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Schlock the Vote: 22 Ridiculous Convention-Themed Items

This week in Tampa, those attending the 2012 Republican National Convention will exchange far more than plans for adjusting the tax code and adjective-laden riffs relating to the hairstyles of Romney and Ryan. By bringing together an abundance of joyous, carefree, captive audience consumers, political conventions result in a perfect storm scenario for tchotchke peddlers. Everything from weird-looking stuffed animals to giant party-themed belt buckles gets created for these events.

(Also: Partisans apparently love bad wristwatches.)

So here's a look at some of the oddest and most ridiculous convention-related items of the past 50 years. The bulk of these are terrible. But which is the worst of the worst? Let us know in the comments!

1. Jimmy Carter Coloring Book (1976)

This one is just plain bizarre. And I think I may want to own it. As described by a recent seller on eBay: "Coloring book contains somewhat insulting and politically incorrect captions for the caricatures. Coloring book was issued in 1976 for the Democratic Presidential Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City. ...Features great caricatures of Jimmy Carter, Hubert Humphrey, Carl Albert, Lester Maddox, Dick Daley, Frank Church, Tip O’Neill, John Glenn, George Meany, George Wallace, Bella Abzug, Walter Mondale, Teddy Kennedy, Dan Moynihan, George McGovern, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and more. Not exactly sure if this was pro Carter or not...as it takes a dig at just about everybody!"

Image via eBay

2. Ugly Phone (1996)


Image via eBay
I mean, even the cord is hideous. That's rare. It's not easy to mess up the look of a phone cord.

3. Republican Delegate Barbies (2000)


Images via eBay and WorthPoint
Delegates at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia received these dolls in their swag bags. At the time, Republican convention spokeswoman Stephanie Mangino assessed the red-suited Barbie thusly to the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Barbie's almost as stiff as Al Gore." Zing! Or something. Also: Note the tiniest of lanyards.

4. Tipper Gore Drum (2000)

The eBay seller suspects that this item will "display nice" in a museum. Hmm, perhaps. But the same individual notes that the drum is from the 2000 "Democrastic Convention," so keep that in mind if you run a museum and are wondering whether you should trust the seller's judgment on the ideal landing spot for this thing.

Image via eBay

5. Terrible Watch Number One (1996)

The first in a series! To keep them straight, feel free to refer to this one as "Terrible Swatch Watch."

Image via SwatchAndBeyond.com

6. Dukakis Foam Fingers (1988)

Shouldn't the hand be making a #1 sign? Poor Dukakis.

Image via eBay

7. Hideous Cuff Links (1960)


Image via CuffLinks.com
The ad says these are "both historic and nostalgic." I say they are "both poorly designed and look like they feature a donkey that is either near death or coughing."

8. Elephant Ashtrays (1972)


Image via eBay
The 1972 Republican National Convention had to be moved from San Diego to Miami following a bid-rigging scandal. The bottom line: lots of unused novelty ashtrays in SoCal that year.

9. Beanie Babies (2000)


Images via eBay
Do you love nothing more than Beanie Babies and keeping up with the range of complex, interrelated issues that join together to form the basis for national electoral politics? Well, if so, then have I got the ideal product for you. Also: You don't exist. No one likes both those things. So perhaps I'm barking up the wrong tree here in trying to sell you on these stupid things.

10. Partisan Mac & Cheese (2004)


Images via eBay
Pasta made to look like elephants and donkeys is a nice touch by Kraft. But it's not all good. The backs of these boxes feature something called the "Presidential IQ Test." The goal is to match "famous" quotations with the presidents who said them. An example: "Speak softly, but carry a big bowl of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese." They get worse from there.

11. Terrible Watch Number Two (2000)

Is this monstrosity worse than the Democrats' Swatch watch? You be the judge.

Image via eBay

12. Elephant Alligator Thing (1988)


Images via eBay
This hybrid stuffed animal from the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans is like something out of a made-for-Syfy movie. It has the head of an elephant but the body of an alligator. What gives? Actually, come to think of it, both name mash-ups work: elegator is great, and so is alliphant.

13. Saddest Pennant Ever (1984)


Image via Minnesota Historical Society
Womp womp.

14. Garish Belt Buckle (1992)


Image via eBay
What is more befitting for a Republican National Convention held in Houston than a custom-made, Texas-sized belt buckle? A recent eBay seller noted that buying the buckle would amount to "your chance to be a part of history." I don't know about all that, but I have to admit, the elephant on the front of this thing does appear to be having one hell of a good time.

15. Miller High Life Convention Survival Kit (1964)


Image via eBay
Includes Tums antacid, Alka-Seltzer, aspirin, breath mints, a bandage, and a little "Do Not Disturb" sign. It's odd, but for real: This kit is fantastic. I'm hoping they still make these, but unrelated to political conventions.

