Friday, May 8, 2009
U.S.A.! U.S.A.! vol. 24
Amid recession, two wars and swine flu, conservatives assail Obama over Dijon
By Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON - The United States is in the midst of a devastating recession, mired in two overseas wars and grappling with a swine flu outbreak, but conservative critics are assailing President Barack Obama on another pressing issue: his choice of burger topping.
Dijongate is in full force, with Fox News and a conservative blogger leading the charge against the president for his choice of the apparently un-American mustard atop his cheeseburger during a recent impromptu lunch stop with Vice-President Joe Biden.
There's no evidence of wiretapped hotel rooms or a Deep Throat lurking in the shadows, but there are indeed accusations of a coverup - MSNBC, apparently, edited out the president's request for Dijon in order to help Obama maintain his "man of the people" street cred.
Fox's Sean Hannity has been telling his viewers that MSNBC - and reporter Andrea Mitchell in particular - are trying to hide Obama's Dijon-loving ways from the public.
Hannity has been referring to the president's lunch as his "fancy burger."
"It was Grey Poupon, which is equally snotty," alleged one commenter on Hannity's website.
William Jacobson, a Cornell law school professor who has also been blogging about Dijongate, noted that Mitchell "didn't mention one arugula-like fact" about Obama's order earlier this week at Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Va.
Jacobson said the MSNBC video of the stop at Ray's cuts out just as Obama asks for Dijon. He refers to MSNBC as "Obama's favourite network."
"MSNBC edited out the audio when Obama ordered his Hell Burger just at the moment when Obama asked for Dijon mustard," Jacobson wrote in a Thursday post entitled "Thou Shalt Not Mock Obama's Mustard."
"Now, I have nothing against Dijon mustard, but the image didn't fit with the image being spun by the White House and MSNBC. Dijon mustard on a Hell Burger had a very John Kerry-ish quality about it."
Jacobson blogged about other incidents in which Obama has revealed his weakness for the spicy French condiment.
It's a key ingredient, for example, in the president's favourite tuna salad, and he also had the gall to request it during his first trip on Air Force One.
"And the mainstream media didn't cover it," Jacobson wrote.
It all hearkens back to those silly days of "freedom fries," the name given to French fries by hawkish conservatives in 2003 when France expressed strong opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The French stance resulted in a call from American right-wingers for a boycott of French goods and the removal of the country's name from products. That left America's best-selling mustard - French's - in a bit of a quandary.
French's, in fact, figures prominently in a Dijon-related anecdote Obama himself chronicled in his book, "The Audacity of Hope."
He told the story of his first tour through Illinois, when he ordered Dijon on his cheeseburger at a TGI Friday's.
His panicked political aide assured the waitress that Obama didn't want Dijon at all and waved her away, thrusting a bottle of French's at him instead. The waitress, perplexed, assured Obama that she had Dijon if he wanted it.
"As the waitress walked away, I leaned over and whispered that I didn't think there were any photographers around," Obama wrote.
The anecdote underscored Obama's thoughts on what he viewed as the absurdity of focusing on non-issues in politics.
"What's troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics-the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial," he wrote.
One commenter on Jacobson's blog mocked Dijongate on Thursday: "Wait till the right finds out he eats guacamole, then he'll be seen as a pro-immigrant nut job. God forbid he ever takes a bite of hummus!"
Jacobson, however, insists that alleged efforts to cover up Obama's choice of mustard this week are newsworthy.
"I don't think anyone is 'upset' with his choice of mustard, although that is how some are spinning it," Jacobson said in an e-mail. "It is the absurd level of image control, which is not trivial."
Nonetheless, some of the right's attacks on Obama have bordered on the inane, subjecting conservatives to ridicule.
Comedian Bill Maher, a longtime libertarian, recently maligned the right and their fixation on the trivial in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times.
"Here are the big issues for normal people: the war, the economy, the environment, mending fences with our enemies and allies, and the rule of law," Maher wrote.
"And here's the list of Republican obsessions since President Obama took office: that his birth certificate is supposedly fake, he uses a TelePrompTer too much, he bowed to a Saudi guy, Europeans like him, he gives inappropriate gifts, his wife shamelessly flaunts her upper arms, and he shook hands with Hugo Chavez and slipped him the nuclear launch codes."
Conservatives, Maher wrote, are now behaving like "the bitter divorced guy whose country has left him - obsessing over it, haranguing it, blubbering one minute about how much you love it and vowing the next that if you cannot have it, nobody will," he wrote.
"But ... your country is not coming back to you. She's found somebody new. And it's a black guy."