- Last Updated: 12:21 AM, March 29, 2012
- Posted: 11:51 PM, March 28, 2012
Was last week’s Etch A Sketch incident really a monumental political blunder?
Or did a slip of the tongue (and brain) by one of Mitt Romney’s advisers — and the subsequent mocking by challenger Rick Santorum as well as comedians far and wide — really open up a tremendous opportunity for political candidates everywhere?
If you belong to a generation that is still breathing, you know what an Etch A Sketch is. It’s the original laptop, made by a company called Ohio Art, on which an average person with above-average patience and nothing better to do with his life can draw stick figures of things nobody will recognize.
There’s probably some sort of stylus under the screen that “etches” the drawing, but I always liked to think that magic happened when you turned the toy’s knobs. If nothing else, this primitive machine gave children everywhere practice for when Coleco and Atari — which, remember, were once as popular as Apple — came along with another time-wasting invention called the video game.
But this column is starting to get away from me. I was talking about Romney, the guy who right now is most likely to face President Obama in the next election.
Part of the attraction of an Etch A Sketch is that you can turn it upside down, shake it, and the unrecognizable image you’ve “drawn” will disappear. Then you can start another sketch that nobody will be able to figure out.
Last week on CNN Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom (no, his name cannot be written with the Etch A Sketch stylus) implied that the opinions Romney is now espousing might not be the same ones he’ll use in November.
“I think you hit the reset button for the fall campaign,” said Fehrnstrom, who before long will likely be manning the counter at a Shake Shack. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You kinda shake it up and start all over again.”
Whoa! Hold on!
Could anyone be so stupid as to imply that a candidate as genuine as Romney — coming as he does from that bastion of honesty, Wall Street — would flex his ideals just because his opponent had changed?
(And, I have to ask myself, does that also mean that President Romney will shake his Etch A Sketch and remove campaign promises if elected?)
But brilliant ideas sometimes come out of mistakes. The guy who invented Post-it Notes did so only because he came upon a glue that was too weak for anything else — and a billion-dollar industry was born.
Fehrnstrom’s gaffe, you have to know, turned the stock of the Etch A Sketch manufacturer into a highflier for a day or so. Investors figured that all the publicity generated by Mitt’s guy would help sales. So Ohio Art’s stock soared to its highest level in eight years.
OK, I’ve stalled long enough. Here’s the brilliant idea: product placement by candidates to raise campaign money.
Why not? It’s done on TV shows and in movies all the time. And what show today has a wider audience than a political debate? (OK, all of them do. But humor me and keep reading anyway.)
So the next Republican debate could go something like this:
Interviewer (henceforth referred to merely as Bozo): So, Mr. Romney, what would you do about the federal budget deficit?
Romney: I’ll answer that in a second, Bozo. But, first, does anyone here have an Advil? I find A-D-V-I-L particularly helpful when the stress of all the bad things the Democrats have done these past four years gives me a headache.
Santorum: Here, Mitt, I have two Bayer Aspirin. They will clear out your arteries while soothing the pain caused by trying to think too hard.
Bozo: Mr. Romney, is that the reason you are wearing the baseball cap with the name Pfizer, which makes Advil, on it?
Romney: Oh, no, Bozo. I’m tipping this cap of Pfizer — listed on the New York Stock Exchange — because it’s one of those fine American companies that continue to create jobs despite the record of our current president.
Pfizer would pay millions for a reference like that and so would Bayer.
But that’s only part of the idea.
Remember, Ohio Art’s stock went up on the Romney aide flub.
Romney could load up on Pfizer stock and Santorum on Bayer shares, knowing that the companies would soon be mentioned prominently on TV. And I think the Securities and Exchange Commission would have a difficult time convicting them of insider trading charges.
Or maybe not.
But it really doesn’t matter. Unless Romney or Santorum gets his act together before November, they both will be looking for something to keep them busy for the next four years.