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In 1992, during a presidential debate with then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and third-party candidate Ross Perot, President George H.W. Bush was forced to admit he didn’t know what the price of a gallon of milk was. Mundane though that may seem nearly 30 years later, the question still haunts the 41st president.
Bush would have been better off admitting to an extramarital affair, in retrospect. After all, I’d wager most of the viewing audience that night was fully aware the president’s most viable opponent viewed the bonds of matrimony loosely, if he viewed them as bonds at all. However, the fact Bush couldn’t tell America how much four quarts of cow juice cost proved he was out of touch with the American populace, the working men and women who all know exactly what a gallon of the good stuff costs.
The question has resurfaced with intermittent frequency, something of great bafflement to this author. I’m hardly of Mayflower material or a trust-funder but I’d be hard-pressed to give you a definitive answer, even when you consider how often writers with a home office are saddled with the chore. (Spoiler alert: About 100 percent of the time.)
It’s not a sign a politician is just another prole like us, or someone we’d like to have a beer (or milk) with. It doesn’t say anything about his or her ability to govern or implement effective public policy. I cannot fathom how turning a debate into a game of “The Price is Right” leads to a more informed populace. (“OK, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, you said the JIF peanut butter cost $5.99, actual retail price … “)
If you’re running for mayor and you don’t know home prices in your own city, that’s a cow of a different color — especially when one of those answers is off by almost an order of magnitude.
Shaun Donovan ran HUD! https://t.co/8U9SZxjQ03
— Sam Stein (@samstein) May 11, 2021
How can you fix the city’s housing crisis if you’re this oblivious? pic.twitter.com/fW9fWeCXbU
— Monica Klein (@MonicaCKlein) May 11, 2021
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