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  • January 24th, 2019


By Joel M. Vance

Lately I have been having a pleasant daydream, a fantasy really, where I go into a decrepit greasy spoon fast food joint and a blubbery, sloppy, cook, with a three-day growth of beard and a grease spattered, dirty apron, takes my order for a hamburger and says, “y’all want fries with that?”


I do a double take because this this porky hash slinger looks remarkably like Donald J Trump the nation’s current Hamburgler in Chief. My fantasy was inspired when I read that Trump hosted a luncheon for the Clemson Tigers, the national collegiate football championship team, by serving them fast food burgers from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King, with a side order of Domino’s pizza, and French fries served in paper cups embossed with the presidential seal. But they were served on silver platters under elegant chandeliers so, hey, when you’re going first class, go all the way.


The fact that Donald Trump owns a high-rise hotel which, presumably, has an equally high class restaurant, has escaped the news media. The question arises in my admittedly prejudiced mind: if Donald Trump is the billionaire entrepreneur that he portrays himself, and is first class all the way, why is he so cheap that he can’t cater something other than burgers and fries for his invited guests?


Trump was quick to point out that, by golly, he paid for the whole thing himself! Kudos to the Hash Slinger in Chief for this magnanimous gesture. Dabo Swinney, the coach of the Tigers, is far too much of a gentleman to do what logic would indicate— tell the president to take his fast food luncheon and shove it. Better yet, load a U-Haul van and drive it to the border and distribute the food to the hungry asylum-seekers that Trump is attempting to send back to countries where they probably will be killed.


The Tigers, who eat nutritious meals in a state-of-the-art cafeteria on the Clemson campus, need fast food about as much as Swinney needs to be told how to coach football. But Trump says that he knows that greasy entrées from fast food restaurants are the favorite food of athletes in training. Which proves that he knows as much about athletic dietary needs as he does about running the government. Clemson would’ve been far better off staying at home and eating a healthy meal rather than dining with the Fatso in Chief in the White House.


The Golden State Warriors said thanks but no thanks when they were invited to the White House after winning the National Basketball Association championship last year. I can understand that any team would be reluctant to turn down an invitation to the White House because after all it is an honor first, to win a championship, and then to be invited to the nation’s home to meet the putative leader of the free world. If it were anyone other than Donald Trump the champion of bad taste and bad government, I wouldn’t quibble about it.  When some of the Super Bowl winning Philadelphia Eagles declined Trump’s invitation to the White House, he disinvited the whole team. Really classy behavior on the part of the Junk Foodmaster in Chief.


It is an honor to be invited to the White House, to meet the president of the United States, and to be recognized for a singular achievement. After all, the White House belongs to every citizen of the country. It is not Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster, an exclusive golfing resort for those who have bought access to the president. It’s only a temporary residence for the sitting president and then it will be occupied by a successor. No one gets to live in the White House forever and given that he spends little time in it, Trump apparently doesn’t want to.


Not only did Trump go to great pains to emphasize that he was paying for this sumptuous meal, but he said that he had ordered 300 burgers for the boys. The next day, that number had inflated to more than 1000, a typical lie to go with the thousands of others he has told about every aspect of his life. He tweeted proudly that he had bought “hamberders” for the Clemson players, proving that his grasp of spelling is every bit as comprehensive as his grasp of how to govern. (But at least he’s consistent— he also misspelled his wife’s name as Melanie when she returned from a hospital stay.)


The clear winner in the battle of the burgers was Burger King which tweeted the next day “Due to a large order placed yesterday, we’re all out of hamberders. Just serving hamburgers today.” And the best Twitter response to Trump’s losing effort in the National Spelling Bee was this: “Odd to see beef between Trump and Burger King given how many whoppers Trump tells each day.”


I admit to a fascination with Clemson and I am a fan since my beloved Missouri Tigers couldn’t beat your grandma’s garden club in a bowl game. Favored by nine points they managed to lose to Oklahoma State in the Liberty Bowl. The only good part about that defeat is that they did not have to respond to an invitation to the White House.


I have a friend, Drew Lanham, who is a professor of ornithology at Clemson and who looks as if he could have played for the Tigers if he hadn’t blown out a knee. Drew is a fine naturalist and writer with an equally fine book about his experiences growing up in a family of black landowners in South Carolina— an anomaly of dramatic proportions. “The Home Place” (Milkweed Publishers, available in hardcover, softcover and e-book) is a delightfully written story of, as it is described, “a bighearted, unforgettable memoir by ornithologist J. Drew Lanham.” And Drew, likewise, is bighearted and unforgettable.


