freedom fries, french's, fox

Thought I would share a bit of insanity from the country of my birth, as reported in today's Globe & Mail.
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 cover-up. MSNBC, apparently, edited out the President's request for Dijon in order to help Mr. 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 Mr. Obama's Dijon-loving ways from the public.

Mr. 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 Mr. Hannity's website.

William Jacobson, a Cornell law school professor who has also been blogging about Dijongate, noted that Ms. Mitchell "didn't mention one arugula-like fact" about Mr. Obama's order earlier this week at Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, Va.

Prof. Jacobson said the MSNBC video of the stop at Ray's cuts out just as Mr. Obama asks for Dijon.

"MSNBC edited out the audio when Obama ordered his Hell Burger just at the moment when Obama asked for Dijon mustard," Prof. Jacobson wrote in a post yesterday 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."

It all harks 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 stand 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 Mr. Obama 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 Mr. Obama didn't want Dijon at all and waved her away, thrusting a bottle of French's at him.

"As the waitress walked away, I leaned over and whispered that I didn't think there were any photographers around," Mr. Obama wrote.

The anecdote underscored Mr. Obama's thoughts on 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 Prof. Jacobson's blog yesterday mocked Dijongate: "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!"

As much as this is amusing in a head-shaking kind of way, it's also horribly sad.

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