 2007 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

I don't care where you get them, but for the love of Lucy, smoke them in your house. Or, in your red foreign penis-subsitute-on-wheels. Not at a bar, not at a restaurant. Nobody - NOBODY - enjoys that rank second-hand smoke, which tends to linger due to the fact that it takes an hour for you to smoke the goddamn thing.

And believe it or not, most people will not be all that impressed with your cigar-ified hipness. And...don't pass it to your globe-boobed girlfriend/wife for a drag, OK? It just looks dumb.

Cigarette smoke is one thing, cigar smoke is another. Keep that nasty shit to yourself.

Posted by: Noam Sane on June 3, 2007 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

Can Kevin point to any evidence for his assertion that JFK thought the embargo was dumb?

Posted by: gordon on June 3, 2007 at 10:51 PM | PERMALINK

Gimme cigar smoke over cigarette smoke any day of the week.

It's like saying you can tolerate Riunite but keep that $40 Barolo outta your face.

Posted by: Sebastian-PGP on June 3, 2007 at 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

>Canadian cigar shops prominently advertise Cubans in popular tourist areas, they're aimed at American visitors and they are overpriced.

...and the american tourist guys in their Tourist Shirts, smoking their cigars on the street corners while clearly zoned-out in some personal fantasy, are pretty entertaining.

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on June 3, 2007 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK

I've smoked a few in my time, and I'm not a connoisseur, but the Cubans I've smoked are are distinctly better.

Posted by: bungholio on June 4, 2007 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

The Official Pamphlet is here:

The first paragraph states the possible penalties, the second to last bullet on the first page is what we're talking about.

You're right. That's exactly what the document says. I had no idea. Wow, I can't wait to tell some of my friends. :)

Posted by: clem on June 4, 2007 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK

It's like anything else--you might have smoked a $6 Nicaraguan and then a $12 Cuban. There's Cubans...and then there's Cubans.

The above commenter who noted that the Hondurans and Dominicans and Nicaraguans is on the money...

I've had some good Bahamians and Puerto Ricans, too.

Posted by: Sebastian-PGP on June 4, 2007 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

It is perplexing and discouraging to note how many folks advocate smoking -- whether it be cigarettes or show-off cigars -- when the effects on the health of everyone around them are so well known.

It is difficult to understand why still there are those who flaunt their tobacco use.

Posted by: bigstogie on June 4, 2007 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

What the fuck is a "show off cigar?" And who's advocating anything (other than advocating the idea that Cuban cigars have been pretty over rated for the last four or five decades)?

I don't think anybody's flaunting anything anymore than people who drink wine and beer are flaunting their use of it despite the negative effects of alcohol being well established.

It's your body, use it as you will. If you think tobacco/booze/pot/sex/whatever vice of the month is bad...then don't fuckin do it.

Otherwise, save your lecture for somebody who gives a shit. The sanctimony is pretty recockulous.

Posted by: Sebastian-PGP on June 4, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Most so-called Cuban cigars are fakes, anyway. Many of them are actually Dominican or Honduran. The only way to be sure is to get them in a sealed box. Also, unless the law has changed since the last time I checked, I was under the impression that it was legal to import a small number of Cuban cigars for "personal use."

Posted by: Pocket Rocket on June 4, 2007 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK



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