25 September 2011


By Andy Weddington
Sunday, 25 September 2011

"The whole campaign was a tragic case of mistaken identity." George McGovern

These are darn serious times for our country. Darn serious. But every once in a while, for the sake of sanity, a dose of humor is healthy. That is, laughing good for the heart, mind, and soul. And more often than not there's a bit of truth, of reality, in the humor. Here goes, decide for yourself.

So last Thursday evening I tuned in to the Fox News and Google Republican presidential candidates debate. Yes, it's early but certainly not too early to start learning about the folks jockeying to challenge the Democratic party nominee--whether it's the self-destructing incumbent or not. The evening did not disappoint. Great entertainment.

Though being on stage performing before a packed and buzzing theatre and millions and millions across the globe is certainly stressful, how wonderful to be in the position of no responsibility, able to criticize (with curt civility) one another, repeatedly attack the sitting president, and promise, promise, promise. Enjoy it while it lasts. For Mr. Obama can shed a little light on the inevitable pitfalls of over-promising and under-delivering--from god to dog. Will they ever learn? No. Will we ever learn? No.

I listened to post debate commentary, read some objective reviews, and thought about what I'd seen and heard. And then Friday morning, while wandering around the grocery story, a comical analogy struck. So standing in the snack foods aisle, with pocket-size notebook in hand and a curious shelf stocker and a few nosey shoppers keeping an eye on me, I started jotting down words on packaging.

First conclusion is considering the scrutiny customers around me devoted to reviewing potato chip bags, I'd be willing to bet the average person spends more time fretting over what brand and flavor of potato chips to buy than thinking about what politician to vote for. Where else but America. Surely that helps explain at least some, if not all, of the inept holding public office.

The comparisons between potato chips and politicians interesting.

Big money surrounds both. Potato chip annual retail sales in the United States is around $6 billion a year. A sixth of that is the fundraising target to fuel the president's re-election campaign. Cha-ching!

Attractive packaging--for the pol. No one sells in a competitive marketplace without good makeup. If hair, how styled? Face paint. Attire. Carriage. And so forth and so on. Image consultants tend to this business. As tennis phenom Andre Aggassi declared years ago--when he had hair--in a famous camera ad, "Image is everything."

Likewise potato chips, if bags are to sell, require attractive packaging. Shapes and colors and clever words (Betcha can't eat just one.)--all important. Marketers are image consultants for potato chips.

Other parallels...

Potato chips are bought. So are politicians. Some cheaper than others.

Potato chips have websites. So do politicians.

Potato chips have expiration dates. Most politicians do--all should.

And, potato chips, like politicians, are packed with hot air.

As if Frito-Lay, Inc. needs any free adverstising, following is the potato chip style / politician complement, as I see it, based on the Lay's product line.

In no particular order...

Limon / Rick Perry. Maybe bilingual but not an original chip. Head-scratching immigration policies. Not so impressive behind the podium, so far. A career, but not worldly, politician who Bachmann accused of being bought--cheap. Considered a front runner but seems shallow, plastic, and canned. So, Pringles, not a real man's chip, come to mind. Do they eat Pringles in Texas? Maybe he should grow a moustache. Or just grow.

Flamin' Hot / Michele Bachmann. The woman in red. Brought back memories of the beauty Kelly LeBrock's 'Charlotte' role 27 years ago. Bachmann, hands down, won the evening's best attire, hair, and legs. She's bright. And stuck to her conservative message. There's something about Mar--Michele. But she still needs to beat her drum. And watch impromptu public remarks--just because someone tells you something doesn't mean it has to be repeated. She won the Iowa straw poll. With Limon crumbling, who knows.

Lightly Salted / Rick Santorum. He's been around just long enough to be a little salty. And has visited Limon land's border with Mexico, so he told Perry. Claims to be versed in world affairs and policies. Could be. Could be. He won Pennsylvania's straw poll. But like the bag of chips near the bottom shelf, needs to be more visible.

Salt & Vinegar / Mitt Romney. Too much salt is not good for your health. Some advise potato chips are not good for your health. Neither is RomneyCare--no matter how packaged. He's still explaining that one. A smoother chip than Limon, he, too, is on the shelf at eye-level, at least for now. Some consumer 'taste tests'  (polls) have him #1 but that could easily change and probably will. Consumers are fickle. 

Barbeque - K. C. Masterpiece / Herman Cain. The pizza man. Folksy, common sense successful business leader with practical ideas. And he can articulate them. A fellow to hang out with during a Saturday afternoon backyard barbeque. Stage 4 cancer survivor. Chemotherapy--that's like being barbequed inside and out. So a tough guy, too. Serious candidate who's drawing bigger crowds--won Florida straw poll convincingly. Whether he wins nomination or not, hands down the best man for vice president--regardless of nominee. Think about it.

Classic / Newt Gingrich. He's been around and knows the game. Classic politician. Full of ideas--some good. A silver haired and tongued devil. Attire and hair second to Bachmann. Legs? Some things you just don't want to think about much less see. It doesn't look like he's ever seen a bag of chips he didn't like.

Cheddar & Sour Cream / Gary Johnson. With his neighbor's dogs producing more shovel-ready jobs than the current administration comment, a truer statement not made during the debate, he should pursue standup comedy. Now. Though he will have to give credit to the quip's author, Rush Limbaugh. Reminds me of Gopher from Love Boat (a show I never watched). Why weren't  you in summer white uniform, Gary?

Chipotle Ranch / Jon Huntsman. Utah--a land of ranches. 'Chipotle' is derived from a word that means 'smoked chili pepper'--a brown, shriveled jalepeno. Whatever the folks in Utah want to smoke is fine by me--provided it's legal. I've never tried this style of chip. And probably won't. Though an interesting gent, America will likely not try Huntsman. Chipotle? Naagh. No kidding, these chips were on the bottom shelf. And that's about where Huntsman is at this point.

Wavy-Original / Ron Paul. The oldest candidate and therefore, by default, has seen the most--which counts for something. Probably remembers when all potato chips were handcut and deep-fried in lard and heavily salted. And when waves, ridges, and ruffles were invented. Bright guy with practical, original ideas though not without an occasional odd comment. A respectable debater with a patriotic heart but doubtful to improve shelf space.

There may still be another bag (e.g. Sarah Palin, Chris Christie) or two that will come forward. Should they, I'll give thought to a complementary chip. They deserve that much.

Potato chips. And shelf life.

Politicians. And self and shelf life.

Bags filled with hot air, both, that expire.

All fight on.

Where does our president fall out in the potato chip fight? Three years ago, Sour Cream & Onion. Why? Green bag--of hot air. But today, defiance making for ever-dwindling hope for a second term, Mr. Obama doesn't merit chip status because--he's toast!

So we wait to see who--tries to change their bag, their mistaken identity; dips; goes stale; and crumbles. Some will change positions on the shelf. Some will be pulled. No matter how ugly, we'd better end up with a fresh best-seller. Or else. That is, in pop culture lingo, he or she had better be, "All that and a bag of chips."

We'll see what next week and the weeks after bring our way. And we observe and listen and think and assess and prepare to vote.

While the cautious cynic in me wanders if we, when the promising's done, booths closed, votes tallied, and the oath sworn, won't just end up with another ordinary bag. Odds are.

And that's a $3.59 bag's worth of fun, whimsy, satire, fact, humor, and palm reading "analysis." Otherwise, we cry.

And in all seriousness, let the chips fall where they may.

Post Script

For a complete product line visit: http://www.lays.com/  Who knows, maybe they'll sponsor an upcoming debate.

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