Of course I'm not saying what a candidate eats should be the sole factor considered by voters when determining the next president of the United States. That would be crazy. Other things are important too -- like what he drinks, and economic policy and stuff.
But character surely plays a role in our evaluation, and "you are what you eat" implies that what we put in our gut very much defines our character. It also means that I should seriously consider giving up olive loaf-and-mayonnaise sandwiches.
Here is what I'm getting at: Mitt Romney has in the past exhibited an eccentricity of eating habits, and has uttered or tweeted some peculiar statements regarding food, that could call into question his judgement and (dare I say?) even manliness to be President of the United States.
Here are ten examples of what I'm talking about:
10. He Only Drinks Decaf Soda, and Associates Coke With Young People and Polar Bears
Some accuse Romney of being a flip-flopper, but an article in New York Magazine makes clear that there are times Mitt will pick a side and stick to it no matter what. Like, for instance, in the Pepsi vs. Coke debate. "They were all the same to me (as a kid): sweet, delicious, and, because my Mother frowned on caffeine drinks, rare," Mitt reminisces in his book Turnaround. "But I began to associate Coke with all sorts of things I like: smiling young people, sports, music, the Olympics, and recently, polar bears. Those associations make me 'feel good' about Coke, a lot better than I do about RC Cola (are you still out there RC?). So when I pick up a twelve-pack at the grocery store or step up to a soft drink machine, I'll push the Coke button (of course caffeine-free, Mom) even if it costs a little more."
I stand corrected: He takes a firm stance in the Coke vs. RC Cola debate.
9. He Thinks a Subway Breakfast Is Better Than Donuts
Romney's a cool dude. Or to put it another way: It's been so damn hot outside that everything, including Mitt, seems cool. Plus he's got a Twitter account. "Thanks @subwayfreshbuzz for breakfast," he tweeted, "Better than the usual campaign diet of morning donuts."
Subway over donuts? That's not cool at all. On the other hand, it's one of those things he probably just said for Subway's support, in which case he's only being insincere.
8. He Has A Thing For Carl's Jr.
There's really nothing wrong with this, but it sure doesn't sound good -- especially for those who don't know that Carl's Jr. is a burger chain. But he really does like the place. The New York Times reported in September that "Mr. Romney has tried the new $4.39 Carl's Jr. jalapeño chicken sandwich, celebrated the Reagan Library debate with fast-food burgers and fries (again, Carl's Jr.), and dug into a Subway flatbread sandwich while sitting in an airport terminal." And Mr. Cool hit the Tweetosphere again to proclaim that "@Andy Puzder was right, new @CarlsJr jalapeño chicken sandwich is delicious."
Should this mysterious Andy Puzder be a considered a dark horse selection for Romney's Veep pick?
And why does Romney appear to like fast food so much? Mother Jones makes the case that it's because fast food likes him.
7. He Removes The Middle Bun From His Big Macs
The Washington Post described Romney's campaign routine while fighting off a cold in March of this year:
"He had been going to bed at about 9 pm to maximize his sleep, and eating peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches in his bus or McDonald's on the plane, careful to save carbs by removing the middle bun from his Big Macs."
Removing American dollars into offshore accounts is one thing, but removing the middle bun from a Big Mac? If Mitt was a Democrat, this sort of thing would instigate a whisper campaign about him being a communist.
6. He Eats Granola From Ziplock Bags
New York Magazine refers to a 2007 piece in The New York Times about Romney's wife baking him granola, "which she packs into gallon Ziplock bags". And Ann also reveals that hubby likes to eat yogurt and fruit.
And to think the media used to ridicule Jerry Brown for being "the granola Governor." What term will they come up with for Romney? But seriously: Is this guy a right-winger, a moderate, or a hippie?
