Bush v. Kerry,
In the Presidential Soup
(e-SoupSong 53: October 1, 2004)
Talk about a silly season!
Even the English know how Democrats and Republicans are SUPPOSED to act. Take James Harding in the London Financial Times: "The image of the Republicans as the 'Daddy party', which keeps a shotgun by its bed and has a 'shoot first, ask questions' later approach to intruders on its property, contrasts with the perception of the Democrats as the 'Mommy party', which wipes the brow of the sick, provides a bowl of hot soup for the hungry and packs the family off to school and work."
In American parlance,
Not this campaign.
- You know you're a Republican if...you plan to become a generous philanthropist.
- You know you're a Democrat if...you plan to help out at the local soup kitchen, one of these days.
Who got press coverage for dining on ginger ponsu broth and chilled melon soup served in cantaloupe bowls? Delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Who got press coverage for fanning out across metropolitan New York to ladle soup at soup kitchens from Manhattan to Staten Island, the Bowery to the Bronx? Go figure: those Republicans. Even Senator Elizabeth Dole was caught bagging groceries at a soup kitchen on the lower East Side.
Ralph Nader, of course, has been meeting with reporters for lunches of carefully selected soups (lentil, please, or split pea in a pinch), but, oh dear, let's just not go there.
Clearly, we all need a wider perspective on Republican and Democratic soup platforms if we are to make an informed Presidential choice this November 2nd. And I am here to help.
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON PRESIDENTIAL SOUPS.
The record, unfortunately, is not complete--but it nevertheless shows remarkable bipartisan agreement among elected U.S. Presidents, Republican and Democrat alike, that:
SO WHERE DO TODAY'S CANDIDATES STAND ON THESE KEY SOUP ISSUES?
- Soup Is a Civilizer.
From George Washington's first days, it has been served at all White House dinners--elegant turtle soups in the early days of the republic to show visiting dignitaries we weren't raw-boned boobs; corn, squash, potato, clam, and crab soups later on to show we were 100% all-American and proud of it.
Wait a minute--did I say ALL White House dinners? Well, not during Richard Nixon's tenure. According to biographer Richard Reeves, "Nixon's first state dinner was for Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada, three months in. He hated it. It lasted too long, he had to sit next to people and talk to them, and the--at the end of it, he snarled at Haldeman, 'We've got to shorten these things up. I'm never going to do this again. Cut out the soup course.' Haldeman then went, saw the president's valet and said 'Why is the president so mad? Anything unusual?' And the--the valet, Manolo Sanchez, said, 'Well, he spilled soup on his vest.' He then went back--Haldeman went back to Nixon, figured he could talk him out of that, and started to say, 'You know, about the soup course'--and Nixon said, 'I'm going to tell you something, and you're going to listen to it. Real men don't eat soup.'"
- Soup Is a Comfort Food in Stressful Times.
William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover ordered it up every night for their private dinners. FDR adored Martha Washington's creamy crab soup, but with a splash of sherry. Dwight Eisenhower would retire to his upstairs kitchen for hours to make his own homemade vegetable soup with nasturtium stems. JFK and Jimmy Carter ordered it up for lunches in the oval office or back patio. Ford doted on navy bean soup, and Reagan on hamburger soup with hominy. George H.W. Bush thrived on New England clam chowder. And Bill Clinton liked it just fine--especially beef vegetable--along with every other kind of food in the world.
- Soup Is a Fine Way to Send Political Messages.
Perhaps it started with William McKinley in 1897 when he cried out at a news conference, "What this country needs is a good 10-ounce can of condensed soup!" Certainly it came to serve as a barometer of Presidential caring and messaging.
- FDR instituted Tuesday Soup Nights in the White House to show solidarity with the nation's poor.
- JFK and Jimmy Carter used the image of the soup kitchen in speeches to articulate policy on American funding of international and domestic assistance programs.
