Bush II: Smells like the '80s!

Who cut the brie in D.C.? Plus: Advertising makes a hard right and an elitist lefty gives rhetoric tips to nonelitist righties.

By Carina Chocano

Published February 1, 2001 8:00PM (EST)

In April, British production company Pathé Pictures will begin shooting "Thunderpants," the story of a boy whose singular flatulent talent launches him from fame to death row, then on to fulfilling his dreams of becoming an astronaut. The comedy, originally entitled "The Boy Who Dealt It," is budgeted at $7 million, a hefty sum to gamble on an unproven gasbag -- but then, indications that it could pay off are in the air.

"A new breeze is blowing," said George W. Bush in his inaugural address to the nation, "and the old bipartisanship must be made new again."

Funny, it smells just like the breeze from 12 years ago. So far, the only old things we've seen dusted off are the Cabinet and the policy agenda. If they smell less than fresh, it's probably because they've spent the past eight years in a forgotten crypt, stewing. Is it a coincidence that an all-star benefit album for a nonprofit wildlife preserve is being planned (think "We are the world, we are the pets," featuring original songs by Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis and and other actors not known for their original songs) just as the religious right kicks off an uncalled-for comeback tour of the White House? Nope. Only 10 days into the Bush regime, '80s nostalgia is finally hitting its stride.

But even if the president were inclined to represent the will of the people in 2001, how would he know what it is? He is known to be averse to books, television, movies, travel, culture, public policy, work and staying awake for extended periods of time. Indeed, some have wondered what it is exactly that the president does with all his spare time. Could "napping" be a euphemism for "protracted coma"? Are we in fact living in the early days of the van Winkle administration?

Let's see. Bush spent his very first day in office signing an executive order requiring that international groups that receive U.S. funding stop "discussing or performing abortions." He also issued a written statement "encouraging ... anti-abortion demonstrators who marched on Washington to continue to protest" -- because they really need more inducements to violence.

Even Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., was taken aback: "The decision is unwise," he said. "The existing program is a carefully crafted compromise between pro-choice and pro-life groups ... I think the current policy is a sound one."

Oh, well.

Next, Bush created a White House office designed to award federal funding to faith-based charities. Interfaith leaders around the country promptly raised concerns about the harm that could be done to religious ministries if billions of federal dollars intended for existing social services were instead redirected to religious organizations.

"Tax dollars come with strings that will effectively turn religious leaders into government puppets," said the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance, a grass-roots organization dedicated to promoting the positive and healing role of religion in public life. "This multibillion-dollar proposal will not allocate new monies to deal with poverty; instead it will turn our nation's religious leaders into competitors for a limited pool of money."

But will they be cute puppets like that little sock fella? We miss that guy.

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Brand inanity

It's always heartening to see people take the time to ponder the effects dangerously regressive policies will have on their daily lives.

According to Mark DiMassimo, president and executive creative director of DiMassimo Brand Advertising in New York, Americans may never look at their Chee-tos the same way again -- or at least not for the next four years.

DiMassimo predicts sharp, rightward changes in branding that will better reflect the jingoistic and authoritarian flavor of the new Bush regime. According to DiMassimo, there will be less focus on aesthetics and more emphasis on power and strength. And "advertising will favor more open communication with the public and less 'skirting around the issues.'"

Sure, it all sounds airtight in theory, but will it sell beer? We followed DiMassimo's predictions with a few campaign suggestions designed to foster more open communication between the public and its brands.

Prediction: "There will be more importance placed on emphasizing the power, strength and abilities of products as our country's armed forces recapture government (and public) acclaim."

Clinton-era campaign: Altoids -- "Curiously strong mints."

Possible Bush-era replacement: Altoids -- "Mints that will kick your ass."

Prediction: "There will be more descriptive product information as the tone of ads becomes more serious and straight."

Clinton-era campaign: MasterCard -- "Tickets to big game, $40; three hot dogs, $10; the looks on their faces when the ball goes over the fence, priceless."

Possible Bush-era replacement: MasterCard -- "Tickets to big game, $40; three hot dogs, $10; the looks on their faces when the ball goes over the fence, $50."

Prediction: "Advertising will favor more open communication with the public and less 'skirting around the issues.'"

Clinton-era campaign: Milk -- "Got milk?"

Possible Bush-era replacement: Milk -- "Here is some milk."

Prediction: "As our faith in the office of the presidency is restored, the country will experience a greater belief in the power of emotions. Messages appealing to our emotions will be abundant."

Clinton-era campaign: Quaker oats -- "Warms your heart and soul."

Possible Bush-era replacement: Quaker oats -- "Oh, my God. I think I'm going to cry."

Prediction: "Brands that appeal to American pride, such as Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, the Plaza Hotel and Levi's are in."

(The Plaza Hotel?)

Prediction: "Clinton's administration instilled a humorous and casual atmosphere within American business practices ... A more serious attitude will be reflected in advertising -- 'work harder, play harder.'"

And when you get laid off, by all means drink harder.

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And some people call us elitists like it's a bad thing

While we staunchly believe that the free exchange of ideas is vital to a healthy democracy, the popular rhetoric of right-wing protest is in dire need of polishing before it's ready for prime time.

Here, at this bastion of biased liberal elitism, we get letters. After reading them and pondering their salient points, we are often left with the vague sensation that their salient points could have been more artfully or eloquently expressed. As elitists, we feel it is our responsibility not only to encourage political discourse but to clean it up a little. In the interest of uniting, not dividing, we have selected a few choice missives for troubleshooting.

One reader writes:

"Dubya Rules. He's not a liar like Gore-illa."

While the writer exhibits considerable wit -- note the delightful wordplay of "Gore-illa" -- the "R" in "rules" should not be capitalized.

One reader writes:

"I hope you leftist crybaby thieving, fucking pukes ... try something in the next 4 years. I live for the day this country settles its disputes on the battlefield. We finally get to see if the slimey feminists are right that women can do anything a man can do. Keep it up pinheads with your troublemaking, you keep saying half the people didn't vote for Bush, well half did and it's the half that believes in guns. I say it's time we settle things with them."

The writer might consider replacing the word "slimey" with the preferred "slimy" and breaking up the second-to-last sentence into two or three parts. With the proper punctuation, this letter could really sing. Also, the writer might try replacing the awkward "pukes" with "pools of sick" or "vomit puddles."

One reader writes:

"You nut fucks are really stupid cocksuckers. Fuck you all, & the queer bait you rode in with."

While we're not sure what a "nut-fuck" is, we are sure that it should be hyphenated. Also, the ampersand -- while it adds a delightful 18th-century typographical note that summons up the stout days of colonial patriotism -- should be replaced with "and." The second part of the second sentence employs a hackneyed construction that should be avoided when possible. However, if the writer wishes to use this construction, the preposition should be changed from "with" to "on" -- unless the writer means to suggest the horse is not a mode of transportation but, rather, a companion.

One reader writes:

"Fuck you all, and the horse you rode in on; to boot."

The use of this cliché, as we said, should be avoided when possible. In this case, however, it is used correctly. We do find the portion of the sentence following the semicolon somewhat confusing, if oddly endearing.

Carina Chocano

Carina Chocano writes about TV for Salon. She is the author of "Do You Love Me or Am I Just Paranoid?" (Villard).

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Advertising Bill Clinton George W. Bush