This Week, August 3, 2008:
GEORGE WILL: Beyond that, an awful lot of the ‘other’ he represents is the windsurfer, it’s John Kerry. The crowning, crashing irony of this year is that the first African-American Presidential candidate nominated by either party has the disadvantage of being too upper crust. That is, he’s Columbia University, he’s Harvard Law School, he’s too–
GEORGE STEPHANOPOLOUS: Arugula!
I was curious about this viewpoint, so I called Mr. Will up. He kindly agreed to a brief interview.
ME: Thanks for talking to me, Mr. Will! Big fan.
WILL: I like to dip my toe in the hoi polloi occasionally.
ME: You said on This Week that Barack Obama was too upper crust. I was wondering how that could be ‘cause I hear his Mom had to rely on food stamps at times.
WILL: Yes. Yours is a common misperception. Dear boy, being upper crust has nothing to do with your origins. And it definitely doesn’t have to do with money. You can come from generations of oil wealth and still be the salt of the earth!
ME: So John McCain could have seven homes and be worth $100 million and still be…
WILL: A man of the people, right. And an American hero too. No, being upper crust is about something else.
WILL: Yes. Not just Arugula, but Arugula. In part.
ME: What else? I mean, other than Arugula?
WILL: Mesclun, Mache, Boston, Bibb, and of course, frisee. All of these are varieties of lettuce consumed by the upper crust.
ME: It seems like it would be hard to get your greens without being upper crust.
WILL: Not at all. Iceberg lettuce is permitted. So is romaine, as long as it is in a Caesar Salad.
ME: Huh. Is it just greens?
WILL: Of course not! Do you think I would be superficial enough to judge a man by the kind of leaf he eats?
ME: Well… I don’t know.
WILL: He also drinks a hard-to-get brand of beverage called Black Forest Berry Honest Tea.
ME: It’s hard to get unsweetened tea.
(Mr. Will frowns. I know it’s a telephone interview, but he frowns right through the phone line.)
WILL: Try Snapple diet.
ME: Artificially sweetened.
(He frowns harder.)
ME: You also mentioned something about windsurfing...
ME: But he doesn’t windsurf. He plays basketball. Pretty good at it too! Did you see him sink that 3-pointer on the first try, boy, that was -
WILL: You do know that John McCain had his arms broken in the Hanoi Hilton? He’d be sinking 3-pointers too if he didn’t love his country so much.
ME: Really? He’s 71 years old.
WILL: Let’s get on with it. Any more questions?
ME: Oh, sorry. Where was I? Windsurfing.
WILL: So upper crust.
ME: Why? It looks cool to me.
WILL: Do you think most people in this wonderful country of ours could afford to windsurf?
ME: Most people can’t afford Pappy Bush’s speedboats, but I never heard the media go on about how it was an upper crust pastime.
WILL: Pork rinds.
WILL: Bush Sr. eats pork rinds. Big man-of-the-people food. It inoculates you against almost any kind of upper crust accusation. Heck, you could probably sprinkle some over your arugula salad and nobody would say a damn word.
ME: And uh… Harvard?
WILL: Surely I don’t have to explain to you why Harvard is upper crust?
ME: Well, no. I get it. But Dubya is supposedly a man of the people and he went to Harvard… right?
WILL: Harvard Business School. Every Fortune 500 CEO I know just refers to it as 'Budweiser U.' The Law School, on the other hand....
ME: You know… thinking about it. It seems like only Democrats are upper crust.
WILL: Really? I’d never noticed. Huh! Come to think, there really aren’t any Republicans who are upper crust, are there?
ME: No, I suppose not. (Pause.) Mr. Will, I’m curious. Would you be a man of the people, or are you upper crust?
WILL: I’m a man of the people, of course.
ME: But… you wear a bowtie!
WILL: I’m hanging up now.