It all started yesterday, when CNN, Fox and The New York Times were content to transcribe and transmit President Bush’s comment about preferring his Philadelphia cheesesteaks “Whiz with,” thereby handing the Bush camp what it was after — a revisitation in the national press of a year-old John Kerry “faux pas” (ordering his Philly cheesesteak with Swiss).
In contrast to the bigfoots of the national press, Kathleen E. Carey of The [Delaware County, Pa.] Daily Times went beyond mere stenography and did a little leg work on the issue, as well she should. For, while it’s certainly not in the top 100 critical campaign issues this election year, it’s safe to say that the proper construction of a Philadelphia cheesesteak matters more to Daily Times readers than it does to a national audience.
And the intrepid Carey came up with her own expose. She reported that Bush actually “prefers his steak absent of the usual Cheez Whiz and provolone, accompanied only by cheese of the American variety,” information that she obtained from her own Deep Throat, one Caeser Barnabei, the owner of the well-known cheesesteak shop, Jim’s Place. Barnabei, who has fed the Bush camp on previous swings through Pennsylvania and provided “70 to 80 hoagies” for the Bush campaign yesterday, confided to Carey that “the Jim’s Special is altered to whet the ‘W’ appetite.”
In Philadelphia, the classic cheesesteak recipe is hot beef strips and fried onions dripping with grease, slathered with Cheez Whiz straight from the squeeze bottle, all atop white bread. Solemnly, Carey reported her devastating conclusion: “The commander-in-chief fooled thousands Tuesday to believe he eats like the epicureans here.”
Now there’s a reporter who isn’t afraid to go beyond the usual he said/she said reporting and stake out a position.
Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.
She’ll never last.