Why presidential candidates eat on camera ALL THE TIME

Why presidential candidates eat on camera ALL THE TIME


– In American politics, what you eat, – You want some? – and how you eat it, is a big deal. – Candidates are out in force on the campaign trail eating and eating and eating. – So big, that one little mistake could possibly sink your entire presidential campaign. Well, supposedly. – It was that gaffe with the tamale that cost him the state of Texas. Carter won Texas, and Carter won the presidency. And it may have been a tamale that did it. Hey, I’m Yara. Ding. Let me explain. American politicians spend
a lot of time eating food and talking about food on camera. Mmm. They’ve been doing it for years. I do not like broccoli. And believe me, they eat and drink all the things. It’s a little slice of heaven. All the things. I always used to eat
Milk Bones as a kid. Come here. But the stakes are high. One wrong move, one food gaffe, and suddenly you’re at
the center of a storm that could possibly hurt
your entire campaign. The New York Times, today, has reported Senator Amy Klobuchar eating a salad with a hair comb. – With a comb.
– With a comb. [slo-mo] Hair comb. So if public eating is so high-risk, why do so many politicians
eat in front of the camera? And why do we care so much
what they put in their mouths? I took my questions to
George Washington University, where I met with Lara Brown, a political scientist who’s done some serious research
on political campaigns. We are seated before
a very historic table. It was once owned by Abraham Lincoln. – Oh my God. And
now it’s in your office. – In my office.
– It’s in your office, of all the other offices. – That’s amazing.
– Well. Ahem, right, uh, the questions. It seems like campaigns
make a point of showing their prime presidential contender – – Absolutely. eating food on camera – – Whoo hoo!
– Oh my goodness. talking about food. I love street food, and I think I developed that
living in the Third World. What you’re trying to do is relate to the many different communities that exist within this country. So, masala dosa. – The flavor is very nice.
– Thank you. Food is the way that people
connect with each other. Candidates are trying to say, I’m in your community. I get you. And I enjoy your traditions with you. What flavor ice cream
you eating there? It was Americone Dream. It was. And it seems like there’s
this focus on Particularly in the last 40 years, after Vietnam and after Watergate, presidents kind of went out the window, in favor of these outsiders and people who could claim that they were not part of the Washington experience. Then, really what started
to matter was Crafting that non-elite,
average-Joe or average-Jane image is a pretty well coordinated
effort these days. I’m Ted Cruz – I’m Ted Cruz – I’m Ted Cruz – I’m Ted Cruz, and I approve this message. – It’s led by a group of known simply as the Advance team. Advance teams are masters
at planning events and staging They’ll scout out where
a candidate will go. You guys want some? What they’ll do. Mom, what do you want? Chili dog? And, of course, what they’ll eat. – How’s that sandwich, eh?
You get that in Ohio? – And they’ll make sure journalists are invited. But there’s one food event they’ll make sure their
candidate absolutely attends – And it starts right here in Iowa. the Iowa State Fair. – The reason why the Iowa
State Fair is so important is because it’s in Iowa. Iowa is the first state to actually go to the polls and do any sort of voting. – All eyes on Iowa. The first in the nation caucus. In the Iowa Caucus. And how you do in the Iowa Caucuses could eventually give you the momentum to become your party’s nominee. Because of that, candidates needed a place where they could meet and mingle with other Iowans, and the State Fair was just
the perfect place for it. And I’m psyched for the
eats, even as a vegan. – There is no more specialty
dish at the State Fair than whatever it is on a stick. Because if you put it on a stick, you can walk around the fair and eat at the same time. It’s often fried foods, right? They’ll fry Snickers bars, Oreos. They fry butter, and then put it on a stick. And corn dogs, lots and lots of corn dogs. So, to be seen with a fried object, in your hand at that fair, is a really big deal.
– Yes, it is. All of those moments are about trying to say, I’m just like you. And we’re all But what happens when you
eat something the wrong way, and that carefully
crafted average-Joe image comes crashing down? I’m talking about Turns out, there’s someone who wrote her entire Ph.D. dissertation
about the role of food and food gaffes in American elections. One of her arguments is that – Food is so symbolically rich. It’s this, like, really
easy device that you can use to craft this, like, public
sensibility about who you are. Basically, what you eat can be used by the media or political elites to show how relatable
and middle class you are – or how elite and unrelatable you are. Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president. Gucci wearin’, latte drinking – Latte sipping – Does what you eat have
an impact at the polls? I mean, in the everyday grind of running for president, you go to the Iowa State Fair, you host a ton of events in diners. If you’re doing it right, you only hear about it
in, like, that place and in that moment in time. This is all food for thought. I’m not gonna hear about it. You’re not gonna hear about it. The folks who live there
will, but it’s not a story. But it sort of fizzles out. When it doesn’t fizzle out, however, is when something goes wrong. Ah, with like food gaffes and blunders.
