Sentimental Journey

Now that the Clinton stink has finally been completely fumigated from the White House, Kansas City’s most quintessential company has once again been honored with a contract to design the presidential Christmas card.

Hallmark has been making Christmas cards for presidents since 1953, when Kansas son Dwight D. Eisenhower launched the tradition. So it’s pleasantly nostalgic to know that our current president is carrying on the custom briefly interrupted by Bill Clinton, who gave holiday duties to Hallmark arch-rival American Greetings.

For comfort during these trying times — another round of layoffs at Sprint, North Korea lining up to get smacked as soon as we finish up the war in Iraq, gag-inducing pictures of smallpox victims on TV — we turn to George and Laura Bush’s card.

“May love and peace fill your heart and home during this holiday season and throughout the new year,” the Bushes write.

The Hallmark creative team clearly worked very hard to help the president come up with that big fat lie.

Couldn’t they just have written something like “Shit-fire, are we gonna rock the world in the new year or what? God bless us, every one!”? Ah, but we forget that it’s our homegrown company’s job to help millions of people worldwide express fake feelings.

“The majority of cards people send are usually messages of faith and good hope and love no matter what might be going on in their personal lives,” Hallmark spokeswoman Deidre Parkes reminds us.

Which suggests to us that the Bushes’ personal lives must be absolutely tormented, because they’re sending out a record number of messages of faith and good hope and love this year.

“The administration asked us not to talk about how many we sent out,” Parkes tells the Pitch. But The New York Times reports that the first couple posted one million cards — up from the 875,000 they sent last year and “more than double the 400,000 cards sent out by Bill Clinton in his last year in office, a number that fueled the nattering in Washington about Mr. Clinton’s endless goodbye parties and lachrymose leave-taking.”

The cards were officially paid for and mailed by the Republican National Committee. No one’s talking about how much the whole thing cost, though the Times figured that the first-class postage alone was $370,000. “Whatever the cost, the Bushes are in the Hallmark hall of fame,” the paper reports. “Officials at the company’s headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., said last week that the 2002 White House Christmas cards were one of the largest single orders in Hallmark’s 92-year history.”

Hallmark has apparently figured out that it’s just as blessed to give as to receive. Citing figures from the Center for Responsive Politics, the Times reports that Hallmark gave $110,000 in soft money to the Republican National Committee during Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. Searching the records ourselves, we discovered another $15,000 contributed to John Ashcroft’s senate campaign that same year and $50,000 to Republican causes this year.

Parkes says four Hallmarkers began meeting with Mrs. Bush as early as March, when the First Lady picked out the card’s cover image, a painting of the 1938 Steinway piano in the Grand Foyer on the State Floor of the White House, its empty piano bench presumably symbolizing the tinkle of great performances yet to come. As for the greeting, Parkes says, “It would have been written in the fall. The card was through production right before Thanksgiving and mailed out by the President and First Lady the first week in December.”

The very same week, in fact, that the Pentagon announced a major call-up of Reserve and National Guard troops, who, in a move guaranteed to bring peace to lots of hearts and homes this holiday season, began shipping out from Kansas City last week. Maybe they’ll get to carry on a tradition, too — shooting their guns on New Year’s Eve in Baghdad!

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