Wash. Post revives Obama the arugula-munching elitist

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

I thought we might have moved beyond this point, but, as my colleague Jamison Foser points out, one can never underestimate the Washington Post's propensity for inanity.

One of the stupider campaign '08 narratives originated when then-candidate Barack Obama, making the point that increased produce prices at supermarkets didn't translate to higher prices for growers, asked a group of Iowa farmers if they had been to Whole Foods to "see what they charge for arugula," adding: "I mean, they're charging a lot of money for this stuff." Following the Republicans' lead, media outlets seized on arugula as a symbol of Obama's aloofness and detachment from the common man, who had never heard of this exotic leaf. Absent from the gleeful mockery and concerned hand-wringing over Obama's supposed predilection for the peppery-tasting salad green was the fact that arugula, in addition to being grown and sold in Iowa, is proudly served at appropriately non-elitist eateries like the Olive Garden.

And, of course, the election results proved the "out-of-touch Obama" narrative to be bogus -- exit polling found that 57 percent of voters thought Obama was "in touch with people like you."

But now, well over a year later, the Washington Post is bringing back the "elitist" Obama narrative, and once again propping up arugula as a mascot of the president's alleged aloofness:

But during his campaign for the presidency, Obama bungled some of his early attempts to connect with blue-collar workers, complaining about the price of arugula at Whole Foods and visiting a bowling alley only to roll an embarrassing score of 37. Some political rivals continue to disparage him as an elitist. Even his aides have sometimes worried that his intellect can be mistaken for condescension and that his composure can seem like detachment.

And as Greg Sargent points out, the Post diagnosis of Obama's "disconnected" nature runs contrary to their own polling, which finds that 57 percent of respondents believe Obama "understands the problems of people like you."

Articles like this help to convey just how intractable certain narratives become among Beltway journalists, particularly narratives that impart the dreaded "elitist" label to Democrats, despite their shaky (or nonexistent) factual basis. That's why now, after many years, you still hear DC journalists joking about Al Gore the pedant and Michael Dukakis' Belgian endive. So don't be surprised if in 2024 you hear journalists warning the Democratic presidential nominee that he needs to avoid looking like an elitist like Barack Obama with his arugula.

The Washington Post
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