The 30 most secret ‘secret sauces’ in politics

Yesterday, Jonathan Chait wrote a post about Rep. Paul Ryan's favorite books, which ended by repeating the Wisconsin Republican's recipe for job creation — and the "secret sauce" that makes it all come together. David Gutman at the Charleston Gazette responded on Twitter by noting that West Virginia politicians were equally enamored with secret sauces.

So many secret sauces — now more than ever.

We interpreted this as a clarion call for a list of some of the best secret sauces in political history.


This is some secret sauce. A water tower shaped like a ketchup bottle in the town of Belleville, Ill.  (Mark Ahlvers via Reuters

1. President Obama, Sept. 2, 2012“When Governor Romney finally had a chance to reveal the secret sauce, he did not offer a single new idea. It was just retreads of the same old policies we’ve been hearing for decades, the same policies that have been sticking it to the middle class for years.” (This was during Obama's secret sauce renaissance.)

2. President Obama, March, 1, 2013"But, ultimately, it's a choice they make. And the — this idea that, somehow, there's a secret formula or secret sauce to get Speaker Boehner or Mitch McConnell to say, 'You know, what, Mr. President? You're right. We should close some tack — tax loopholes for the well-off and well-connected in exchange for some serious entitlement reform and spending cuts of programs we don't need.' "

3. The Victoria Advocate, July 19, 1957: "Russians Use 'Espionage' to Get 'Secret Sauce' Recipe"

4. The New York Times, June 17, 2012“'I do not have any secret sauce,' Mr. Buffett said in a phone interview."

5. Thomas Friedman, October 23, 2012"Meanwhile, here in America, we are debating whether to replace our first black president — whose middle name is Hussein and whose grandfather was a Muslim — with a Mormon! Who does that? Nobody else. That radical pluralism is the secret of our sauce, and blessedly so. America, take a bow."

6. Thomas Friedman, April 3, 2005"The long-term opportunities and challenges that the flattening of the world puts before the United States are profound. Therefore, our ability to get by doing things the way we've been doing them — which is to say not always enriching our secret sauce — will not suffice any more."

7. Thomas Friedman, March 7, 2004: "Our competitors know the secret of our sauce. But do we?"

8. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), March 27, 2014: "I am convinced that the secret sauce of America is the welcoming of people from all over the world who come here to bring their talents and allowing them to express themselves fully and freely in the wonderful rich soil of this great country."

9. Sen. Angus King, June 20, 2013"Why is this bill so important? In my view, immigration is the mainspring of America. It is our secret sauce. It is what has made us who we are. No other country in the history of the world has been built the way this country was built."

10. The Los Angeles Times, July 21, 1994: "Otherwise, the meat industry seemed to be preaching to the converted. Congressmen gleefully wolfed down every imaginable version of the hot dog — smoked kielbasas, jumbo grillers, Big & Juicy's, kosher dogs and spiced dogs — topped with every imaginable condiment — hot mustard, sweet mustard, jalapenos, spaghetti sauce, regular relish, corn relish, maple syrup salsa and the secret sauce of Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.). ('If I told you the recipe,' an aide explained, "I'd have to shoot you.')"

11. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), July 23, 2013"Here in Washington, many policymakers seem to have forgotten the recipe, the 'secret sauce,' if you will, for long sustainable economic growth. I would invite them to visit my State of Texas, which has been luring job creators from all across the Nation."

12. Sen. John Cornyn, May 8, 2013"Now, there is not a secret sauce or a secret formula. It is pretty clear why we have enjoyed that sort of job growth in America, and it is something I think the rest of the country could learn."

13. Jack Hitt, Aug. 26, 2001"Maurice is comfortable weaving religion with barbecue: there is a weekly Bible-study session at each of his pits. Later on, in the privacy of his office, he let slip a secret of his sauce. ''The recipe,' he said, 'is in the Bible.' 'Does it start with Jesus' parable of the mustard seed?' I joked. Maurice's eyes flared, as if I had correctly guessed that his middle name was Rumpelstiltskin, and he refused to discuss it further."

14.  The Arizona Capitol Times, Aug. 4, 2014"Former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, who has been deemed the “moderate Republican” in the six-way GOP gubernatorial primary, said he expects independents to support his candidacy disproportionately. Gaining their votes is part of his strategy for success in the primary. 'It’s part of our secret sauce,' he said."

15. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), May 2, 2014: "But what I think the reason for this hearing is there are some pretty amazing things that are happening right now in America. There are inspiring success stories that need to be told and replicated. And so what we're trying to figure out here is what's the secret sauce, the secret to success. This really isn't an ideological thing; it's a what works thing."

