When I first came across President Obama’s thorny Dijon mustard “scandal”, I thought it was a joke. I figured it had to be one of those fake articles from The Onion, or at least a premise for a Terry Pratchett novel. But no, my friends. There is a calamity befalling us. Americans are faced with the frightening prospect that, with two ongoing wars, the near collapse of the financial sector, unemployment at a 25 year high, and historic numbers of Americans being forced into foreclosure, our president has betrayed his country by ordering a cheeseburger with… Dijon mustard! What kind of heathen puts Dijon mustard on a cheeseburger, for the love of all that’s holy?
Well, so sayeth the Far Right, anyway. Yes. I’m serious. That’s what they’re upset about. When President Obama and Vice President Biden made a surprise lunch stop at a burger joint in Virginia last week, the President reportedly asked for a burger with “spicy” or “Dijon mustard”. Oh, no he didn’t! He couldn’t use that patriotic, Toby Keith sing-along, Sunday school picnic yellow mustard. He had to use that pretentious, elitist, Frenchy, different tax-bracket kind of Dijon mustard?!
Conservative commentators lost their minds. Not just that, they pounced with glee.
Right-wing talk show host Laura Ingraham weighed in: “What kind of man orders a cheeseburger without ketchup but Dijon mustard?”
Fox New’s Sean Hannity invoked the Grey Poupon commercial. “I hope you enjoyed that fancy burger, Mr. President,” Hannity said.
Cornell law school professor William Jacobson has been obsessively chronicling what he has dubbed “dijongate” on his blog. “Obama ordered his burger with Dijon mustard! Bet he had to seek John Kerry’s counsel on that,” writes Jacobson.
He, too, notes the alleged cover-up by the mainstream media, noting that MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell “didn’t mention one arugula-like fact” – which was that Obama had the gall to ask for Dijon mustard. “You couldn’t hear it on the MSNBC video because Andrea and her correspondent Kelly O’Donnel (they needed two people to cover this story) were talking so much,” says Jacobson.
Okay, when you stop laughing, consider that this ridiculous discourse didn’t stop there. Apparently there are some Foodies out there who are also upset that President Obama ordered his burger medium-well – which any yuppie burger snoot will tell is just not done. No, my fellow Americans, the proper way to eat a gourmet burger (if you’re a white, tight-assed Republican with too much time on your hands) is medium to medium-rare. Holy crap! All this time my family in North Carolina has been wiping their butts on the American flag by fully cooking their meat. I’ve never grilled a burger that got a passing a grade if its center was more than a little on the pink side. Who knew this was so un-American?
Oddly enough, the same people who are so upset about this are the ones who wanted to use the phrase “Freedom Fries” instead of “french fries” in the follow-up to the September 11th attacks, when France refused us fly-over rights to go bomb the shi’ites out of Iraq. These are the same militant people who were going into convenience stores back then and using markers to scratch out the label on French’s mustard, writing in its place “U.S.A.”; all the while completely missing the irony that French’s Mustard comes from an American company, and that it’s name comes from a family, not the country. This all seems especially ironic now, giving the fact that French’s mustard is a yellow mustard.
One might well relish (no pun intended) the fact that the brand of mustard President Obama requested was Grey Poupon, the largest selling Dijon mustard in the United States. Grey Poupon is manufactured by Kraft Foods (an American company). Like other Dijon mustards, Grey Poupon contains a small amount of white wine. The wine used is produced in upstate New York under the supervision of a rabbi, to ensure that the product maintains its kosher status. It is made with brown mustard seed grown in Canada. So the worst you could possibly say about President Obama is that maybe he’s been nice to the Canadians by consuming an American product that uses Canadian grown brown mustard seeds. Or, worse in some circles, he catered to the Jews by consuming a product made with kosher wine.
But… but… it proves he’s an elitist, doesn’t it? At last! We’ve got him on something! Puh-leeze!
This all has Barry Levenson, curator of the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum, just west of Madison, Wisconsin, shaking his yellow-stained head. His museum features more than 5,000 types of mustard on display, the largest such collection in the world. It could be said that Mr. Levenson knows a thing or two about mustard.
“There’s nothing pretentious about Dijon mustard,” Levenson said. “It’s a very simple product. To say that it’s elitist to put Dijon mustard on a hamburger is absurd.”
French’s yellow mustard figures prominently in another Dijon-related anecdote President 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.
That pretty much sums it up, I think. With all the daunting problems facing Americans today, the Far Right is obsessed with the non-issue that President Obama put Dijon mustard on his cheeseburger. But apparently that aide was right. Yes, the political discourse in America really is that childish and petty. Well, at least where the Far Right are concerned.
For me, personally, this issue encapsulates the fact that the Republicans have absolutely no ammunition left. After suffering humiliating losses in the last elections, having their once vaunted majority in Congress stripped from them, and generally being left to scramble after lunatics like that religious fanatic Sarah Palin and blow-hard drug addict Rush Limbaugh to give them back their moral bearings, the Far Right has proven that their ideology is little more than smoke and mirrors.
I say let them rant. The more they talk the more they marginalize themselves. Who but a true Kool-Aid drinker of Neo-Con idology could possibly believe that its newsworthy that President Obama put Dijon mustard, and not yellow mustard, on his cheeseburger? How long will it be before the Republicans want to launch a Congressional investigation into the type of cheese that went on that burger? And if it turns out that it wasn’t American cheese, is their grounds for impeachment? Can he be tried for contempt if it was cheddar?
You can’t make up this stuff.
Kraft Foods, recognizing a marketing god-send, issued an open letter to President Barack Obama urging him to grant “pardons” to all Americans who have ever been criticized for their love of Dijon mustard.
“We believe that all Americans should have the option to exercise their freedom of taste,” said Christie Crouch, brand manager for Grey Poupon. “When we learned that President Obama was criticized for ordering a hamburger with Dijon mustard – now known as ‘Dijon-gate’ – we decided to take a stand by urging the President to issue ‘Pardon Me For Loving Dijon’ proclamations in support of condiment lovers everywhere.”
If you’d like to read the full statement, you can find it at;
Myself, I think I’ll go have a cheeseburger. Just for the hell of it, I’m going to slather on some Grey Poupon. Who knows? Barack Obama is a smart man. He might just be onto something.