The McNugget President
by David Goodloe
When I was fresh out of college and working as a reporter for a daily newspaper in central Arkansas, I found myself in the press entourage that covered then–former Gov. Bill Clinton and his opponent in the gubernatorial runoff for the Democratic nomination.
Typically, the reporters who were assigned to cover the candidates followed in a separate plane as the candidates bounced around the state, hopping from one small airstrip to the next. At each stop, the reporters would pile into vehicles that were provided by the local campaign workers for whichever candidate the reporters were following that day, and they would be taken to the rally where the candidate would speak.
The candidates usually gave the same speech repeatedly all day — the “speech of the day,” as some reporters jokingly referred to it — so, by the third or fourth stop, there really wasn’t much point in pulling out your notebook until after the speech was over because that was when newsworthy developments were likely to happen — if they happened at all. And sometimes they didn’t.
On one such late spring/early summer afternoon, I recall sitting in the backseat of a campaign staffer’s car and being driven to the candidate’s local campaign headquarters, where a rally was scheduled. The staffers in the front seat apparently were local businessmen, and one was discussing a new product that he thought was worthy of investment. Those who invested in this product, he assured his companions, would be rich beyond their wildest dreams.
The product was McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets — which, as I recall, actually had been introduced in the larger markets, like New York and Los Angeles, a few years earlier, but, as usual, the product didn’t make it to Arkansas until its public appeal had been verified elsewhere.
Anyway, I remember this businessman gushing about this product, how simple it was and how it could taste like anything you wanted it to taste like, depending upon which sauce you ordered. No one else in the car had tasted the chicken nuggets before, and we were all enthralled by the idea that one product could be so many things to different people.
Now, personally, Chicken McNuggets have always tasted like chicken to me — no matter which sauce I consumed with them. But some folks swear that they taste different with different sauces.
Well, it occurs to me tonight, as I watch the State of the Union address, that Barack Obama is like those Chicken McNuggets. And that really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
I don’t know how often I’ve heard him refer to himself as a walking Rorschach test, a blank screen upon which people could project anything they wished.
I guess I never really understood what he meant by that before. I should have. Even though I live in Texas, which gave McCain more than 55% of its ballots, I encountered many Obama supporters in the fall of 2008 (Dallas County, where I live, has been devoutly Republican in the past, but it was like a little blue island in a sea of red counties in the northern half of the state that year, giving Obama 57% of its votes). And each one seemed to see a different Obama, even when they watched the same event.
Some of those supporters saw an advocate for homosexuals. Others saw a champion of the elderly. Still others admired his commitment to ending American military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan or his defense of the sick and the poor. Then there were those who believed in his support for (or his opposition to) all sorts of other causes — global warming, “green” products, clean energy, animal rights, you name it.
He even had supporters who were on opposite sides of the same issue — and each supported him because he “shared” their views on that issue!
Honestly, how can anyone be expected to prevail over someone who gets credit for being both forand against the same thing?
Whatever you cared about, he cared about. That was his appeal. He was less filling and tastes great, a floor wax and a dessert topping. He was all things to all people.
I don’t know. Maybe his rhetoric does taste different, depending upon which sauce you swallow with it.
But, as I say, I’ve been watching tonight’s State of the Union speech. And you know something?
It still tastes like chicken to me.
David Goodloe got his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas in 1982, and his master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas in 1991. He publishes the thoughtful weblog Freedom Writing. This post is cross posted from his website.