If you watch enough White House briefings, you're going to hear some ridiculous things (lord knows I've said enough of them), but for sheer surreality, it's tough to beat the follow-up question from Bloomberg's Roger Runningen at Monday's briefing. The phrase in question, completely out of context?
"Back to Burger King."
In a White House briefing dominated by the possibility of military action in Syria and the murderous onslaught of ISIS, the White House press corps didn't just bring up Burger King, they had to go back to Burger King for some clarification. Earlier in the briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked if Burger King's (now-announced) plan to purchase Tim Hortons and move its headquarters to Canada created "urgency" for the President to issue an executive order on corporate inversion. Earnest responded, as expected, with a disclaimer about commenting on a specific transaction, then rattled of several paragraphs of White House boilerplate on inversion.
After several more digressions into trivial matters like Iraq and Syria, Runningen got things back on track. Here's the destined-for-Moment-of-Zen clip. the context of which doesn't really help matters:
"Back to Burger King. The administration has made several comments, statements, even speeches against inversions, but there hasn’t been any action taken. Is that the intent, or is that the strategy to produce some sort of chilling effect among the corporate boardrooms?"
What kind of "action" are we talking about here? Sectoral sanctions? Limited airstrikes? (Gasp!) Boots on the ground? Should the President demand that Burger King be deposed in favor of a more inclusive Burger Republic? Force them to draw down their stockpiles of BK Zesty Sauce? How will this affect the ongoing negotiations over a prisoner swap for the Hamburglar? Do we need to sic the WOPR on the Whopper?
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) seems to be suggesting we aid the moderate opposition by fortifying existing White Castles and throwing our support behind a leader named "Wendy."
According to both companies' annual reports, the tax savings from the move may not amount to much, but the deal could still be cause for concern:
Burger King's overall effective tax rate in 2013 was 27.5%, according to its annual report. Tim Hortons effective tax rate for the same year was 26.8%.
“This is a strategic transaction,” (Burger King Executive Chairman Alex) Berhing said. “It’s not being driven by tax rates.”
A-HA! "Strategic transaction!" Not since Eisenhower's "Domino's Theory" has such a stark, food-service-related warning been given, and we all know how that turned out!
In case you're wondering, the previous most ridiculous phrase was uttered by Jake Tapper, but was actually the product of some wrangling between Jay Carney and WorldNetDaily's Les Kinsolving on the subject of bestiality. The next day, this prompted Tapper, frustrated about Carney's habit of calling on reporters from all around the room, to snap at Carney, "Okay, then take a question about bestiality, go for it."