Ketchup Is A Vegetable

On Sept. 4, 1981, at the suggestion of Reagan budget director David Stockman and under the direction of President Ronald Reagan, the USDA classifed ketchup as a vegetable. It is outstanding, the forward-thinking genius of that administration, to have been aware of the life-saving benefits of lycopene in the early ’80s.

Not only was this savvy political manuver a clear sign of a caring, compassionate federal government, it was a bold attempt to save—and by “save” I mean “slash from the federal school lunch program”—$1.5 billion. Pundits galore still applaud this exemplary policy-making. Mark Shields, for example, says the ketchup-as-vegetable strategy was undertaken “stupidly and indefensibly.” High praise, indeed, and right on. “Ketchup is a vegetable” was not only a transparently cynical policy, it was and is to this day a powerfully iconic one. Editorial boards hold it up almost universally as premium example of what’s wrong with Republican governing. Any American citizen can cite this four-word phrase that has almost become a single word on its own without knowing its specific origin. Indeed, this “let them eat cake” of the 20th century is nearly the stuff of legend.

Therefore, I was floored to discover that nobody had yet fashioned the phrase into a domain name. I felt rather compelled—no, obligated—to purchase it and to create yet another damned blog by yet another damned self-appointed political pundit. This seems like the time to do it, too. I am inspired by the growing list of liberals stepping up to bark back at the likes of Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity and to voice vital opposition to the utterly wrong direction this nation is taking. We’re in big trouble, folks. Our executive’s eyes are bigger than his stomach, and, as if that isn’t enough, he is much too sure of his own ability to handle the utensils.

There is a scene in the film “Being John Malkovitch” where Malkovitch himself goes on the John Malkovitch ride and is transported into his own head. If you’ve seen the film, you know the consequences. I like to imagine President George W. Bush in similar circumstances. I imagine that, were he similarly transported, the phrase he’d hear spat out by every Dubya doppelganger in the room would be the title of this Web site. One can almost hear it in every statement he makes, that subtle, underlying insincerity that has been such a central tenet of his administration. “Ketchup is a vegetable,” he’d say, perhaps while winking and firing his fingers at you. “Ketchup is a vegetable.” Such is the extent of our president’s disingenuousness. I do not trust our Executive any farther than I could throw a planet. In the same ideological universe where he resides, “ketchup is a vegetable” was once a truth. It is fitting and necessary to remember that as we march into the last 13 months of this political season.

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