Back in 2007, a real estate mogul named Donald Trump, long considered something of a joke amongst insider circles, began selling a line of steaks on QVC and The Sharper Image. The price points for these packages of steak, hamburgers, and hot dogs began at $199 and retailed through $999; their exceedingly high price seemed justified, given that their marketing campaign billed them as “top-notch” and “the world’s greatest.”
Trump Steaks, of course, were not the provenance of Trump Cows raised on Trump Farms; the meat was supplied via Buckhead Beef, a Sysco subsidiary. (You might recognize Sysco as the world’s largest foodservice distributor; you’ve likely seen their delivery trucks parked outside school cafeterias, hospitals, and prisons).
Trump’s advertising campaign featured glistening images of perfectly-seasoned meat resting on a silver platter. The lettering is gold, and the coiffed man is smiling. They sold elegance and luxury: not the meat itself, but the dream of being the man sitting down to a fine dinner in his penthouse suite.
The reviews of Trump Steaks are dismal.
“Greasy and tasteless.”
“No redeeming qualities.”
“I ordered these hot dogs for my kids and had to send them back. I found a piece of something hard in one, and that was enough for me.”
“Gave my husband a bellyache and he has a stomach of steel.”
“WHAT WAS I THINKING? SAVE YOUR HARD-EARNED MONEY AND DON’T GIVE IT TO TRUMP OR QVC ON THIS ONE”
Trump Steaks quietly folded after just two months.
Yesterday, a news report emerged from the Independent Journal Review that featured the following tidbit, now gone viral:
“The President ordered a well-done steak. An aged New York strip. He ate it with catsup as he always does.”
Subsequent reports confirm that yes, the President of the United States ordered a $54 cut of meat, asked that it be cooked until it was bereft of flavor, and smothered it with ketchup.
There are thousands of expert chefs, butchers, and farmers in this country. There are highly skilled restauranteurs and dazzlingly good steakhouses. And all of the people who work in this industry will tell you that to cook a steak until it is well-done and then smother it with ketchup is an affront. A waste of a cow’s life. A waste of a chef’s time and talent.
This man has committed a laundry list of atrocities, and unless more action is brought about by people who are unwilling to let bigotry, ignorance, and populism destroy what is great about America, will go on to commit far worse. And all of those, obviously, are worth your time and examination. Of course the Muslim Ban and Russia are much bigger problems. Of course.
But today — today I can’t stop thinking about this particular incident. Today, this patently unimportant, irrelevant, and incredibly stupid detail has made me feel incensed.
I am angry about this because this is a man who chose to launch a business selling a product he neither understands nor respects, while deliberately deceiving the public into believing that it was a more valuable commodity than it actually was. I am angry because I can think of so many people who actually know something about the meat industry and would have been far better suited for this job. I am angry that someone so willing to be the public face of the brand didn’t bother to consult anyone who would tell him that the food was crap.
I am angry because it is so endemic of the larger issues with this man. Who doesn’t read books or newspapers or even his daily briefings, but prefers to obtain his information from cable television. Who doesn’t understand basic policy decisions, but offers blistering opinions based upon little regard to factual truth. Whose aversion to reality has brainwashed millions of Americans into thinking that they, too, can disregard facts they dislike as “fake news,” rather than “real life.” Whose blustering, hateful rhetoric has real-life consequences for vulnerable people.
The worst thing that happened with Trump Steak is that people lost some money on a bad dinner. The worst things that have happened within the first 100 days of a Trump Presidency include an erosion of our democratic values, people detained and questioned in airports, a wave of anti-semitic and anti-immigrant crimes on the rise, a wave of deportations that are inducing panic and destroying families, an increase in white terrorists radicalized online by right-wing extremist sites, and a White House occupied by White Nationalists, making policy decisions that will affect all Americans, but particularly the most vulnerable among us. If you do not understand or respect meat, you will believe that a cheap cut is identical to an excellent one. And if you do not understand or respect issues like immigration, healthcare, reproductive rights, racial justice, national security, or foreign affairs, you are doomed to believe that a quick solution is identical to a practical or compassionate one.
I am angry about this because I can think of no more better example to explain to you how those of of us who see through this charlatan are feeling: we’ve known all along that this guy was cheap factory meat dressed up in a fancy package.
And until everyone wakes up and fights back, we’re all stuck eating it.