The one car that caused the most commotion at the Daytona 500 this long weekend was Ryan Newman’s.
In a rain-delayed race on Monday, Newman was involved in a horrific crash from the lead that sent the 42-year-old veteran driver to the hospital. Newman was in serious condition, but the injuries weren’t life-threatening.
Given the kind of fright that accident caused, though, the fact that “The Beast” was a close second in terms of commotion-causing cars was impressive — especially when it doesn’t have a number or a famous driver.
“The Beast” is the informal name for the presidential limousine, a massive tank of a car that ensures the commander in chief stays safe.
President Donald Trump took it down to the Daytona International Speedway for NASCAR’s premier race, something which struck the predictable people the wrong way.
In the case of The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, she was clearly unhappy the president was using official government property for a political purpose.
At least he did it with a limousine.
Former President Barack Obama did it with the White House — and yet, no one seemed to have a problem with it.
Trump was the grand marshal for the event, where he told drivers they were competing “for pure American glory.”
He then did roughly a quarter lap around the famed 2.5 mile oval in Daytona Beach, Florida in “The Beast” — nominally a Cadillac, but with enough modifications that very little of the original car is left — during the warm-up laps.
Trump had also done a flyover of the speedway with Air Force One.
Tune-in at green flag of yesterday’s Daytona 500 hit a five-year high with 11.2 million viewers. https://t.co/pGHDKAt4nq
— Michael Mulvihill (@mulvihill79) February 17, 2020
NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell tweeted a (rather off-kilter) photo of “The Beast” doing its quarter lap of Daytona.
In a retweet, Haberman made it clear that she was Not Happy™ about this.
Using the official apparatus of government for what appears to be a political event https://t.co/GWNm8io8O1
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 16, 2020
“Using the official apparatus of government for what appears to be a political event,” Haberman tweeted.
Yes, that ought never to happen. Except for in this iconic photo, of course:
— James Poulos (@jamespoulos) February 16, 2020
That was roughly five years ago when the Supreme Court ruling which held that same-sex marriage was an inviolable constitutional right — Obergefell v. Hodges — came down.
“As of 7:08 PM, the sunlight made it difficult [to] make out the colors, but red, orange, yellow, green and violet were faintly visible,” a White House pool report from June 26, 2015 read, according to Politico.
The Obama administration had lit up the north side of the White House in the colors of the rainbow flag “to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to progress and equality, here in America and around the world,” a White House official said.
“The pride colors reflect the diversity of the LGBT community, and tonight, these colors celebrate a new chapter in the history of American civil rights.”
Other things the Obama administration did (releasing an email blast from plaintiff Jim Obergefell, tweeting out praise for the Supreme Court’s decision) were all pretty unsurprising.
However, using the White House to make what’s effectively a political statement — given that Obergefell was and remains a contentious ruling, if not because of the act of same-sex marriage itself but because of its implications for religious freedom in the long term — was unusual.
Remember, the White House is a bit more than a presidential limousine.
“The Beast” isn’t on any U.S. currency, after all. It’s not a symbol of the American republic.
And yet, I’d argue what the Obama White House did was acceptable — if not because I agree with the cause but because I agree with the right of the president to make such a decision.
Both were political events.
Donald Trump is trying to energize NASCAR fans, typically a Republican-leaning lot.
Obama was using the Supreme Court ruling to further energize the LGBT community, a key Democratic voting bloc.
If you can do that with James Hoban’s architectural masterpiece, you can darn well do it with a limousine.
Maggie Haberman is well aware of this, too.
Her problem isn’t with “The Beast” being in front of the Daytona 500 field.
It’s who was being transported inside the limousine that irked her.
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