- It was Nixon, though, who likely alerted future Presidents to the concept of soup kitchen photo ops when he announced in 1982 that he and wife Pat were sending a check to a Detroit soup kitchen instead of exchanging Christmas gifts. Okay, the Carters didn't pick up on the idea, though they've made a post-Presidential career of volunteer work. It was the Reagan administration, famous for spin, that zeroed in on the potential of Washington's Martha's Table soup kitchen. At a time of angry recession-driven "soup kitchen" protests on Lafayette Square, Nancy Reagan invited kids from Martha's Table to trim the White House Christmas tree. Then Barbara Bush took Naina Yeltsin to Martha's Table to help volunteers feed the homeless. And Bill Clinton, trailed by cameras nearly every Thanksgiving and Christmas for eight years, pressed the flesh at Martha's Table and encouraged all Americans to help feed the hungry.
Let's listen in on a surprise, unannounced open debate forum between the candidates, taped immediately after last night's square-off in Miami on homeland security and foreign policy issues...the first questionee determined by a coin toss.
SOUPSONG: Senator Kerry, my readership is urgently concerned. What exactly is your soup policy?
KERRY: Pat, I am strong, resolute, and committed to soup in every American pot. I have considered chicken. I have exhaustively investigated chocolate chip cookies and looked at the long-term impacts of pancakes. I have considered, and rejected, the benefits of rhubarb, even when made into soup. My message to your readership: My vision for a better America squarely involves an unequivocal Call to Soup.
SOUPSONG: Thank you, Senator. Mr. President?
BUSH: Pat, I would say strongly that, especially since 9/11, the thing that's important for me is to remember what's the most important thing. And that would be soup: my Charge to Keep for the American people.
SOUPSONG: Thank you. Now, Senator Kerry, you have not, of course, had the benefit of four years in the oval office to demonstrate your soup policies in practice. Are they, in fact, of pretty recent vintage?
KERRY: Pat, these issues are not just a recent sideline for me; they've been a big focus of my efforts in the Senate. In the 1990s I supported a reverse Peace Corps project that brought a Ghanaian and a Czech to America to work in Boston soup kitchens. I also supported a bill to outlaw shark finning, that vicious and wasteful practice that puts shark fin soup on the tables of the rich. In addition, over a 20-year period, I have consistently backed politically-driven superbowl and world series bets with cases of New England clam chowder. Perhaps above all...
SOUPSONG: I'm afraid your time is up, Senator.
KERRY: Perhaps above all, Pat, on a beautiful spring evening in 1995 I married Teresa Heinz Kerry, a blessed event that has greatly strengthened my soup policies. Teresa makes excellent soups herself, and I can truly say that her canned soup heritage strongly fuels my current campaign.
SOUPSONG: Mr. President, can you briefly summarize the soup policies you have put in place during your tenure?
BUSH: I stand firmly on my record here, Patsy. First, I have SERVED soup to improve foreign relations: Curried squash soup with Bill Clinton as my first official act as President. Tortilla soup with Vicente Fox. Corn chowder and wild mushroom soup with my friend Tony Blair. Cucumber soup with Prime Minister Koizumi. Artichoke and leek soup with Vladimir Putin. Second, I have EATEN soup for the same reason: Tom yum kung in Bangkok; foie gras soup in China; sorrel soup and cream of leek and potato soup in England. And let's not forget miso soup in Tokyo, which I had no trouble keeping down.
SOUPSONG: Senator Kerry, you have a question for the President?
KERRY: Yes I do. I, too, have cemented important decisions over soup, during my long career in the Senate and now during the campaign. But what is the President's soup-policy record on more substantive issues?
SOUPSONG: That's fair. Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
BUSH: Okay, this would clearly involve the dozens of welfare-to-work stories, the actual examples of people who made the firm and solemn commitment to work hard to embetter themselves. Example: my visits to soup kitchens around this great nation, talking to people about how I want to take charity out of government bureaucracy so Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims can compete aggressively to offer the most love and the best soup. Example: dropping instant soup rations all over the fine land of Afghanistan to relieve the suffering of those noble people. We need to go beyond soup in the 21st century, Patsy; we need to soup up soup.
SOUPSONG: Senator Kerry, do you have anything to add before going into final statements?
