September 02, 2003

Shop at W-Mart

My favorite thing about presidential campaigns is glimpsing the trinkets that spew forth. Throughout our history, presidential stuff has often made all the difference. It’s no surprise, then, that the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign has set up shop at www.georgewbushstore.com. Log on and read on.

Like you might expect, patriotic stickers abound. They get more saccharine with every cycle. And are they fun to manipulate! In 1996, I took a “Dole-Kemp” bumper sticker and rearranged the letters to spell “Kold Pee.” That one was a huge hit even among my Dole-supporting friends. I’ve already digitally altered the “I stand with President Bush” sticker to read “I can’t stand President Bush.” Too easy! But I digress.

While inexpensive trinkets are to be expected in any presidential campaign, Bush 2004 goes far beyond the typical. Along with the usual assortment of mugs, mouse pads, coasters, stickers and more flag than even the Pacific Ocean could wave, the George W. Bush Store carries several lines of the highest-quality clothing ever borne of a political campaign. This is not the typical chintzy fare that you’ll be waxing your car with two years from now. They are built to last, presumably for the day when Ws will be required by law on all of our clothing.

Is the George W. Bush Store a new phenomenon? Not at all: I remember proudly wearing my Clinton-Gore shirt to school in seventh grade. It finally got eighth-grade girls to notice me, if only long enough for them to hurl some kind of insult my way. What makes the Bush stuff so interesting is that its wares directly reflect the tastes of the people the campaign is trying to attract. Bush, how can we love thee? Let us count the ways:

If you’re the standard campaigner type, you’ll want to visit the “Bush-Cheney 2004” line. Remember, the incumbents have only $200 million-plus at this point. So give until it hurts!

If you like to wear your Bush with style, hop on over to the “President Bush” collection. There you’ll find all of the ultra-preppy merchandise that’ll help you fit in at the next $2000-a-plate fundraising dinner.

Race fans can stop in at “Interstate W ’04” and check out the smokin’ campaign gear. True, the speedway-themed shirts evoke images closer to the fast-food place Checkers than NASCAR; but hey, life is a highway, right? Enjoy the scenery before it’s torn up for oil.

Creepy conformists can get their Orwellian outfits at the link “W: The President.” Every item in this section is jet black except for a huge “W” and “The President” written in small letters underneath. It’s reminiscent of the Malcolm X caps that were popular in the early ’90s, except that the “X” caps were pretty cool. Seeing a large group of people wearing “W” duds in one place, though, would have me ducking for cover behind the nearest bulletproof material.

If watching Bush pretend to be a cowboy has ignited your own yearning to pretend to be a cowboy, then you can “Go West!” Stetson hats, belt buckles and bandannas aplenty here; cattle and chaw not included.

“Kid Gear” ensures that no child is left behind. This section has bibs, pajamas and other baby things. Cute stuff until the kid vomits right on the logo. Who says children are too young to make political statements? And let’s not forget the minority vote! That “Viva Bush” T-shirt should just about do it.

To recap: the George W. Bush Store panders to rich preppies, racing fans, conformists, wannabe cowboys and impressionable children. Talk about wearing your political motivations on your sleeve.

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