It’s been over a month since President Obama and Vice President Biden snuck out from the White House to have some burgers for lunch. However, we haven’t heard the last word about this controversial act. It has been pushed off the front page because the headlines have been hogged by pesky things like the economy, Iran, and Miss California.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the burger story is toast. I assume that people on all sides are just marshaling their forces before they carefully articulate their responses. The first salvos will probably be from the vegetarians. Expect things like, “How can a president who presents himself as caring about living things eat cow for lunch?”
Barack Obama is not just the president of the United States; he is also the top politician of America. As such, he is careful to please as many people as possible and to offend as few. Presidents always have to balance what they do in public. That’s why they rarely choose one sports team over another. Obama has broken with this tradition, openly rooting for some silly baseball team on the South Side of Chicago. So maybe his area for trying to please all the people all the time will be culinary.
Since he went to a place for a hamburger, we can assume that he was appealing to those who feel he is a namby-pamby, recycling, hybrid driving, book reading, yogurt eating liberal. He was showing them that he eats red meat. After the polls indicate that he has won over these critics, look for him and Biden to be photographed having lunch at a place like “Mike’s Metaphysical Meatless Mart.” He’ll be biting into an avocado and sprouts sandwich, drinking a carrot and kelp cocktail, and slapping Biden on his hemp shirt.
There will be those who oppose his hamburger consumption on the basis of health. “The president and first lady talk about healthy eating all the time, and he has lunch at Ray’s Hell Burgers!” It wasn’t an accident. He may talk about eating more fruits and vegetables, but he doesn’t want to be seen as hurting the cattle ranchers and everyone else in the meat industry. So he had a very public hamburger.
If he orders chicken in a restaurant, he’d better specify “free range” chicken or the PETA proponents will be all over him. (This “free range is more humane” thing is something I’ve never quite gotten.
I understand that chickens that are kept in cages are ill-treated and have unhappy lives before they meet their demise and are eaten. But is it more humane to let chickens roam happily like the cast of an old Disney movie and let them think their lives are beautiful, and then surprise them with the axe before putting them on our plates? At least the caged chickens have no dashed expectations.)
The next time he and Michelle go on a dinner date in New York, watch for the outcry if they go to a French restaurant. Even though an overwhelming number of Americans now feel that our invasion of Iraq was a mistake just as the French felt when it happened, Americans are always mad at France for something. So you can assume that if the First Couple dines on duck a l’orange, soon they’ll be at Ye Olde King’s Head, eating bangers and mash.
Let’s say Obama has a hankering for some Middle Eastern food and he goes out for falafel. Before the word gets out that he’s soft on certain Arab countries, he’ll have to stop off at a deli for some lox and bagels.
If he eats Korean food, he’ll make sure everyone knows he only likes South Korean food. If he orders a take-out Chinese dinner, he’ll be certain that the rear bumper of the car picking it up will have a “Free Tibet” sticker on it.
No wonder presidents eat most of their meals in the White House prepared by their chefs. It’s less of a hassle, less of a chance of offending someone. At least that’s the theory. But it seems to me that by doing so, the president runs the risk of offending a huge voting bloc of Americans — those of us who don’t have chefs.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from “Sesame Street” to “Family Ties” to “Home Improvement” to “Frasier.” He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his Web site at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.