5. He Eats Turkey Burgers
Mitt's mom Lenore, while Michigan's first lady, contributed a beef stroganoff recipe to one of those Junior League cookbooks. Mitt's wife Ann placed a recipe for turkey burgers on the digital-style community cookbook Pinterest. Tom Sietsema, the Washington Post's heralded food critic, tried both recipes. Of the stroganoff: "Very reminiscent of something that originated in a can." Of the turkey burger: "Juiceless...quite flavorless and dry." Sietsema grudgingly acknowledged, when pressed, that he'd go for a second helping of the stroganoff before he'd have another burger.
We don't hold it against Romney that the women in his life weren't great cooks. Besides, it goes a long way in explaining why he's so enamored of Carl's Jr. More distressing in a potential presidential context is that turkey burgers represent wishy-washiness. Those who eat it really want a regular hamburger, but their conscience tells them they're better off without any meat at all. So they compromise on their passion and principle and go with a turkey burger -- the worst of both worlds. We might want to think twice before entrusting a turkey-burger-eater to negotiate with the Chinese. Just saying.
4. What Does He Have To Have In The Fridge? Low-fat Milk
In an interview with Parade magazine last year, Ann Romney answered the question "What does he always have to have in the refrigerator?" with: "Low-fat milk because he's a big cereal hound." Quaker Oatmeal Squares and Brown Sugar Chex Bites were cited as her husband's go-to breakfast cereals (what happened to the granola?). What is "something bad" that he likes to eat or drink? Ann says it's "Over the Moon Low-Fat Chocolate Milk."
Why do I suddenly envision the White House kitchen resembling a school cafeteria? On the plus side, it appears as though less of our tax dollars will be needed for a White House chef.
3. Cheesy Grits?
While campaigning in Jackson, Mississippi during the primary season, Romney attempted to woo the crowd with awkward attempts at assimilation: "I got started right this morning with a biscuit and some cheesy grits...Delicious."
The move backfired, creating a "Gritsgate" on political blogs. "Where are the pictures of Romney eating 'grits'?" one demanded to know. A headline in The Atlantic Wire sniffed: "Mitt Romney's Southern Pander Involves Grits, Y'all."
When then-Vice President Nelson Rockefeller ran for the Republican presidential nomination, he did much worse by pouring sugar on his grits in front of the chairman of the Florida Republican party, L.E. Thomas. Thomas later told the Florida Times Union in Jacksonville that "anyone who sugars his grits shouldn't be vice president and certainly won't ever win in the South."
2. He Removes The Cheese From His Pizza
Mike Allen and Evan Thomas reported on Romney's exercise and dieting routine in their Random House eBook about the current election. They describe him as "a dutiful jogger" who runs three miles every morning no matter where he is, even if it means "around and around the hotel (often a Marriott)." But then comes the disturbing part: "If he has a slice of pizza, he pulls the cheese off the top."
Do we want such a man to be president? What if Romney is in Moscow negotiating a vital matter over dinner with Vladimir Putin when he suddenly interrupts the delicate back-and-forth to wipe the sour cream and caviar from his blini? What if he attends a formal dinner in Japan along with an array of distinguished Asian leaders and gravely insults his hosts by picking the toro from his sushi roll? And of course we could never send him to Italy. Think carefully, my friends.
1. He Pulls The Skin Off His Chicken, Too
Also from Allen and Thomas: "Usually, Romney dines on turkey breast, rice, and broccoli, chased by water or maybe a Diet Coke. In South Carolina, for a big treat, he might visit a Bojangles for the fried chicken. Romney relished KFC, but pulled off the skin."
Let's consider judgement here: Bojangles is "a big treat." He "relished" KFC. He liked to chase his meals with "water or maybe a Diet Coke." My God, this guy eats like a Mormon!
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So, in effect, we are contemplating the notion of handing over the highest office in the land to an individual who removes bun from burger, cheese from pizza, and skin from chicken. Honest folk will come to different conclusions regarding the wisdom of doing so, but if nothing else, I think we can all agree that Mitt likes to play with his food.