All D.C. is a-twitter with yesterday's big burger run by the White House's answer to the Venture Bros.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden jaunted off to an Arlington, Virginia restaurant called Ray's Hell Burger, where they and their posse ingested mass quantities of burgers and house-speciality "cheesy tater puffs."
In case you're keeping score, here's a Wash Post rendering:
Obama, customer No. 42, opted for something more simple: "Your basic cheddar cheeseburger, medium well."
No ketchup, the president said, but lettuce and tomato. And: "Have you got a spicy mustard or somethin' like that? A Dijon mustard?"
Biden ordered a Swiss cheeseburger with jalapeno peppers and ketchup, medium well, and a root beer....
Obama and Biden went Dutch—basic cheeseburgers cost $7.95—as each pulled a wad of cash from his wallet to pay. But Obama bought burgers for reporters, cameramen and staff, including personal aide Reggie Love. "We're paying, or these people are gonna write about how we're freeloading," Obama said, pointing to members of the press corps, whom he dismissed as "cheap dates."
The president left $5 in the tip jar.
Obama should know better: You really don't have to pay for fawning coverage from the Fourth Estate (now reduced for quick sale by owners!), though I'm sure all the starving members of the White House press corps are happy with the free-to-them grub, especially now that Jack Germond isn't standing in the way of the fixin's bar.
These sorts of ultra-lame, super-calculated P.R. stunts really chap my hide. They're simply the obverse of official stories that Kim Jong-il doesn't ever go to the bathroom or that Mussolini could beat even Italian champs at tennis, clearly phony embellishments to alternately make leaders either superhuman or super-normal.
What's even more stunning is that they apparently work. Check this out:
Bonnie Cosby, 51, a technology consultant who picked up burgers on her way home from work, opined: "It shows that he's in touch with the people, that he's not up in the ivory tower. He's a real person—with a burger."
Dear Bonnie: If that's the conclusion you draw from the burger run, please step away from the technology, which I really hope isn't nuclear.
We are supposed to live in a republic (small R!) and one of the grand traditions of republics is that the de-spectacularize the public sphere, especially when it comes to representing political figures. Kings and monarchs rubbed their divine status in the face of the common man through gigantic and expensive pageants. Now wealthy and uber-powerful pols pretend to be sans-culottes, which may be even more insulting. Like Lady Obama wearing $540 sneakers to a food bank handout (or Nancy Reagan using dinner china made from the bones of Warner Bros. backlot extras) this sort of phony-baloney common-manism should get nothing but scorn.
Next time, just order in so we can lose the momentary diversion and get back to the important stories, such as whether Chrysler will be bought by Fiat or whether it will be run by Obama's fiat.
And if we do have to put up with calculated public-relations displays, can't we just go back to the days of Silent Cal Coolidge in a headdress? Or maybe some other other member of the Village People?
Oh yeah, btw, President Obama, there's a rally today right near your house to save the DC school voucher program that you're helping to kill in the name of caring about low-income kids trapped in schools you'd never send your own children to. Maybe you can skip the lunch run today and head out over to that? And if you can't make it, I'm sure VP Joe isn't doing more than taking a nap at 1pm.
Watch the voucher vid below and click here for details on the rally.