The Times today took a moment out of their coverage of the intensifying mayoral race to tut-tut incumbent Michael Bloomberg about one of his bad habits: eating junk food. Reporter Michael Barbaro painstakingly — and hilariously — points out each of his weaknesses. They include: burnt bacon, peanut-butter sandwiches, hot dogs, Big Macs, fried chicken, wine, pizza, coffee, and his favorite snack of all, Cheez-Its. (They are, indeed, the sodium squares of the gods.) This, the Times thinks, is a bit hypocritical because Hizzoner has long been on a crusade to force the city into healthier habits: banning smoking in restaurants and bars, forcing chain restaurants into posting calorie counts, and paying for aggressive ad campaigns against sugary drinks. But for all the (surprisingly unpretentious) unhealthy foods he loves, apparently the mayor’s most tortured relationship is with salt. He prefers popcorn “so salty that it burns others’ lips,” and puts so much salt on a bagel “that it’s like a pretzel.” He even puts a hefty amount of salt on pizza (six dashes! Barbaro counted!).
This salt fetish could be seen as another example of hypocrisy, considering how Bloomberg has lately begun to wage a war against salt, requesting that dining establishments voluntarily reduce their use of the flavor-enhancer by at least 20 percent. But to us it just seems to fit in perfectly with Bloomberg’s nanny-state philosophy. Bloomberg used to be a smoker — he knows firsthand how hard it is to quit on your own once you get started, so he sets in place as many obstacles to the habit as possible. Likewise, he knows how delicious junk food is, and how hard it is to resist, so he sets up little hurdles (calorie counts, trans-fat bans). And salt, oh, salt. Who can fight it? Not most people, and definitely not Bloomberg — which he well knows, and which is why he tries to pull out a bit of sodium before food even gets to people.
You can argue about whether this kind of policy is right, for sure. But you can’t argue that Bloomberg’s a hypocrite for sometimes indulging by eating junk food and simultaneously trying to help other people stay off it. He’s a healthy guy who eats very carefully most of the time, but he’s not some personal nutrition fascist. Think of how annoying it would be if we had a perfectly in-shape health freak for a mayor telling us what we should and should not try to eat. That would be awful. It would be like, like … San Francisco. Shudder.