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 Cincinnati (Credit: Getty images)

It was the senator who made him, who brought him his first real success, even if it didn't come till he was forty. Oh, Christopher Manach had done well enough before, with a psychiatric office up on Pill Hill and a nice old house out in Hyde Park, all orange brick and that pushy kind of Victorian austerity, like a dowager determined to show she is somebody without the gingerbread frills that lower the tone of her neighbours. 

But Dr Manach's Cincinnati practice took off for good the day he treated the senator — the young one with the springs in his heels, the Rust Belt Kid who was being boomed on the Sunday morning talk shows for the keynote at the next convention. The trouble was that the senator had started smoking in high school, become a chain smoker by his early twenties, and couldn't stop no matter what he tried: patches and gums and nicotine lozenges and those electronic sticks with the angry red light that glowed when you sucked on them and smelled like dung — the whole American industry of tobacco prohibition. Cigarettes weren't just bad for your health; they were bad for your image: a visible class marker. And if Ohio liked its politicians to have working-class backgrounds, it didn't like them with working-class foregrounds. Only the poor smoked any more — the poor and a few rich eccentrics, neither of whom voted much. The nation's middle class had decided cigarettes were an outward and visible sign of failure, a sacrament of evil, and the middle class got to say which candidates won elections. 

So into Chris Manach's office the senator walked, desperate for a way to quit. Recommended by a friend of a friend, he said, although Chris didn't think he actually knew anyone who knew any senators' friends. Not in those days. Still, the man insisted he needed help, and Chris had done the brief hypnosis round required in his medical residencies. He'd even read more recently an article in one of the research journals about combining in hypnotic subjects a set of negative images (these things taste like dog vomit) with a set of positive ones (I'm happy I don't smoke). And thinking, what the hell, it's worth a try, he put the senator under with a silver pen, a graduation present he never used, snatched up from a display stand on a side table. 

A few sessions later and the young politician was off the couch and off the tobacco, singing Chris's praises to everyone he met. The local Ohio papers picked up the story, which led to a mention in the New York Times's profile of the senator, which led to a semi-regular mental-health gig on one of the national morning-television gabfests. The least watched one, he had to admit, but still, television is television, and with every rich person in five states trying to schedule an appointment, Dr Christopher Manach could afford to be humble. 

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November 4th, 2014
1:11 AM

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