16. Bush/Quayle Baseball Card (1992)

The craziest thing about this one is that Upper Deck produced this card commemorating the 1992 Republican Convention... in 2009. A few notes: (1) Was there really Bush/Quayle-specific nostalgia in 2009? (2) What a perfect way to celebrate the historic 17th anniversary of that memorable convention. (3) This card was a bad idea.

Image via eBay

17. Wizard Hat & Spaghetti T-Shirt (1996)

Not even this all-powerful, mystical pasta T-shirt could transform the Dole/Kemp ticket into a winner.

Image via eBay

18. Computer Terminal Decanter (1984)


Image via eBay
Wait, so you mean they not only had computers in 1984, but they also had crazy-looking computer replicas that featured giant buttons and doubled as alcohol receptacles? I love the '80s.

19. "Hello Lyndon" 45 rpm Record (1964)


Image via eBay
In 1964, Hello, Dolly! was a big deal on Broadway. So LBJ co-opted the song for the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. Thankfully, both "Hello, Mitt!" and "Hello, Barack!" don't seem like viable options in 2012.

20. Terrible Watch Number Three (1992)


Image via eBay
So I'm just going to call it: This one is the worst of the watches. Is that the Astrodome in the foreground, or a spaceship with teeth?

21. Betty Ford Matchbooks (1976)


Image via eBay
The backs of these matchbooks note that "Your Vote and Influence [are] Appreciated." OK, makes sense. The fronts say "Win with BETTY'S HUSBAND." OK, that sounds like a license to engage in infidelity.

22. Mitt Romney Finger Puppet (2012)


The end.

Image via Etsy

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Barack and Michelle Obama's Next Move: Producing Content for Netflix
Mark Wilson, Getty Images
Mark Wilson, Getty Images

Barack Obama's first talk show appearance after leaving office was on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, David Letterman's six-part series on Netflix. Perhaps it's fitting, then, that one of the Obamas' first projects since moving out of the White House will be a storytelling partnership with Netflix.

On Monday, the streaming service announced that they've entered into a multi-year deal with Barack and Michelle Obama, who produce films and series under a company called Higher Ground Productions. So what can we expect from the former president and first lady? According to Netflix, they will be producing a "diverse mix of content," which could take the form of scripted and unscripted series, documentaries, and features.

"One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience," Barack Obama said in a statement. "That's why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix. We hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world."

The former first lady added that Netflix was a "natural fit" for the kinds of stories they want to tell. According to The New York Times, Barack Obama said he does not intend to use the platform for political ends.

Last year, the Obamas signed a joint book deal with Penguin Random House worth $65 million. Michelle's memoir, Becoming, will be published on November 13, while details about Barack Obama's memoir are forthcoming.

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The Time Ben Franklin and John Adams Shared a Bed
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iStock

Ever been on a road trip where the sleeping conditions were less than ideal? Such indignities aren’t just for average citizens like you and me. Even Founding Fathers and future presidents had to bunk with one another on occasion. 

In September 1776, just a few months after the thirteen American colonies announced their independence from Britain, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams got stuck shacking up together for a night. As part of a delegation sent by the Continental Congress, they were on their way from Philadelphia to Staten Island to negotiate with Admiral Richard Howe of the Royal Navy for a possible end to the Revolutionary War. As they passed through New Brunswick, New Jersey, the negotiators—Franklin, Adams and South Carolina politician Edward Rutledgedecided to stop for the night and find a place to sleep. 

The local taverns and inns were nearly full, though, and there were only two rooms for the three men. “One bed could be procured for Dr. Franklin and me,” Adams wrote in his autobiography, “in a chamber a little larger than the bed, without a chimney and with only one small window.”

That window would be a problem for the two men.

A ROOM WITH A VIEW

Adams, who was “an invalid and afraid of the air in the night,” closed the window before they got into bed. 

“Oh!” said Franklin. “Don’t shut the window. We shall be suffocated.”

When Adams explained that he didn’t want to catch an illness from the cold night air, Franklin countered that the air in their room was even worse. 

“Come!” he told Adams. “Open the window and come to bed, and I will convince you: I believe you are not acquainted with my Theory of Colds.”

Contrary to the lay wisdom of the day (and everybody’s grandmother), Franklin was convinced that no one had ever gotten a cold from cold air. Instead, it was the “frowzy corrupt air” from animals, humans, and dirty clothes and beds, he thought, that led people to catch colds when they were “shut up together in small close rooms.” Cool, fresh air at night, he believed, had many benefits. 

Franklin’s ideas were inconsistent with Adams’s own experiences, he wrote, but he was curious to hear what Franklin had to say. So, even at the risk of a cold, he opened the window again and hopped into bed with Franklin.

As they lay side by side, Adams wrote, Franklin “began a harangue upon air and cold and respiration and perspiration.” 

“I was so much amused that I soon fell asleep, and left him and his philosophy together,” Adams wrote. “But I believe they were equally sound and insensible, within a few minutes after me, for the last words I heard were pronounced as if he was more than half asleep.”

The strange bedfellows were out like a light, and continued on their way in the morning. The peace conference they were traveling to lasted just a few hours and produced no results. 

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