The media has spent much of the week chastising President Trump for serving hamburgers and fries to the Clemson football team, which is odd, because the same media spent eight years celebrating President Obama’s burger runs as evidence that he’s just a regular guy.
NBC News this week ran an article entitled “Trump serving fast food to the Clemson players isn't just insulting. It's especially bad for elite athletes.” In 2009, though, NBC News had a decidedly different take on serving burgers in the White House.
As part of a feature on “A Day in the Life of Obama's White House,” NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams accompanied President Obama as he went on a burger run for his staff.
Much of the rest of the media, including Reuters, the Associated Press, PBS, and C-Span also reported on the burger run with a similar tone: This is just an average guy President doing average guy things.
That same year, CBS News celebrated President Obama and Vice President Biden going out for burgers together.
Two years later, the networks ran footage of President Obama on another burger run with the emphasis on the adoring crowds greeting him.
By 2014, the press was so in love with President Obama’s love for burgers that The Washington Post ran a story entitled “President Obama and cheeseburgers: A love story” documenting all of the times he publicly went out for burgers during his presidency.
Despite the White House's emphasis on healthy eating and Obama's assertion that his favorite food is broccoli (I mean, really), Obama has a habit of taking people out for burgers and fries. Often that person is Biden. Just two guys grabbing some burgers, right? Obama suggested that he might have a burger for his 50th birthday in 2011.
Naturally, The Washington Post has in the past week cooled on its belief that Presidents who serve burgers are cool. It has run more than a dozen scathing articles such as "The dubious splendor of a thousand hamburgers," "'Trump has turned the White House into a White Castle,'" "Donald Trump's fast food presidency," and "What it means that Trump served Big Macs in the State Dining Room," which featured this doozy of an admonition:
But for those who dislike the president, the image of him and his 300 hamburgers was something altogether different. It was chintzy, boorish, brazen. It was an example of him trying to get sympathy for the shutdown when he was the one who had triggered it. It was disrespectful to the players, who had come to the White House expecting elegance and were served nothing but empty calories. “Our nutritionist must be having a fit,” one Clemson player reportedly said. It was yet another example of how, in the Trump White House, you might think you were getting one thing (a nice dinner at the White House; getting Mexico to pay for the wall) and end up with something altogether different and worse (a pile of cold, limp fast food; the longest-ever government shutdown). The Filet-O-Fish were symbolic of a bait-and-switch.
The media certainly has switched positions on presidential hamburgers based on who happens to be President when those burgers are served, and nowhere is this more apparent than in its coverage of another presidential burger run--when President Obama colluded with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev on lunch at Ray's Hell Burger back in 2010.
As The Washington Post reported at the time:
During the Cold War, President Richard Nixon once gave Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev a Lincoln Continental. The car fanatic and notoriously bad driver immediately took the startled president on a high-speed ride through the twisting mountain roads near Camp David, running a stop sign in the process.
President Obama kept things simpler Thursday. He took visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to his favorite hamburger joint, Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington County, and paid for Medvedev's order of a cheddar cheeseburger, piled high with onions, jalapeno peppers and mushrooms, shared fries and a Coke.
Such symbols of high-level bonding have been important in the relationship between the two nuclear powers.
One supposes that President Trump wouldn't get a similar reception from the press if he were to go out for burgers with President Putin.