DUSTY RHOADES: Why's the Press So Hung Up On What Candidates Eat?
Has there ever been an election in which the press was so fixated on food?
It seems like every day there's some new kerfluffle arising out of some candidate's visit to a restaurant, and deep, allegedly serious analysis by the chattering class over the burning questions raised by what said candidate did or did not do in said eating establishment.
First, of course, there was "Tip-gate," where the press was all atwitter for days over whether Sen. Hillary Clinton had tipped her waitress at one of those "loose-meat" places for which the Midwest is dubiously famous. Until it turned out that her campaign staff didn't just tip, but that they may have actually overtipped, at which point the discussion became about whether Clinton was out of touch with working people because of that.
Then there was the whole idiocy over Sen. Barack Obama and cheesesteak (that's a sandwich) in Pennsylvania. Why didn't he order a cheesesteak? Is he too good for cheesesteak? Is he thumbing his nose at Pennsylvanians because he decided one day to not order a cheesesteak?
Hey, I sometimes go three, even four days without ordering a bloomin' cheesesteak. And some of my best friends live in Philly. Get over it already.
The whole food fixation reached its nadir the moment that Obama was dissected on the Chris Matthews trivia show "Hardball" over the fact that he ordered -- are you ready for this?
After briefly noting that Obama, while campaigning in Indiana, had appeared at a "raucous" political rally in front of an enthusiastic crowd, during which rally he addressed the economy and the housing crisis, Matthews blew past his sidekick David Shuster's attempt to actually talk about what Obama had said, and focused in on the real issue Americans should be concerned about: how well Obama "handles himself" in a diner.
After being gently redirected a couple of times by the Big Man, Shuster realized what his master wanted, and delivered the goods: "Well," he said, "here's the other thing that we saw on the tape, Chris, is that, when Obama went in, he was offered coffee, and he said, 'I'll have orange juice.'"
"No!" a clearly horrified Matthews said.
I know, I know, I was as shocked as you, but not as shocked as Chris Matthews. I mean, no one can ever be as shocked as Matthews when it comes to candidates' gustatory habits, so long as that candidate's a Democrat. What kind of American, offered coffee, asks for orange juice instead?
Oh, wait. I've done that.
Look, as anyone who's seen me in the morning with my coffee cup seemingly glued to my hand can attest, I love me a hot cup of java. But if I've already had my third one, or if it's a warm day, or for any number of other reasons, I might very well tell the nice ladies at Mac's Breakfast Anytime, "No thanks on the coffee, but I could really use some OJ right now." It doesn't make me a bad American. There are plenty of other things that do that -- right, y'all?
Now, when it comes to Sen. John McCain, the food obsession takes on a different slant, thanks in large part to the press' ongoing man-crush on Big John. McCain, ever the canny politician, invited members of the press to a barbecue at his "rustic Arizona home," where he wowed them by appearing "tongs in hand, on the deck of his ranch house," and cooking "baby back ribs and grilled chicken."
I suppose after such generosity, it would be mean-spirited to note that the "rustic Arizona home" is worth over a million dollars and that it's one of multiple high-dollar properties in the name of McCain's wife Cindy. After all, John Edwards and Al Gore, who were castigated for their own luxurious digs, never fed the press ribs and grilled chicken, so they're fair game.
What is the deal? Is the press just not getting enough to eat on the road and that's why they're so fixated on what the candidates are eating and so willing to kiss the barbecue-sauce-stained ring of anyone who feeds them? I take a look at the figures of some of the people I see on the TV talk shows, and I find this explanation a little doubtful.
I swear, one of these days we're going to turn on the TV and see that Katie Couric has been replaced by the Food Channel's Rachael Ray, Emeril is hosting "Hardball," and Bill O'Reilly has been replaced by that crazy chef from the "Hell's Kitchen" show.
Actually, come to think of it, those may actually be improvements.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, eats, and practices law in Carthage.?
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