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'People in Iowa Know What Arugula Is'

INDEPENDENCE, Iowa--Most presidential campaigns do their best to sweep real or alleged gaffes under the rug. Not Barack Obama. On the trail, he regularly invokes criticism of his comments about invading Pakistan and ruling out the use of a nuclear bomb against terrorists as proof that he has the candor to utter common sense truths that only official Washington could regard as gaffes.

Thursday, Obama took on two more sensitive topics in a single event at the Buchanan County fairgrounds in Independence, Iowa. He took up his comment in an interview with an Iowa television station the day before, when he was asked why he no longer wears an American flag pin on his suit lapel. Obama answered in the interview that he wore a flag pin after the Sept. 11 attacks but later decided to remove it because the pin "became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security."

Not wanting that comment to be turned against him, Obama returned to it in Independence to elaborate, even though many in the crowd there hadn't heard of his remarks the day before. He said he had put aside the pin because he started seeing others in Washington wearing flag pins but voting against spending for veteran health care and soldiers' disability payments. "After a while, you start noticing people wearing a lapel pin, but not acting very patriotic," he said, adding, "My attitude is, I'm not concerned about what you're wearing on your lapel but what's in your heart."

Finally, Obama took up the arugula matter. At a July campaign event at a farm in Adel, Iowa, Obama responded to farmers' concerns about falling crop prices by saying that American farm policy should focus more on supporting the production of specialty foods that are in increasing demand. "Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?" he said. Several articles in the national press seized on the comment as a sign that Obama was out of touch and too cosmopolitan for Iowa tastes -- after all, the articles noted, there are no Whole Foods stores in the state.

At the fair grounds in Independence on Thursday, Obama was talking again about the need for diversifying crops beyond heavily subsidized staples like corn and cotton -- and used the opportunity to confront the grocery gaffe. He recounted the ridicule he'd received, citing it as proof of the media's pettiness. "They said, 'Oh, Obama's talking about Arugula in Iowa. People in Iowa don't know what arugula is,'" he said, to laughter. "People in Iowa know what arugula is. They may not eat it but they know what it is."

No mention, though, of Whole Foods.

--Alec MacGillis

By Washington Post editors  |  October 5, 2007; 10:58 AM ET
 
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Comments

Looks like Sen. Obama struck a nerve with a certain petty media guy.

What's up, Alec? Hoping the boys over at Politico notice your "rapier-like wit?"

Posted by: psyberdawg | October 5, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Right on styles1!

Posted by: john.doe | October 5, 2007 2:50 PM | Report abuse

"No mention, though, of Whole Foods."

Thank you, Alec, for proving the Senator's point.

Posted by: bsimon | October 5, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

So THAT's why I can never find fried-arugula-on-a-stick at the county fair.

Posted by: jp1954 | October 5, 2007 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Styles1 is right on. Senator Obama is trying to stay above the bottom feeding level that the media strives for to draw the average tv viewer but he probably is shovelling sand against the tide. The average American voter is well represented by the entertainment industry... look at the most popular shows and movies. All candidates end up looking dim because they have to eventualy give up any pretext about having intelligent discussions about ideas.. there are few innocents in this race to the bottom.

Posted by: jstratt2 | October 5, 2007 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of your opinions on the man and his credentials, you must admit he is spot on about the lapel and the media's pettiness.

Posted by: styles1 | October 5, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

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