Obama Advisors Can't Even Get Delis Right

Categories: Food Politics
pastrami_opt.jpg
Lee Klein
Obama should have gone with pastrami -- a more assertive meat than corned beef.
It has been widely reported that President Obama and U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek stopped by Jerry's Famous Deli on South Beach after their fundraiser at the Fontainebleau. Never mind that the Prez ordered one of two corned beef sandwiches with mayonnaise (oy!) -- the biggest political sandwich blunder since presidential candidate Kerry went to Philly and asked for a cheesesteak sandwich with swiss cheese! Yet at least Kerry's advisors, who did virtually nothing right during his campaign, got their candidate to Pat's King of Steaks, which is the proper place to go. Obama's advisors, who did virtually everything right during his campaign and nothing right since, led him to a deli that few think is especially worthwhile. But it gets worse: According to Beth Reinhard of the Miami Herald, "Obama wandered from the order counter to the cash register. 'I'm promoting small business,' he said."

Last figures I have for Jerry's Famous Deli Inc. are from 1999, when the company earned $70 million dollars. In 1993, Jerry's was the first delicatessen to go public (listed on the NASDAQ exchange), which fueled rapid growth (including the purchase of Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House in 1996 for close to $5 million, and Epicure in 1998 for $9 million in cash and stock). I got this info from David Sax' great book "Save The Deli", which singles out Jerry's founder Isaac Starkman (who has since passed away; his son Guy is now president) for killing the independent deli in favor of the corporate deli. And he doesn't parse his words.

This is Sax describing how the new Epicure Market in Sunny Isles came to be: "Here you had a revered Jewish deli institution (Rascal House) torn down by a corporate Jewish deli (Jerry's Inc.) in the service of a luxury Jewish grocery. It was all just too disgustingly ironic -- cultural cannibalism at its most repugnant."

Starkman would eventually take the company private again. An L.A. deli owner describes how it worked: "He brought the company public, used the cash to finance a huge expansion, then bought it back cheap. It wasn't great for investors, but for him it couldn't have worked out better."

Sounds like a plan hatched by Goldman Sachs. And again, Obama finds himself on the wrong side of the fence, saying the wrong words. I know it's just a trivial matter of picking out a deli, but I'll bet Bill Clinton's aides would have seen to it  that when he was going to make a comment about supporting small business, he'd do so in the confines of an actual small business, with real working class small business owners hugging him and glowing with appreciation (actually, he'd be hugging them, but you get the point).

Please, Barack: Use this silly episode as the impetus to surround yourself with new people. Poor advice, which apparently you've been receiving by the bucketful, is ruining your ambitious agenda as surely as mayonnaise does a corned beef sandwich. Let this incident, indeed this very corned beef sandwich, be the one that saves your presidency!

I mean, assuming you're reading this.

Location Info

Jerry's Famous Deli

1450 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, FL

Category: Restaurant

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