“Please don’t draft me.”
— Message painted on a large sign held up by a student, or so it appeared, standing in front of the Chattanooga School of Arts and Sciences when President Bush‘s motorcade drove by during a visit to Tennessee yesterday.
So what if etiquette columnist and author Judith Martin, aka “Miss Manners,” was seated right next to him during dinner Tuesday night at Washington’s popular Teatro Goldoni.
That didn’t stop John Mariani, food and wine columnist for Esquire and Wine Spectator, and author of the Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, from grabbing the encrusted rack of lamb off his dinner plate and eating it with his fingers. And he wasn’t alone.
Let’s turn, shall we, to her columns published in more than 200 newspapers, and her best-selling book “Miss Manners’ Basic Training: Eating,” in which Miss Martin explains how to “eat almost anything” while restaurant dining.
“Dear Miss Manners,” wrote one reader, “I was under the impression, at a casual luncheon, that it was okay to pick up fried chicken with your fingers. I was informed that this is not proper, that it should be cut with a knife and fork.”
“If by a casual luncheon you mean friends taking their lunch break together in the cafeteria or a meeting at a fast-food court or a picnic in the park, yes, you can pick up your chicken. If you mean a meal at a slow-food restaurant or in someone’s dining room (as opposed to someone’s kitchen), no.”
“Dear Miss Manners,” wrote another, “What is the best way to address people who lick their fingers while eating? It is a common occurrence that I find extremely rude, especially when I’m trying to enjoy my meal.”
“Don’t shake hands with them,” Miss Manners replied. “Better yet, don’t go out to dinner with them. Unless these people happen to be your children, Miss Manners is afraid that you cannot correct their table manners, such as they are.”
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, celebrates three-quarters of a century of living today. (If it’s any consolation, women overheard in Mr. Kennedy’s company of late say the senator has never looked better. What is it about him and Bill Clinton?).
“Sen. Kennedy began his career setting a high standard when it comes to birthdays,” fellow Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry observes in a birthday tribute to his colleague. “It was when he reached the minimum constitutional age — 30 — that he first came to the Senate: 1 of just 16 senators elected at such a tender age from a total of over 1,895 Senators in all of American history. By his 70th birthday he was one of just 28 senators to ever cast over 10,000 votes.”
Mr. Kerry recalls that Mr. Kennedy’s maiden speech in the Senate was to demand an end to the filibuster of the original Civil Rights Act. He also credits the senior senator for lowering the voting age to 18 and ending “the hypocrisy that 18-year-olds were old enough to die for their country in Vietnam but not old enough to vote for its leadership at home.”
Say what you want to about Mr. Kennedy’s ideals and ideology, Mr. Kerry concludes, he “sticks to his guns. … He is listening still — to the voices his conscience tells him must never be ignored.”
He’s got nothing against children. In fact, Rep. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican, has delivered more than 5,200 babies in his lifetime as an OB-GYN doctor.
“As a father, I absolutely understand the importance of uniting families so spouses and young children can stay together,” the congressman said when reintroducing legislation to end “chain migration” to America.
If approved, the legislation would close a loophole whereby extended families of legal immigrants obtain visas to come to America — “chain migration” — giving priority to cousins, adult children and even distant relatives. Mr. Gingrey describes it as allowing genealogy to determine who immigrates to this country.
Deck the halls
It’s like being subjected to Christmas carols at Halloween.
Nevertheless, as you probably read in this newspaper yesterday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who aims to become the next Republican president of the United States, has created his first presidential campaign TV ads — 20-plus months before Election Day.
For now, the ads will air only in Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire and South Carolina. But rest assured, they’ll be coming soon to a TV near you. And, of course, each ends with the all-too-familiar: “I’m Mitt Romney and I approved this message.”
John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.