So I already would’ve been a fan of the Tigers even if Donald Trump’s clumsy attempt at being one of the boys hadn’t failed so miserably. And, second, anybody that beats Alabama is my team. I lived in Alabama for a couple years back in the 1950s and it was like living under a high tension power line, sensing invisible vibrations that you instinctively felt were harmful.


Given Trump’s dumpster diving approach to food appreciation, I’m somewhat surprised that he didn’t call out the military to serve Clemson with the Army’s legendary and universally despised shit on a shingle. After all, if he can send nearly 6000 troops to our southern border on a whim, surely he can order up the military to serve bad food to one l’il old football team.


There are recipes on the Internet for SOS, which is described as “comfort food.” Although I doubt you would find many Army veterans who would agree with that definition. It basically is chipped beef, served creamed on toast. Other designations for SOS include, “same old stuff,” or “save our stomachs.”


It was designed as a military meal because it is cheap, easy to prepare, and adaptable to preparation under field conditions. All those preconditions would seem to fit the persona of Donald J Trump to a T. He’s cheap, ordering out to McDonald’s (or Berder King) is easy, and fast food for the football boys certainly is adaptable to preparation since he didn’t have to do any of it or be responsible for anything other than taking credit for having done it.


Mind you, this is a president of the United States commenting on his luncheon plans for the national champion football team: “I think we are going to serve McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger Kings with some pizza. I really mean it. It will be interesting, I would think that’s their favorite food.” The most inappropriate word in that quote is “think.”


Does anyone remember when First Lady Michelle Obama led a campaign to get nutritionally better meals into school cafeterias? That was back when the White House represented something other than homage to the local fast food greasy spoon.  “I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition,” Mrs. Obama said.


Her husband, the now much missed president, created a task force on childhood obesity to develop a national plan to set concrete benchmarks toward Mrs. Obama’s goal. Among the objectives are providing healthy food in schools, improving access to healthy, affordable foods, and increasing physical activity among youngsters.  But why stop with kids? Why not start at the top with the Hamberder in Chief?


The president’s dietary habits, as unhealthy as they may be, are meaningless. Remember, Bill Clinton had a fondness for junk food every bit as deserving of criticism as is Trump’s addiction to heart attack on a bun. It’s not what they do it’s that they do it. I recently saw a photograph showing Jimmy Carter wielding a hammer, in his 90s, helping to build a home for the disadvantaged as part of his long dedication to Habitats for Humanity. The caption on the photo was “This is how you build a wall.” That’s how a president should set an example, not buying junk food for a championship football team in order to provide a photo op.


The upshot of this culinary debacle is that Donald Trump, who already has disgraced and debased the presidency, has further placed in the nation’s nutritional values into the dumpster. A Washington Post reporter, ever vigilant for further Trump gaffes, overheard one Clemson player mumble “I thought it was a joke.” Another player reportedly said, “Our nutritionist must be having a fit.”


A couple more really funny Twitter responses to the picture of Trump in front of the fast food laden table: “Alabama losing by 28 points makes a lot more sense when you realize that this would’ve been their reward.” And this one: “White House says that Trump is personally paying for all this food, and in about an hour everyone else will be personally paying for it too.”


Clemson’s phenomenal freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence supposedly posted a tweet saying “President Trump got all our favorite foods. It was the best meal we ever had.” Within hours Lawrence responded that he never said any such thing although he did enjoy the visit to the White House. Given Trump’s penchant for claiming that everyone loves him, including those 800,000 federal workers who aren’t getting paid (and those who aren’t happy about it are Democrats anyway, so who cares?), I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump himself hadn’t posted that phony quote from Lawrence.


There was one truth in the tweet–it is an honor to be invited to the White House. Or at least, it used to be when the occupant wasn’t a tinhorn shyster who daily debases the office. So perhaps someday in the not too distant future, I will walk into a greasy spoon fast food joint, order a greaseburger, and have the grungy fry cook with a dirty name tag reading I’m Donnie ask “y’all want fries with that?”


Probably not— but one can only hope.

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1 Comment

  1. CJ

    January 31st, 2019 at 5:57 pm


    I’m reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming right now. SHE’S admirable.

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