brucekluger.com

    The New York Times, May 7, 2000

    Week in Review
    Toy Story: Politicians 'R' Us  

    By Bruce Kluger


    A tempest is brewing in Washington, all because
    of an 11-inch blonde bombshell.

    Mattel, in association with two nonprofit women's
    groups, recently announced plans for a Barbie for
    President 2000 doll, a power-suited, high-heeled
    White House hopeful who comes complete with a
    pearl necklace and a Girls' Bill of Rights. Mattel
    says it hopes the doll will ''broaden girls' vision of
    what's possible.''

    Almost immediately the protests sounded. Last week in an article on the Op-Ed
    page of The New York Times, the former Colorado congresswoman and one-time
    presidential candidate Patricia Schroeder assailed the plastic politico as a giant
    leap backward for womankind. "Why should we feel great about a message that
    says a woman can go to the White House if she looks like Barbie?" Ms. Schroeder
    asked. "I'm sorry, but I just can't get enthusiastic."

    Then again, why shouldn't American children learn about civics and the virtues of
    public service via their favorite playthings? Rather than jeer at this star-spangled
    Barbie, let's extend the concept to other shelves at Toy Barn.

    Senator Potato Head. What better way to teach the country's youth about the
    versatility of the modern politician than by crossing a United States senator with
    everybody's favorite synthetic spud? But instead of the traditional plug-in eyes,
    nose, lips and limbs, Senator Potato Head (Independent of Idaho) comes equipped
    with interchangeable position papers, a removable spine and a special "two-face"
    feature that allows the toy tater to talk out of both sides of its mouth.
    (Manufacturer's note: On the Dan Quayle model of Senator Potatoe Head, the extra
    "e" is sold separately.)

    Tickle Me Reno. The events of recent weeks have put a clearly beleaguered
    Attorney General Janet Reno back in the national spotlight. Lest children believe
    the job of A.G. is completely joyless, here comes a fluffy, happy effigy of the
    nation's top cop that giggles and chortles on command. This huggable toy was
    developed after several failures, notably the ill-fated Tickle Me Zoe and Tickle Me
    Kimba dolls, which, despite repeated efforts, never found anything to laugh at.

    G.I. Joe Lockhart. Gone are the battle fatigues, helmet and rifle. In their place a
    tailored gray suit, briefing book and White House podium. Still, G.I. Joe Lockhart, a
    pocket-sized version of the embattled press secretary, is every bit as prepped for
    trench warfare as his fox-holed predecessorhe's the ultimate spin-controlling war
    machine. Roll up his sleeves and let him slug it out with Sam Donaldson; slip on his
    windbreaker and breeze him past reporters as he boards the presidential chopper
    (not included). This is truly one "fighting Joe from head to toe." (Coming soon: A
    special two-pack that includes a companion Helen Thomas doll.)

    Curious George Stephanapoulos. Kids will love this video adaptation of the
    classic book series starring the former White House aide as the mischievous
    monkey. The first three releases: Curious George Goes to Washington, Curious
    George Writes a Memoir and Curious George Can't Get His Calls Returned.
    (James Carville co-stars as the Man in the Yellow Hat.)

    Talking Head Teletubbies. That colorful quartet of cuddlies with antennae on
    their heads and TV screens in their bellies now features running political
    commentary on the tummy monitors, courtesy of America's leading pundits. Each
    Teletubbie is assigned its own talking headTinky Winky (Tim Russert), Dipsy
    (George Will), Laa-Laa (Cokie Roberts) and Po (Matt Drudge)which means tykes
    can play in silence for hours on end as their adorable Tubbies hash it out among
    themselves. (Plans for the Charlie Rose Teletubbie were canceled when
    manufacturers were unable to get the doll to stop talking.)

    Jujitsu Justices. Step aside, Justice Scalia; take a powder, Ms. O'Connor
    there's a new Supreme Court in town. The first Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to
    sit on the high bench, this collector's set of robed action figures metes out justice in
    ways the Rehnquist court can only dream about. Miranda warning? Forget about it.
    First Amendment? You've got to be kidding. This gang totes lasers, not gavels.
    Case closed.

    PokeMonica. And you thought Pikachu was the coolest member of the gang --
    well, here comes the toughest pocket monster of them all. The only Pokemon
    character to have survived battles with such nemeses as Starrmander and
    Trippleypuff, Pokemonica is available in a variety of sizes, comes with her own
    sports car and designer cell phone, and boasts a wardrobe of more than two dozen
    dresses. None of them blue.