Remember when the Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of Obamacare by talking a whole lot about broccoli? It was a big day for the cruciferous vegetable. “Everybody has to buy food sooner or later,” Justice Antonin Scalia said during the oral arguments. “Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli.”
The other justices picked up the seemingly odd metaphor for the healthcare mandate, and the vegetable became central to the debate.
Now, President Obama is giving the divisive food another moment in the spotlight: Earlier today, a kid journalist asked him what his favorite food was, and the Commander-in-Chief’s answer was broccoli.
It’s a marked change from 2008, when the cigarette-smoking, President-elect Chicagoan said that pizza—particularly the pies from Italian Fiesta Pizzeria in Hyde Park—was his favorite food.
Apparently, a term and some change in the White House can change one’s palate.
In addition to the recent Supreme Court talk about Brassica oleracea, there’s presidential history related to the veggie too. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush told U.S. News and World Report why he banned it on Air Force One.
''I do not like broccoli. I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli!''
Instead, he ate lots of jellybeans and pork rinds. We assume the broccoli ban was lifted when Bill Clinton started flying on the presidential jet, but it’s not like his diet (while in office, that is) was all that commendable.
So Republican presidents hate it;
Kenyan-born socialists Democrats love it. Conservative Supreme Court Justices equate the specter of the government forcing Americans to purchase it with what they see as an unconstitutional healthcare law (Scalia was in the minority on the Affordable Care Act ruling).
What kind of POTUS says his fav food is Broccoli? Same one who in 2008 complained about the price of arugula at Whole Foods.— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) July 9, 2013
And the history of politically charged broccoli goes back even further! The New York Times dug into the role of broccoli in the healthcare debate last year, discovering that “The vegetable trail leads backward through conservative media and pundits,” who presented a theoretical scenario where the government mandated the purchase of the veggie as a means to ridicule universal healthcare.
The President isn’t forcing broccoli down the throats of the masses, of course, but when it comes to cooking the vegetable, it sounds like he has the right idea. In a Washington Post story about the recent veggie-heavy Kids’ State Dinner, Obama is quoted as saying, “My family when they cooked vegetables, they would just boil them and they’d get all soft and mushy. Nobody wanted to eat a pea or a Brussels sprout because they’d be all mushy.” He said that he likes vegetables now because “they’re prepared right,” which we’ll assume means cooked until just cooked through.
If there’s any Presidential vegetable decree, that’s one we would endorse: Don’t overcook vegetables.
To have broccoli play a quasi-scandalous roles in two administrations teaches us why America has so much further to go.— Heidi N. Moore (@moorehn) July 9, 2013