Dowd’s Colorful False Impression

Today’s Maureen Dowd column tries to make the case that Obama is humorless. It’s a short step away from that familiar elitist meta-narrative. In service of this point, Dowd warms over quotes from herself, The Los Angeles Times, Andy Borowitz, and a New York Times colleague—you wonder if you’re reading a column or some sort of mutant clipping service—before coming to this:

He’s already in danger of seeming too prissy about food — a perception heightened when The Wall Street Journal reported that the planners for Obama’s convention have hired the first-ever Director of Greening, the environmental activist Andrea Robinson. She in turn hired an Official Carbon Adviser to “measure the greenhouse-gas emissions of every placard, every plane trip, every appetizer prepared and every coffee cup tossed.”

The “lean ‘n’ green” catering guidelines, The Journal said, bar fried food and instruct that, “on the theory that nutritious food is more vibrant, each meal should include ‘at least three of the following colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple, and white.’ (Garnishes don’t count.) At least 70% of the ingredients should be organic or grown locally, to minimize emissions from fuel during transportation.”

I think we can all agree it’s a cheap shot to attribute the convention’s green-focused catering decisions to Obama, especially when the host committee named its greening director in August 2007, back when Obama trailed Clinton by double digits in national polls.

But Dowd, with an assist from the Journal, leaves a false impression on a matter of fact. After reading, you’d probably think that the fried food ban and the color and sourcing requirements will be the inflexible law of the land come convention time.

Well, no, as the convention planners pointed out earlier this month in couldn’t-be-clearer record-correcting press release. Yes, said “guidelines” exist, frou-frou color requirements and all, but they only apply to foods that vendors offer and label as “Lean ‘n Green”—just a portion of the grub to be on hand. So if a Denver caterer wanted to serve deep fried chicken that was trucked across the country, no problem—they just couldn’t call it “Lean n’ Green.” Think of it as little bit of party-enforced truth in labeling.

Another word for that might be accuracy.

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.