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Thursday, December 8, 2016

New Labor Chief: the gay-baiting is just a marketing problem.


“We do have healthy products,” Puzder said. “Nobody buys them. It’s not my responsibility to tell people what to eat.”

In an admiring 2009 profile, Franchise Times wrote,

When the other burger chains were seeking ways to appeal to families, Andrew Puzder positioned stodgy Hardee’s and its fraternal twin Carl’s Jr. to attract heavy fast-feeders—young men. And what sells to this group? Hot chicks. 

Even the invitation was cheeky. “McDonald’s may call Chicago home,” it read, “but Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are visiting the Windy City to ensure people know what the ORIGINAL premium-quality Angus burger tastes like.” 

The Chicago business, food and franchise press was invited to the trendy Redhead Piano Bar in mid-August for a chance to sample those Angus burgers, enjoy an open bar and chat with Andrew Puzder, 59, CEO of CKE Restaurants, parent of both Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Since the nearest CKE restaurant is 40 miles away, in Portage, Indiana, CKE chefs drove a portable kitchen all the way from St. Louis. 

But when we arrived, no one was eating burgers or drinking free Coronas. Reporters gathered around a laptop, watching model and “Top Chef” hostess Padma Lakshmi eat a Carl’s Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburger while wearing a revealing dress and sitting splay-legged on a staircase. When some of the burger’s sauce dripped onto her hand, Padma licked it off. A couple of young male reporters sighed. Puzder, standing in the background, grinned.

Puzder came to head CKE, the holding company for Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr- by an unusual route, Franchise Times found:

In the mid-80s’ the Securities and Exchange Commission accused [Carl’s Jr] founder Carl] Karcher and other family members of insider trading and a disgruntled investor filed a lawsuit against him in Missouri. Puzder, who had been a lawyer in St. Louis since graduating from Washington University Law School, was assigned by his firm to represent Karcher in that case.

The two hit it off immediately:

Karcher, a devout Catholic, supported conservative causes, such as the John Birch Society and a California proposition to block gays and lesbians from working at public schools...Like Karcher, Puzder is a Roman Catholic with a large family (he has three adult children—a physicist, an attorney and a fashion designer—from his first marriage)...

When another Puzder client bought Carl’s Jr., then Hardee’s, Puzder became general counsel, then CEO. He didn’t like Rocky Mount, North Carolina, so he moved Hardee’s HQ from its hometown to St. Louis.

At this year’s GOP convention, the future Secretary of Labor was in the thick of the platform fights:

Discussions about social issues also sprang up in the subcommittee tasked with developing the party’s economic plank.

Ohio delegate David Johnson, who owns a small business in the state, criticized what he characterized as federal government overreach in responding to recent transgender bathroom laws.

“I hope we’re not getting this politically correct crap about transgender bathrooms,” he said during a debate about how to word a business nondiscrimination clause. “Any press person who comes to me and says, ‘Do you support that?’ My answer is no. If we’re telling employers to make provisions for 16 different people—”

“You’d have 16 different bathrooms,” another delegate said.

Of course, as we saw in North Carolina’s HB2 debate, it depends on how you define “discrimination.” The General Assembly defined the state’s LGBT residents right out of a redefined nondiscrimination law GOP leaders said was right in line with federal law- which also excludes LGBT Americans. Governor Pat McCrory ratcheted up his pious face and said Congress needs to revisit the Civil Rights Act’s coverage, intending a pose of tolerance and inclusiveness. Of course, he knew Congress, under the control of  would do no such thing unless they took it in mind to gut it.

Last year, Puzder displayed his silent dog whistle messaging skills in The Wall Street Journal. After describing how his Hardee’s brand got old and stale, he segued into how the Republicans needed a brand makeover, too:

...Gay rights is another issue in which Republicans risk alienating potential conservative voters, particularly younger ones. It is reasonable to believe that the states and the people should determine what constitutes marriage, not five justices. But the Supreme Court ruled last month in Obergefell v. Hodges—and it’s over.

There has been talk of a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision, and candidates should drop it. That would require a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress and ratification by 38 of the states. The chances of that happening are nil. More than 35 states had already legalized same-sex marriage before Obergefell, and Pew Research found in June that 57% of Americans and 73% of millennials favored it. It’s counterproductive for Republicans to look like social Neanderthals to a majority of Americans and a supermajority of young voters. There are better issues for the GOP—religious liberty, for instance.

Of course, as we have seen, again, with HB2, which succeeded a religious freedom bill that died at the finish line of the 2015 session, that “religious freedom” and “LGBT discrimination” are two sides of the same coin. Equality NC executive Chris Sgro explained in a 2015 article:

First thing on the opening day of the N.C. General Assembly’s 2015 session, Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam announced that he would host a legislative briefing on “religious freedom” on Jan. 28.

When Stam, a Wake County Republican, uttered the words “religious freedom,” he was referencing patently discriminatory legislation suggested in 2014 by N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger that would allow magistrates and other state employees to deny same-sex couples marriage licenses for religious reasons.

Stam recently railed against a bipartisan bill that would have protected gay and transgender children in charter schools, so his acting as the mouthpiece for this announcement was not surprising.

Pudzer is a smart marketer. He believes that, just as the Republicans of North Carolina headlined their broadbrush HB2 law with fear and loathing of transgender people most Tar Heels have never met nor thought about, religious freedom is the buzz word for legalizing all sort of discrimination. LGBT Americans will just be one example out of many.

It’s not a matter of changing who you despise, just one of despising them with a smile.

Much hand-wringing has attended the announcement of each high-level staff and cabinet appointment of the new president in the LGBT community. It is wasted energy. The President is a nominal Republican bolstering his base among party faithful who could give the French Revolution Jacobins a run for their radicalism.

They’re Republicans. The two strongest ties keeping the party’s zanies and mountebanks together are their loathing of abortion and gays.

In Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventure, “Silver Blaze,” Scotland Yard’s inspector Gregson quizzed Holmes about the crime scene:

"Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?" 
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."  
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time." 
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

Thus the Trump administration. The curious incident will if someone who isn’t rabidly anti-gay wins a seat near the throne.

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