16. Rep. Paul Ryan, Aug. 20, 2014"Growth occurs on the margin, which is a wonky way of saying, if you want faster economic growth, more upward mobility, and faster job creation, lower tax rates across the board is the key — it’s the secret sauce."

17. Sen. Mark Begich, Jan. 29, 2013"There are many good barbeque establishments in Alaska. Barbeque has long been a part of our Nation's culinary history. Few people know that our own Library of Congress holds dozens of old drawings, posters and prints depicting barbecued meats at picnics, high society events, fairs and the like. The Library of Congress has barbeque recipes, stories, cookbooks and books on the history of barbeque. ... It would be hard to pick an absolute favorite of mine back home. I like them all. Big Daddy's southern-style barbeque is consistently top quality. Big Daddy's has won competitions in Alaska, done well nationally and was featured on a Food Network TV show. Maybe it's the secret sauce. Maybe it's the meat. Maybe it's the way he slow cooks over a hickory fire."

18. Politico, Aug. 19, 2014: "David Plouffe, the former campaign manager and White House adviser to President Barack Obama, is taking his political secret sauce to Uber late next month as senior vice president of policy and strategy, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told POLITICO in an interview Tuesday."

19. Nancy Pelosi, Aug. 9, 2008"The men had ruled the roost for such a long time, and they liked that environment. They had this attitude of, 'We know how to get this done, and there's a secret sauce to it.' They never said it that way, but that's how I heard it: 'There's a secret sauce, and you can't possibly know the recipe because we do.'"

20.  The Washington Post, April 23, 2008: "His company provides the key tools of what it calls 'predictive analytics' (the secret sauce of microtargeting) to commercial concerns and, increasingly, political customers."

21. The New York Times, Feb. 18, 2008: "Most states will be covered by one or two reporters, one editor working on contract from inside the state, and an undetermined number of bloggers. The editors — who will remain anonymous, and will include lawyers, lobbyists and former officeholders — are the 'secret sauce,' Mr. Sommer said."

22. The Washington Post, Oct. 23, 2009: "'It's hard to imagine anything more important to the future of the success of our economy than a healthy and vibrant Internet, and there is no question that the openness of the Internet is the secret sauce to its success,' FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in an interview after the agency meeting."

23. The Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2012"The technical term for the secret sauce that Romney is using in his budget projections is 'dynamic scoring.' The idea is that tax cuts make the economy grow faster. They make people work harder. They persuade rich people to stop hiding money away. And thus they don’t cost as much as a 'static analysis' — one that didn’t take into account all these effects — would suggest."

24. The New York Times, Feb. 17, 2012: "Mayor Rahm Emanuel, our heat-seeking Missile and a strong proponent of charters, heralds Noble for knowing the 'secret sauce' of strong educational performance. But challenges posed by a high-poverty student population remain daunting, no matter the sauce."

25. The Hill, April 4, 2014: "The NRA's choice of lobbyists reflects a commitment to using the best ingredients, netting four mentions on The Hill's Top Lobbyists list for 2013. Or, you might say, the best-connected ingredients. The 'secret sauce' behind the NRA's lobbying success? A heaping helping of revolving door influence."

26. Chattanooga Times Free Press, June 25, 2014: "Jordan Powell, a spokesman for [Rep. Charles] Fleischmann's campaign, said the congressman is also campaigning in every district. 'There's really no secret sauce to this at all. It's all going back to Chuck's hard work,' Powell said. 'Chuck has always focused on all 11 counties.' "

27.  James O'Keefe, May 26, 2011“I can’t tell you the secret sauce of it, but we do have a training method. There are many people learning this method and learning how to expose abusive power in creative ways.”

28.  The Washington Post, July 13, 2008"The Romney campaign, like Obama’s, has been studying consumer behavior to target voters who might not see television advertisements. It commissioned a poll of voters in Florida and Ohio to see how many watch television and, for those who don’t, what kind of Web sites they frequent. Moffatt won’t say what the poll found — 'That’s the secret sauce,' he said — but his digital analysts are tailoring marketing schemes to reach them."

29. The Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 14, 2014"Independents gravitated to him 2-1 over Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, who is making another run in Utah's 4th Congressional District. 'He's figured out the, I guess you would call it, the secret sauce of connecting with moderate Republicans,' said BYU's Monson. 'A lot of that is no secret. He's genuinely a moderate.' "

30. The Los Angeles Times, Dec. 26, 2013"The secret sauce in each of her Senate races, political operatives here say, is the discipline she has shown in running essentially a governor's race, rather a Senate race — casting herself as a fighter for Louisiana on local issues that often carry greater weight with her state's voters than Washington's ideological battles."

P.S. If you didn't catch on, I'm begging you — stop making secret sauce. The world cannot hold any more confidential aiolis, undisclosed chutneys or classified garnishes. 

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.
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