Hot Cereal Days

In the Webner household during the 1960s, there was a hard and fast breakfast rule:  during the winter months, you ate hot cereal, period.  No Frosted Flakes or Quake!  No sir, winter was for Malt O Meal, Cream of Wheat, Coco Wheat, Maypo, and particularly Quaker Oats.

On a cold day like today, my mother was a firm believer in the views expressed by this vintage Quaker Oats commercial (which aired in the days of the original, vastly superior Darren on Bewitched).  If it was cold outside, you needed to have something hot and gooey in your stomach when you started your day.

By the end of March, we Webner kids were sick of hot cereal and counting down the days when we could start our morning with something cold and sugary.

The President As Pitchman

Last week President Obama went down to Disney World to tout tourism in America and got his picture taken with the Disney castle in the background.

The trip was part of the President’s “We Can’t Wait” campaign, in which he does things by himself that are supposed to promote job growth and show that we have an active executive but a do-nothing Congress.  In this case, the presidential action was expanding the “Global Entry Program,” which makes it easier for frequent visitors to get into our country, and to direct the State Department “to accelerate our ability to process visas by 40 percent in China and in Brazil this year.”  The President noted that the more foreign visitors come to America, the more Americans get back to work.

The President’s “I can do it myself” campaign leaves me cold.  I always wonder why he hasn’t already done the things he’s now announcing with such fanfare.  He’s been President for three years.  Why wasn’t the Global Entry Program expanded back in 2009?  Why did he wait so long to direct the State Department to get off its duff and “accelerate our ability to process visas”?  For that matter, why not “accelerate our ability” by 80 percent instead of a measly 40 percent?

In this case, I had a negative reaction to the President’s speech for another reason.  I know that tourism has been an important part of our economy for years, but I never recall a President trying to entice foreigners to come here and spend, spend, spend.  My reaction to the President’s event was one of embarrassment — because our national leader seems to be begging those go-getter Chinese, Brazilians, and Indians to bring their new wealth to America and help us get back on our feet.  It struck me as not befitting the dignity of the presidency.  I also wonder:  if the President is going to promote Florida tourist destinations to our friends overseas, can a commercial for GM cars be far behind?


Today South Carolina Republicans vote in their state’s presidential primary.  Polls indicate it is a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich apparently has been given a boost by the most recent Republican candidates debate.  Gingrich was asked about the recent comments of his ex-wife, who said he asked that she agree to an “open marriage” in which he could have both a wife and a mistress.  In response, Gingrich lashed out at the questioner and the media, generally, for focusing on irrelevancies and making the first question in a presidential debate one about his long-ago personal affairs.  The audience of Republicans, who apparently hate the media with every fiber of their beings, ate it up and gave Gingrich a standing ovation.

I don’t care about Gingrich’s past personal behavior — but I also don’t see why his set-piece smackdown of a question about it is such a great thing.  Some rock-ribbed conservatives seem to despise the media and love to see them publicly criticized for any reason; I don’t share that view.

To me, the little diatribe was an obvious, planned bit of political theater, and the fact that Gingrich palled around with the questioner after the debate just confirms it.  Gingrich has deep roots and connections in the Washington social milieu of politicians, lobbyists, reporters, and consultants.  When he gave his little angry performance, his inside-the-Beltway buddies no doubt leaned back, nodded to each other, and agreed that Gingrich was just doing the necessary political thing, knowing the rubes would eat it up — and they did.

Gingrich’s debate diatribe may well win South Carolina for him, but I think his performance really exposes him as just another calculated politician.