BUSH: Patsy, wait a minute, here. I'd like to question my opponent on one point. Senator, did you say that you have rejected rhubarb outright, even in soup?
KERRY: That is correct.
BUSH: Senator, rhubarb soup is a traditional staple and delicacy in Finland--a country of extreme importance, as you know, in protecting America and promoting its values and interests. Do you reject rhubarb soup?
KERRY: Mr. President, thank you for the opportunity to clarify my statement. It is correct that I reject American rhubarb soup-- unequivocally. Traditional Finnish rhubarb soup, however, is an entirely different matter--I strongly support the making and consumption of Finnish rhubarb soup as a matter of U.S. policy, and I intend to support legislation that will endorse that policy.
SOUPSONG: Time is running out, gentlemen. I'd like to proceed directly to final statements and recipes. Mr. President?
BUSH: I would like to leave the American people with a soup recipe that I think sums up the values and heart of our great American future: Baked potato soup. I think its white potatoes, its red peppers, its brown bacon, and its yellow cheese symbolize the great racial melting pot of this great land, with every spoonful, and full of calories and fat too. Our nation must come together to unite.
SOUPSONG: And you, Senator Kerry?
KERRY: Pat, I will leave you with a flat statement. I had intended to leave you the recipe for Teresa' s fish chowder, the soup that sealed my choice for a Safe America with Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards and showed my commitment to firm soup policies and activities to back them up. I believe, however, that it is important to show solidarity with our important partners in protecting world peace. I'd like to leave you and your readership with an authentic recipe for Rapaperikiisseli, traditional Finnish rhubarb soup.
SOUPSONG: Thanks to you both. I think you have given the American people a great deal to digest before they go to the polls on November 2nd.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH'S
BAKED POTATO SOUP, for 6-8
(from Linda Bauer's The Great American Sampler Cookbook)
In a large soup pot, saute onions and red pepper in butter over medium heat until onions are clear. Freeze bacon for easier cutting, then cook and drain. Add crisp bacon, potatoes, and whipping cream to desired consistency. Skim milk or chicken stock may be used to reduce calories. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a garnish of a dollop of sour cream, grated cheese, and chives.
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 large red pepper, diced
- 2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
- 1/2 pound bacon, diced, cooked, and drained well
- 6 cups leftover mashed potatoes
- 2-3 cups whipping crea, half-and-half, or milk
- Kosher salt to taste
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- 4 Tablespoons sour cream
- 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup chives, minced
(traditional Finnish rhubarb dessert soup for 6)
Garnish: 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups of little bitesize pieces of fresh rhubarb
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 Tablespoons water
Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and stir in the rhubarb bits, sugar, and cinnamon stick. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes (or until very tender). Mix the cornstarch into the 2 Tablespoons of water, then slowly stir into the boiling soup. Cook several more minutes, until the soup is clear and thickened. Remove the cinnamon stick. Let cool, then cover and let chill.
When ready to serve, ladle into flat soup plates and float several puffs of whipped cream on top of each. It's a grand way to end a meal, maybe followed by coffee and buttery rolls afterwards in the parlor.
One last word:
- You know you're a Democrat if....you watch Jon Stewart on The Daily News.
- You know you're a Republican if....you get your news from the only unbiased news source around, Fox News
Resources: James David Barber's The Presidential Character: Predicting Performance in the White House, Linda Bauer's The Great American Sampler Cookbook: Recipes from the White House & Congress, Frank Benjamin's You Know You're a Republican***Democrat if..., George W. Bush's A Charge to Keep, John Kerry's A Call to Service, Kranish, Mooney, and Easton's John F. Kerry: the complete Biography by the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best, Bill Minutaglio's First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty, Suzanne Grayson Townsend's How to Eat Like a Republican: or, Hold the Mayo Muffy--I'm Feeling Miracle Whipped Tonight, Jacob Weisberg's More George W. Bushisms, manifold news stories from 1982 to present, the September 30, 2004 Presidential Debate,
Next month: The Soup Frighting of Teeny Tiny: A Halloween Tale