Clinton obviously knows about life in the fast-food lane

MIKE LITTWIN

November 30, 1992|By MIKE LITTWIN

Have you noticed that no matter where Bill Clinton -- our next president, also leader of the free world -- chooses to jog, he

almost always winds up at McDonald's?

Let's consider this phenomenon. He jogs because:

A. It's healthy.

B. He actually thinks chunky people look good in running shorts.

C. Hillary has told him he can never bring another Big Mac into the house.

You know the answer. Clinton, like many law-abiding Americans, is a fast-food addict. We don't need support groups. We just need the occasional burger our way, large fry and Coke (OK, diet Coke), and in a hurry.

Bill "Fry Guy" Clinton is our first fast-food president, born to the first fast-food generation. This is a good thing, and on several counts.

To begin with, he could have gone the other way, as did so many lost souls of his tortured generation. I think you know what I mean. Would you want a president who drinks carrot juice? Who eats sprouts? You'll never hear a presidential candidate mention tofu. It was just such a person who invented the diet hamburger -- remember McLean? -- now, by the way, a major landfill problem.

Back in the mid-'60s, young, ambitious, Bill Clinton saved his nickels and dimes and got himself three hamburgers (15 cents each), fries (12 cents) and a medium Coke (15 cents) for lunch. That was 72 cents. You got your fill, lots of change back from a dollar and fatty deposits around your heart as a bonus.

Have you ever been to Washington? The only clogged arteries there are caused by traffic jams. Everyone runs. Everyone works out. They've got run-through cholesterol/blood pressure check points on every other corner. And, if you go to a party, the talk is always about something called beta carotene. These are the people who think they know what's good for the rest us. What's really good is a bacon cheeseburger with everything on it.

Sure, the fast-food industry is easy to put down, but all it did was revolutionize America. By speeding up lunch as well as dinner, families were no longer forced to waste long hours in idle conversation at the kitchen table. As a result (time plus chicken McNuggets equals money), Americans not only got to the moon first but also invented cable TV.

We didn't stop there, though. We put in the drive-through, so customers wouldn't have to stop to eat their lunch. Or breakfast. You talk about a stroke of genius. Who would have guessed people would want to eat a slab of ham and a slab of egg on a not-quite-fresh muffin, along with a microwaved quasi-potato patty and concentrated juice cup, in the car on the way to work? Just be careful not to spill anything on the fax machine.

Fast food works so well that it has become a major export. They've got Kentucky Fried Chicken in Beijing, Burger King on the Champs Elysees, McDonald's in Moscow, Pizza Hut in Barcelona.

In the post cold-war era, we have to adjust. Who's going to attack us when all the Russians are in line at McDonald's? The war now is for cultural hegemony. We've got the best soda and burgers in the world. We have to move on this, or, you watch, there'll be sushi bars popping up everywhere.

Here's where Clinton's expertise comes in. The only problem with fast food is that it's not as fast as it used to be.

I was in a certain fast-food establishment recently where I ordered a burger with mustard, cheese, onions and lettuce.

"You want onions?" the helpful person behind the counter asked.

"Yes," I said. "I just said onions."

"Mustard?" he asked cheerfully.

"Yes," I said. "I think I mentioned mustard."

"Anything else?"

"Cheese and lettuce," I said, trying to stay calm.

"Cheese?" he wanted to know.

"Grrrrrr."

"Lettuce?"

That's when I would have done something dangerous except my wife disarmed me by stuffing a wonderfully textured French fry in my mouth.

This has happened to you, right? In a recent local trial, the defendant lashed out at the prosecutor, "Where'd you get your degree -- Burger King?"

We need smarter people behind the counters. We need them now. And, at last, we have a president who cares. Clinton wants better educated students, the backbone of the fast-food industry. As Clinton said many times, it is his hope that someday all Americans are able to make change.

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