– Food gaffes and blunders, and the candidate does
something to suggest that he or she is really just
sort of like As you know, hot
dog is my favorite meat. [slo-mo] Hot dog is my favorite meat. If it maps onto an existing media narrative of that candidate, it becomes this weirdly sticky story. Who let the dogs out? Who, who? But what are some of the most disastrous examples of food gaffes? I figured I’d run through a
few with my interlocutors. We’re gonna play a special game, where I show you pictures
of American politicians committing food gaffes. Yep. And I want you to guess what they are and explain exactly what happened. Ready to go? Oh boy. Let’s do it. Boom. Voila. Oh! Oh yeah, I mean obviously. This is a very, very famous moment. This is President Gerald Ford campaigning in south Texas – … and something isn’t going right. He attempted to eat a
tamale with the cornhusk on. – Every newscast in Texas, all they did was show Gerald Ford not knowing how to eat a tamale. And this was, like, in 1976, when he was running against Mike Huckabee famously said that this sunk his presidential effort. – Carter won the presidency, and it may have been a tamale that did it. I mean, no, one little thing didn’t. But it was really sort of about his broader inability
to connect with people. Ha! Boom. Oh! This is close to my heart because I’m from Philadelphia. So this is John Kerry, running for president, makes his stop in Philadelphia, and he orders his Philly cheesesteak with Swiss cheese. The traditional way that you order cheesesteaks in
Philadelphia is with Whiz, which is like an orange cheese product. And this caused an outrage? Yes. Because it seemed to fit with all of the cliches about John Kerry, that he was something of an elitist. You also don’t put
lettuce and tomatoes on it. Despite this incident, though, Kerry went on to win
Pennsylvania by about two points. This. – John Kasich, on the campaign trail, eating pizza with a fork and knife. – at Gino’s
Pizzeria in Queens. Boy is this good. It is a food that, 99% of the time, you eat with your hands. I think Bill de Blasio has done that. – Sarah Palin. – Donald Trump. If you’re going to use
food to connect with voters, you need to connect with
them in the way they eat it. This is Hillary Clinton running
for president in 2016. She’s on What’s something that
you always carry with you? Hot sauce. – Really?
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, by all accounts, this is a woman who loves hot sauce, and who actually does
carry hot sauce around in her bag. I eat a lot of hot peppers. I, for some reason, started doing that in 1992. But it felt so pandering, in the moment, because she’s on “The Breakfast Club.” Listen, I want you to know, people are gonna see this and say, “OK, she’s panderin’ to Black people.” OK. Is it workin’? And because, like,
“Formation” had just come out – I got hot sauce in my bag, swag. And what’s interesting
about these gaffes is that, for the people who already have, like, this vulnerability
around their authenticity, the gaffes – As millennials, your voice is important. I, Hillary Clinton, share all of your exact, same beliefs, and I always have. So yeah, as you can see, eating in public can be fraught. But that begs the question, is any form of on-camera eating If you’re eating in Iowa, aren’t you pandering to the
state’s rural, white population? If you eat at Sylvia’s
Restaurant in Harlem, NY, are you pandering to the Black community? And if you’re … Let’s not go there. – This country is large
and contains multitudes. And you’re having to
appeal to folks all over, whose lives and food
ways and food cultures are so different and
idiosyncratic and distinct. It’s part of campaigning. I mean it’s part of
just trying to reach out and make a connection with folks. But again, where I really think
it flips a switch for people, is where it just
feels more deeply dishonest than, like, an earnest effort
to make a connection. I’m learning to say, “y’all” and I got started right this morning with a biscuit and some For candidates who
want to run for office in the United States, what tips would you have? I would say, because food is such a core
way that we connect as humans. But there’s a second,
more important tip. Avoid those situations
where what you’re doing is so clearly not a
reflection of who you are. Hot dog is my favorite meat. Just be yourself. If you’re gonna make mistakes, have them be mistakes that
are kind of authentic to you. There are folks who do something wrong that’s kind of benign wrong, which is, you know, a John
Kerry ordering Swiss cheese. Like, the guy just likes Swiss cheese! Yeah. Now let’s sort of, like, juxtapose that to the de Blasio situation. She’s talking about the
mayor of New York City. – Mayor de Blasio
tweeted his favorite bagels are from Bagel Hole in Park Slope, where his order is whole-wheat,
toasted, extra cream cheese. The only problem … Oh, we don’t toast our bagels. – Bagel Hole doesn’t
even have a toaster. And so here, in this moment, it’s like such a stupid lie. But it reveals that he uses food to try to create a sense of who he is. But if he’s sort of willing to lie in the service of accomplishing that, you start to create a sense of uncertainty around your authenticity, as someone who is willing to lie for the purpose of getting votes. I guess a lot of this comes
down to the age-old saying, “Honesty is the best policy.” Yeah. But, I mean, if you’re getting
a cheesesteak in Philly, get it with Cheez Whiz. It tastes way better. No tomatoes. No lettuce. Maybe mushrooms. Oh, grilled onions. Yes.