The 2011 White House Political Ornament

A few weeks ago, I was walking through a local stationery shop and noticed the 2011 White House Christmas ornaments. They have been available for purchase since April, and it surely took months before that to design and produce them.

This year’s ornament theme is “The Theodore Roosevelt Administration 1901–1909.” Here is a brief passage from the historical essay that accompanies the ornament:

Roosevelt epitomized a new breed of politician and from what he famously called the “bully pulpit,” he championed a federal government strong enough to restrain the power of great personal and corporate wealth and preached a “Square Deal” that would ensure every American’s right to a living wage. … In 1912 he lost a bid for re-election to the presidency on a progressive Bull Moose ticket.1

Back in April, a Christmas ornament with notes reminiscing fondly about Teddy Roosevelt and his 1912 reelection platform seemed pretty banal, but events of the past two weeks have revealed its significance: President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, as evidenced in his recent speech at Osawatomie, Kansas, explicitly hearkens back to the “Square Deal” populism advocated in Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose ticket of 100 years ago. Neil Munro detailed President Obama’s version in a December 4 article for the Daily Caller:

The speech is to be delivered in Osawatomie, Kansas, because “just over one hundred years ago, President Teddy Roosevelt came to Osawatomie, Kansas and called for a New Nationalism, where everyone gets a fair chance, a square deal, and an equal opportunity to succeed,” said a Sunday White House press statement.2

In this context, the 2011 White House Christmas Ornament has departed from previous ornaments that simply recalled White House Christmas celebrations over the years. This year it has become a vehicle for the distribution what is essentially President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign platform.

By its own lights, the White House Historical Association is “a charitable nonprofit institution whose purpose is to enhance the understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the White House.”3 I find it very unethical for a nonprofit organization to use its funds and resources to produce and distribute political campaign material. I guess you can’t even buy a Christmas ornament without making a campaign contribution.


  2. Neil Munro, Daily Caller, 12/4/2011, “Obama rolls out new 2012 theme,”
  3. White House Historical Association: “About Us,”
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