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Op-ed

On politicians and pancakes

What's with the Tangerine Tornado and the food thing?

In Nebraska Friday Donald Trump was denouncing trade imbalance with Japan and Kobe beef. "You want to see a trade imbalance? Just look at Japan. Millions of dollars in cars come pouring in … and you look at what we have. We send beef. ... Sometimes they send it back because they don't want it, because their farmers don't want it. They send it back, and then we send it back and it goes back and forth, back and forth and then they charge you much more. They call it Kobe beef. It's old, it's old, it's old, it's oooold! Who da hell wants it?"

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Not really clear what he's talking about. But the crowds at his rallies don't care about that.

Friday's Kobe beef attack came a day after Tangerine Tornado's taco shell reach out to the Hispanic community. He tweeted an image of himself holding a taco bowl with the caption: "Happy #Cinco de Mayo! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics!" Really?

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Janet Murguía, president of the National Council of La Raza, the nation's largest Latino organization, reacted in a tweet that Mr. Trump's message was "clueless, offensive and self-promoting. ... I don't know that any self-respecting Latino would even acknowledge that a taco bowl is part of our culture."

So what next? Does the Tangerine Tornado reach out to the Islamic community with an image of himself eating hummus on pita bread?

I first noticed Mr. Trump's food assaults back in April when he went after Ohio Gov. John Kasich's eating habits.

"I have never seen a human being eat in such a disgusting fashion," Mr. Trump bellowed at a couple of his rallies. "This guy takes a pancake and he's shoving it in his mouth. It's disgusting. ... Do you want that for your president? I don't think so."

Actually, listening to Mr. Kasich's graceful departure speech this month, I do think so. And anyway, who is the Tangerine Tornado to be complaining about how a guy eats a pancake? At least he's eating it, not wearing it on his head.

The attack on Mr. Kasich's table manners brought to mind one of my favorite stories about a politician's bizarre eating habits. The politician in this case was George Wallace, segregationist governor of Alabama who once also ran for president of the United States. The story was told to me by Ray Jenkins, for whom I had the great pleasure of working for a couple of years when he was editor of the Baltimore Evening Sun editorial page and I was an editorial writer for that page. Mr. Jenkins, a Georgia native and one of the South's most prominent journalists, came to Baltimore after serving a couple of years in the Jimmy Carter administration following a long and distinguished career as editor of the Montgomery Alabama Advertiser Journal.

In a conversation with Wallace's press secretary about ground rules for a luncheon interview, the press secretary said that part of the meeting would have to be off the record. Mr. Jenkins said no, whatever the governor had to say would have to be on the record.

To which the press secretary replied something like this: No. Not what he says. It's how he eats that has to be off the record. And during the lunch, Mr. Jenkins quickly understood why, as the governor would take a bite of the main meal and then reach into a bowl of M&Ms on his desk in between bites.

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Mr. Jenkins told me last week that like Mr. Trump, Wallace liked to use the press as a foil. He recalled one example from a Wallace rally 50 years ago in the small Alabama town of Wetumpka, where the governor noticed him in the audience and roared, "I see we got the editor of the Alabama Journal here today. You know, he's one of them Harrrrrvarrd-educated intellectuals that sticks his little finger up in the air when he sips tea and looks down his long nose at us ordinary Alabamians."

But Mr. Jenkins has said "With Wallace, it always seemed to stay in the bounds of good-natured banter. With Trump, there's a palpable viciousness that would make me quite uneasy if I were in the press pool."

The press pool today is a lot different than it was when Ray Jenkins was chronicling the appalling racist menace that George Wallace represented. The press today has been indispensable in the making of the creature that is now the Republican Party's presumptive nominee for president of the United States. And we all know who is most uneasy about that.

G. Jefferson Price III was a political reporter, foreign correspondent and editor during a 35-year career at The Baltimore Sunpapers. His email is gjpthree@gmail.com.


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