July 1, 2005

Your Turn Again: De Scent of Politics


So, Arianna Huffington got bent out of shape because David Gergen, rather than criticizing Bush’s Fort Bragg speech for exploiting 9/11, instead praised Bush’s political savvy for dusting off the tactic.

If Arianna wants to take it on, the issue goes way beyond Gergen.  Because, sad as it might be, American politics has almost ceased to be about policy.  Instead, it’s now a parlor game about tactics and strategy.  Or, it’s about personality and style.  (And really, how could Arianna make a beef about “style over substance” without mentioning that the person covering the speech and interviewing Gergen was Paula Zahn — a walking “case study” for Huffington’s argument — a so-called commentator whose personality is one half-part The News Hour combined with two-parts Entertainment Tonight.)

Taking this terrible trend to it’s illogical conclusion, the NYT ran a feature (The Sweet Smell of Celebrity – link) on the front page of the Style section yesterday concerning the potential of celebrity branding to provide a boost to the perfume industry.  Except, to illustrate the article (which primarily dealt with fragrances named for entertainment personalities), the accompanying illustrations somehow featured stars of the Bush administration. 

If political governance is now hardly distinguishable from a campaign, and the front page continues to lose distinction from the Style section (or Entertainment — or Sports, for that matter), these illustrations couldn’t be more appropriate.  Because, in the Bush-Zahn universe, who needs Britney when you’ve got Condi?  And what good is Brad when you can get Rummy?

Because the analytical skills of the BAG community keeps rising, I’ve decided to try the seminar format once again.  (This time, I’ll join you in the conversation.)  In this case, I was fascinated by illustrator Matt Collins’ conception of the Condi fragrance.  I was intrigued by the box; the colors; that exclamation point; the particular emphasis on the olfactory sense.

So, here are a few questions I offer you (unless you prefer your own) :  What is the Condi scent?  What’s with that bottle?  (And how much is she one container versus the other, or both?)

(Whether for reference, comparison or just a broader sweep of the product line, I also offer you access to a whiff of Greenspan and the vapor of Rumsfeld.)

Of course, I don’t mind if a few noses get out of joint.

(Revised: 7/1/05 7:47am PST)

(illustration(s): Matt Collins in The New York Times.  June 30, 2005.)

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Michael Shaw
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