“Fortuitous timing, yes,” says author and longtime DC resident Christopher Buckley in his usual dry manner, referring to the publicity that the
Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal is providing for Thank You for Smoking, his 1994 satire on lobbying and corporate spin that has been made into
The indie picture, which screened at the Sundance Film Festival and will open in theaters in mid-March, tells a tale slightly different from Abramoff’s lurid confessions. “My hero’s more of a PR guy who’s not in it for the money but for the challenge,” says Buckley, son of the conservative pundit William F. Buckley Jr. “He doesn’t like being bossed around.”
Protagonist Nick Naylor, chief flack for the tobacco industry, hews closely to Buckley’s own libertarian views—if someone wants to poison himself, he has every right to. Naylor attends a weekly lunch with his gun- and alcohol-lobby counterparts, who refer to themselves affectionately as the Merchants of Death, or theM.O.D. Squad.
Buckley says he’s been “greatly saddened” by the Abramoff scandal. “This is as far as it gets from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But I’ve gone through all the Kübler-Ross stages of grief, and now I’m just a generally numb and very disappointed Republican.”
Buckley doubts much of America has been affected by Abramoff: “Beyond the Beltway long ago concluded that Inside the Beltway is sleazy and crazy.”