A story appeared this week in the Wall Street Journal headlined: “Designer Gear for Obama Raising a Ruckus.” Causing the designer ruckus, duh, were the Republicans. They contended that Obama items being sold at a fund-raiser this week could violate campaign finance laws. And they had their reasons.
The story should have come with its own GPS, it was that hard to follow.
But I think I got it on the third read. Best I can tell, at the heart of the alleged ruckus, is this: At a fund-raiser this week, Obama’s reelection campaign was selling tote bags, T-shirts and accessories. The swag was designed by big fashion names, people you may know, like Derek Lam and Thakoon Panichgul. The Republicans contend that the items were sold at a fraction of the price the designers would get if the client were, say, Nordstrom and not the Big O.
Were the high-powered designers, the Republicans sniffed, using corporate money, property and employees to make dope stuff for their beloved Obama?
No, the Obama campaign shot back. All the high-end designer gear that was produced for the fund-raiser complied with campaign-finance rules.
No, seconded the designers. We didn’t spend much time or energy whipping up the gear. And we didn’t bother with leather straps and linen shirts, the stuff that drives prices up.
The campaign violation charge seemed a pretty big stretch.
The real story here, I suspect, is that the Republicans wanted to use the charge to try and tie Obama to the designer elite (it was Vogue editor Anna Wintour, after all, who headed up the apparel-for-Obama effort), which in turn would help paint him as a Hollywood/New York liberal, which in the general election might make him appear a privileged snob out of touch with the middle class. In short, he’d look too cool for school.
Lots of luck with that.
Obama’s cool, no doubt. Who else do you know who can riff an Al Green ditty and bang a three-pointer in shirt and tie from deep in the corner?
But if the Republicans attempt to paint Obama as someone who thinks he’s cool, they’ll come up empty. Obama doesn’t have actors and actresses at the White House for overnighters. He’s loath to glam up his quarters for the cameras. His idea of a fun night, from what’s been reported, is time with the wife and kids and a little SportsCenter before turning in.
In a new book titled Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness, author Rebecca Walker makes the case that Obama has helped redefine cool in the black community.
“So much recently has connected coolness in the black community with the shoes you wear or the car you drive,” Walker told the Huffington Post a few days back. “… Obama said very clearly that cool is your moral center, your way of thinking and the way you handle the issues you face in life.’’
No price you can put on that kind of swag.