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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Mark Steyn Asks, "Could Kerry slum it in the White House?"

I found this gem while wondering around the web:
Could Kerry slum it in the White House?
By Mark Steyn

During their triumphant 1939 tour of Canada, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth took a brief detour south of the border to visit the Roosevelts at Hyde Park. It was the first time a reigning monarch had set foot on American soil and, to mark the occasion, President and Mrs Roosevelt introduced the royal couple to a local delicacy called "hot dogs".

There's an important lesson there: an American president, even one as wealthy as FDR, is obligated to share the tastes of the people in a way that the House of Windsor is not, even today. Try to imagine the roles reversed: the Roosevelts at Windsor, and the King serving up jellied eels and mushy peas.

And that's the problem with John Kerry: it's not that he's rich, but that he's rich in a very un-American way. His swank has a European air about it.

When he eats a hot dog, it appears as foreign to him as it did to George VI.
I've never had the oppertunity to see Kerry eat a hot dog; however, I do remember seeing him eat a hoagie

But I digress, back to the article which was already in progress

Case in point: on Friday, the Kerry campaign bus was passing through Newburgh, north of New York, and stopped at the local Wendy's. That's a fast-food chain. I used to prefer them to McDonald's and Burger King, because they used square patties between round buns and it was fun to nibble the corners off. Hence the last time Wendy's figured in a presidential campaign, 20 years ago, when Walter Mondale appropriated their taunt to their competitors and turned it on Ronald Reagan: "Where's the beef?" The preceding explanation is for the benefit of British readers. It should not be necessary to explain what Wendy's is to any American, even presidential candidates.

So the campaign team dropped in at the burger joint. Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of Kerry's running mate, had told a heartwarming personal anecdote at the Democratic convention about how every anniversary she and her husband celebrate at Wendy's, because on their wedding night it was the only restaurant they could afford to eat at.

John Edwards's campaign theme is a slice of warmed-over Disraeli: there are "two Americas", one for the rich, one for the poor, and, even though he's part of the former, he wants you to know that he started out in the latter. Friday was the Edwardses' 27th anniversary, so, in keeping with tradition, they hit the Newburgh Wendy's, along with the Kerrys, campaign mascot Ben Affleck and accompanying press crew.

The photo-op didn't go smoothly. Kerry went over to say hi to some marines, who turned out to be Bush supporters and resented the interruption to their lunch. More telling was Teresa Heinz Kerry. She pointed to the picture of the bowl of chilli above the clerk's head: "What's that?" she asked. He explained that it was something called "chilli" and she said she'd like to try a bowl. The Senator also ordered a Frosty, a chocolate dessert. They toyed with them after a fashion, and then got back on the bus.

It then emerged that Wendy's had just been an appetiser. The campaign advance team had ordered 19 five-star lunches from the Newburgh Yacht Club for Kerry, Edwards, Affleck and co to be served back on the bus: shrimp vindaloo, grilled diver sea scallops, prosciutto, wrapped stuffed chicken, etc.

I'm not sure whether Ben had the shrimp and Teresa the scallops, but, either way, it turns out John Edwards is right: there are two Americas - one America where folks eat at Wendy's, another America where the elite pass an amusing half-hour slumming among the folks at Wendy's and then chow down on the Newburgh Yacht Club's specials of the day. The Elizabeth Edwards anniversary-at-Wendy's shtick was meant to emphasise her husband's authenticity, but it now looks as inauthentic as Kerry's own blundering "regular guy" routine.


On reflection, I now see there might indeed be something to the idea of a remote privileged class hermetically sealed off from the masses. Unfortunately, John Kerry seems to be the best living exemplar of it. He may not enjoy eating at Wendy's, but his faux lunch order captures the essence of his crowd-working style: chilli and Frosty. If I were the Wendy's marketing director, I'd make it the John Kerry Special from now through election day.


The tonal disconnect is only going to get worse between now and November. At the convention last week, Ted Kennedy urged Americans to make sure that, this January, John Kerry has a "nice new home". But, thanks to his wife's first husband, he already has five multi-million-dollar homes, including a 15th-century stone barn dismantled and shipped over from England to serve as their ski chalet in Idaho.

By contrast, George W Bush has one modest ranch in Crawford, a town no one would choose to live in unless it genuinely was his home. As Noemi Emery put it in the Weekly Standard, Kerry is not just "the richest man ever to run on a national ticket", but also "the most self-indulgent in his lifestyle, and the most quasi-royal in his sense of himself".

That gives a whiff of condescension to his chant of "Help Is On The Way", a slogan already a tad too crudely nanny-statish. On the other hand, it's a very good catchphrase for Senator Kerry if he's back at the 15th-century ski chalet in Idaho and Teresa is complaining because she rang for a Scotch five minutes ago. "Don't be so impatient, lovie. The help is on the way."

I only took out a few paragraphs, a few lines really, as I like to respect copyrights as much as possible on E*D; but this article was so well written and the content so needs to be shared that I felt the greater crime would be in cutting out too many lines. Be that as it may, I suggest everyone check out the piece in it's entirity and click on their advertiser's links.

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