Bravo, CVS. That’s a bold and even historic move, banning cigarettes. It’s true it isn’t costing the company much—the sticks accounted for just $2 billion of its $123 billion in revenue last year, according to The New York Times. But even so, it’s a decision by an American mega-corporation that was made in… sit down and steady yourself… the public interest! Everyone’s for that, right? Right? Wait, what’s that rumble I hear over the gloaming?…
Why, it’s Fox News! And they aren’t happy. Yes—you read that right. On Fox News, CVS’s decision not to sell an addictive product that kills hundreds of thousands of Americans prematurely every year stinks of a big commie plot. Daytime host Gretchen Carlson said something idiotic Wednesday even by daytime Fox News’s idiotic standards. From Media Matters:
“Is it OK legally… to restrict tobacco availability in a private store like this?” She questioned her guests as to whether they would continue shopping at CVS and observed that, “For people who smoke, you know, they have a right to buy cigarettes. It’s not illegal.”
Is it legal?! Good God. Quintuple bacon cheeseburgers are legal. And yet, some restaurants choose not to offer them! Lawbreakers! Pinkos!
Yes, pinkos, see, because they’re becoming part of, you guessed it, the Obama agenda. That was the worry of Neil Cavuto, who wondered if CVS was “getting scaredy cat” since “with the health-care law and the changes and everything else,” selling tobacco products “didn’t look good.” And to round things out, Dana Perino, who actually used to stand at a podium to convey to the American people the substance of their government’s positions and policies, asked on the show called The Five: “Is this President Obama now saying that corporations are allowed to have values and express them? Because if that’s the case, maybe corporations then don’t have to provide contraceptive care to their employees or their health plans.”
See the thread there? It’s Obama’s fault. A corporation makes a decision of its own volition, on the highly logical grounds that if it purports to be in the health business it shouldn’t also be in the cigarette business, and it’s Obama’s fault. If he weren’t out there making people buy insurance, and if that nettlesome wife of his weren’t forcing all these poor children to grow all that awful kale, if they weren’t trying to make America… healthy (!), CVS never would have done this.
Perino turns up the stupid by dragging in the Hobby Lobby case. Private corporations in the United States can do a lot of things. If that Chick-Fil-A guy wants to close on Sundays to honor Jesus? Fine, let him. But there are things corporations can’t do—there are laws and regulations they have to follow. And they have never claimed a right to the free exercise of their religion. That’s because corporations aren’t people, my friend. They don’t have a religion. They have Catholic and Methodist and Jewish and Hindu and Muslim and Jainist and atheist and all kinds of employees. The idea that a corporation has a religious “value” is preposterous, although with this Supreme Court, admittedly anything is possible.
But that’s a side point. What Fox News is really unhappy about, of course, is what it likes to call “liberal fascism,” as defined by the concept’s savant, Jonah Goldberg. As I slogged my way through Goldberg’s tedious book on the subject a few years back (producing this rather amusing review), I noticed that as he plowed through history, liberal fascism started out as, oh, the Civilian Conservation Corps, which I recall him comparing to the Hitler Youth. After all, both were in the 1930s, both involved kids wearing uniforms, both movements professed the goal of social uplift. One was dedicated to the greater glory of one man; the other to flood control and forest protection—but OK, Jonah, whatever.
Once he got to our time, Goldberg was reduced to arguing that the liberal-fascist tendency was alive and well in Whole Foods. Because Whole Foods purveys salubrious items, wants you to have things that are “good for you,” and that sounded to him suspiciously like things Hillary Clinton wants, and she’s the biggest liberal fascist of all. Or was until Obama. Who is—until he leaves the White House and Hillary moves back in when she’ll take back over.
So now, anything a corporation does that smacks of being in the public interest will reek of liberal fascism and will thus be met with resistance in Ailes-land. Car companies pursuing improved gas mileage, introducing more hybrids? Manufacturers using sustainable materials and processes? Junk-food makers cutting back on the sugar and salt? They’re not trying to do anything good for the world. They can’t be doing that. Normal, good, red-blooded, private-sector Americans don’t do that. There must be a reason, and in Foxland, it’s that these folks are ninnies who are just preemptively kowtowing to the thugs Obama keeps on the payroll to dream up new rules Americans should have to live by.
The silver lining here is that they’re on the losing side of history. One imagines that in due course, Rite Aid will follow, and Walgreens, and Duane Reade, and in a few years’ time cigarettes will be out of all drugstores. And then the convenience stores will start to tumble, and the vast majority of Americas will agree that this is fine. And the Fox News demographic will start aging into the grave, and Gretchen Carlson can go on fuming to a smaller and smaller audience, and the rest of us will be able to say to them, in the words of Stevie Winwood: Light up and leave us alone.