Lunchtime with Dubya

The president throws a party for himself -- and hardly anybody shows. Maybe it was the "Salmonella Surprise" on the menu.

By Anthony York

Published May 1, 2001 5:55PM (EDT)


Drudge Report: "FBI Director Louis Freeh to Resign Next Month"
Bush Watch: "Bush Wants to Break Treaty, Begin Nuclear Chaos" "Beyond America's Borders, Bush Has Sown 'Dismay and Discord'"
Tom "Americans Won't Swallow Dirty Food"
Andrew Sullivan: "Arianna in Outer Space"

Big buzz

Was Monday's White House lunch an opportunity to break bread among political rivals or simply a stunt to smooth the edges of President Bush's political tactics?

That question is mulled online today after most Democratic members of Congress boycotted a lunch hosted by the president to mark his first 100 days in office.

Centrist Democrats like Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana and Rep. Gary Condit of California were present, but the Democratic leadership was not. On Sunday's talk shows, Rep. Dick Gephardt said no amount of rubber chicken could change the fact that Bush is not acting in a bipartisan manner.

"We don't talk, we don't negotiate, we don't really collaborate and work together on these policies," Gephardt said on "Face the Nation."

Is the Bush charm offensive waning?

Certainly, posters in Table Talk's "Sellout Democrats" thread seem to think so.

Republicans "only learned the word bipartisanship when they gained control of Congress and the White House. They are not, repeat not, the majority. The majority of people -- by a margin of 3 million votes -- voted for a leftward, liberal agenda as represented by Gore and Nader. They rejected completely the hard right, conservative agenda of Bush and Buchanan."

Another Table Talker took a shot at naming the menu for Monday's big to-do:

"Veneman's Salmonella Surprise; E. coli Caesar Salad; Medallions of Irradiated Beef Carrion; 'Nuggets of Offal' Gravy; Whitman's Arsenic-fortified Mineral Water."

But posters at the Free Republic saw the lunch as just another exemplary piece of political strategy devised by Karl Rove et al.

"Divide and conquer. Brilliant," writes one poster. "The Dems are looking at Bush's high approval ratings, and scratching their heads. The ones who will work with him will infuriate the ones who won't. Bush is splitting the party right down the middle, and exposing what we have all known for years: the most philosophically diverse political entity today is the Democratic Party. They are nothing but a group of varying coalitions with their own respective agendas. Bush is brilliantly pitting those groups against each other. Example: faith based initiative and/or school choice. To whom do these ideas appeal???? The most staunch voting bloc of the Dems: African Americans. The liberals like Kennedy will soon discover that their socialist viewpoints are so out of the mainstream of middle America, that they will be left behind in the dust during this new administration.

"Karl Rove has found the inherent weaknesses within the enemy camp. Democrats are now faced with a dramatic choice: move left and risk alienating blue collar workers and soccer moms; or move to the center and infuriate Blacks, abortion rights freaks, and gays. It is nothing but a political masterstroke, in my opinion. Love it."

Ah, the true spirit of bipartisanship.

For more Red vs. Blue, click here.

Submit your own rant or direct us to a good political online discussion by e-mailing us at, or jump right into a Table Talk discussion about Red vs. Blue.

Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

MORE FROM Anthony York

Related Topics ------------------------------------------