UNLIKE Bill Clinton, a committed vegan, Donald Trump is a junk food aficionado, all set to become America’s fastfood president.
Whether it’s a Big Mac, Quarter Pounder or a Wendy’s Baconator, to the Donald “they’re all great.”
In an age of fine dining and lots of pretentious restaurants boasting of “heritage tomatoes” or “line-caught red snapper” Trump is a throwback to an earlier, more carefree time in American eating, when nobody gave a monkey if the tomatoes were locally grown or shipped in from Peru.
He is a lover of diner fare—eggs, bacon, hash browns and, naturally, well-done steaks. He goes for burgers and meatloaf, Caesar salads and spaghetti, candies and Diet Coke.
But his image of a man of the people who eats buckets of KFC fried chicken on his multi-million dollar private plane is also a carefully crafted strategy to appeal to the blue collar workers who voted him into the top job.
“There’s nothing more American and more of-the-people than fastfood,” said Russ Schriefer, a Republican strategist and ad maker. “It is the peculiarity of the brand that he’s able to be on his multimillion-dollar jet with the gold and black branding and colors, and at the same time eat KFC, and what makes it perfect is he does it all with a knife and fork, while reading The Wall Street Journal.”
Or, as Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser and pollster on the Trump campaign, put it, “It goes with his authenticity.”
But there is another side of Trump’s personality that links to his love of fast food. Like the late Rumanian dictator Nicolae Ceauescu, Trump is a cleanliness freak. He says he suffers from “germophobia” and hates shaking hands. His germophobia extends to food.
“One bad hamburger, you can destroy McDonald’s. One bad hamburger, you take Wendy’s and all these other places and they’re out of business,” Trump told CNN. “I’m a very clean person. I like cleanliness, and I think you’re better off going there than maybe someplace that you have no idea where the food’s coming from. It’s a certain standard.”
Though he often orders from the Trump Grill when working out of Trump Tower in New York, he eats fast food several times a week while on the road because “it’s clean, it’s quick and it’s consistent.”
And, he added, “I think the food’s good.”
Trump has even suggested doing away with state dinners, in the interests of cost and time savings. “We could be eating a hamburger on a conference table, and we could make better deals with China and others and forget the state dinners,” he said.
The president-elect’s food choices keep his team on its toes. “There’s never any real planning for food,” said one, “It’s always just whatever he is craving, which is more often than not McDonald’s.”
Trump’s diet would certainly seem to be a tad unhealthy, but last December his personal doctor, Harold Borstein, said in a letter that in the past 39 years, “Mr. Trump has had no significant medical problems.”
Robert Harland is a British national based in Bacolod and Makati.