Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The house party

A heads-up to National Restaurant Association show coordinators: There is a second political party out there, you know. The association served up a pleasant surprise Monday by announcing that John McCain is going to drop by the industry’s mega-get-together next week in Chicago, first to speak to attendees, then to powwow with industry leaders about travel and tourism. His participation will follow by two years the unscheduled appearance of President George W. Bush, one of a long line of political speakers that also includes his mother, Barbara (accompanied by her dog, Millie), Ronald Reagan (in his second post-White House public appearance), Gerald Ford and Herman Cain. In one of those uncanny coincidences that no bookmaker in Vegas could anticipate, all were Republican (though I can’t absolutely swear to Millie’s political persuasion).

It’s easy to see why. As James Carville quipped at his recent appearance at an industry event, “I’d like to say hello to all of my fellow Democrats. All eight of you.” This is a obviously a Republican industry. And the whole point of a convention is being with persons of your own calling.

It’s great that McCain will be addressing the NRA’s convention. Indeed, it’s a tribute to the association that it can land figures of that stature, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. This election is truly a race, with the outcome as uncertain as any I’ve witnessed. And you’re talking about someone who can recall listening to John F. Kennedy’s warning about some missiles in the place where Ricky Riccardo came from. A presentation by McCain could stimulating experience indeed.

But even rabid GOPers would have to acknowledge that their flag-bearer may not be the one voted into office six months from now. Nor is there any speculation about the Arizona senator’s claim to represent the team. His appearance may be more of a rah-rah event than a sobering moment of thought.

Face time with Obama or Clinton, in contrast, might have been far headier. If they’ll truly be enemies of the industry, isn’t it better to have a sit-down now, figuratively speaking? Where do they stand on industry issues like menu labeling, no-match letters or foreign tourism promotion? Inviting the trade’s adversaries might have been far more educational than a pep rally. And if the choice of the Democratic candidate has still yet to be decided, wouldn’t it be interesting to determine which one the industry would prefer to see in the race?

For all I know, the NRA did invite one or both of the Democratic contenders, and was turned down by each. Or that there might be a surprise last minute stop-by by one or both, akin to George W. Bush’s unexpected presentation in 2006.

That would be a pleasant surprise indeed, and I don’t say that because of my own political leanings. During times of political uncertainty like these, it’s better to learn what your adversaries are thinking than it is to review the points of agreement with the entrant you prefer.


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  2. Peter - who cares who shows up, at least the Chicago city council came to their senses and finally repealed the foie gras ban.

    With Mayor Richard Daley running the vote, the Chicago City Council on Wednesday repealed its controversial ban on foie gras.

    The council voted 37-6 to repeal the two-year-old ban, which critics argued had made Chicago--and the City Council--a national laughingstock.

    How uncanny and what great timing! Now Charlie Trotter can now dazzle all the foodies that will be descending on the Windy City with a big hunk of force-fed duck liver.