Trading Bush for Osama

Bombers hit targets: “I’ll trade you my Arafat Gives Blood For Americans for your Bush Embraces New York’s Rescue Workers.”

“No way! Arafat’s lame. Besides, I’m after military hardware, and if I can get my hands on B-2 Spirit Bomber Prepares For Refueling then I’ll have all the bombers.”

“I hear Jones has the B-2, and he’s after Osama Bin Laden: The Suspected Ringleader. It’s this cool, grainy photo and the only black-and-white image in the lot.”

“Yeah, I saw that one. Chrisanne has it. I wonder if she’d trade me for President Bush Rallies The Troops? I’d even throw in Army Special Ops—Troops At The Ready because I have doubles on that one. Have you seen her around?”

“No, she’ll be out most of the day, but Dre has Osama, too. And she’s into collecting all the Cabinet members. I’ll bet she’d give you Osama for your U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, and then you can get the B-2 from Jones. Maybe you could even get him to throw in F-15A Eagle Rolls And Launches a Missile. It’s a cool shot, and he has doubles.”

That’s how the conversations went around the newsroom and production department at Sacramento News & Review in the days after the Topps trading card company sent us a box of its new Enduring Freedom trading cards. Sure, there was a decidedly tongue-in-cheek aspect to our eager collecting, but some staffers really got into at, as you could imagine children would.

Whereas once kids traded the likes of Pete Rose or Joe Namath, now they can collect enough advanced military hardware to destroy Afghanistan, Iraq or the rogue nation of their choice. Or if they find that elusive Osama card, they can have good wholesome fun defiling it in any number of ways.

That’s actually what Topps CEO Arthur Shorin recommends kids do with Osama: “We expect many kids will use that card to act out their disdain,” Shorin said in a phone interview with Bites. “They might tear it up, or poke holes in it, or set it on fire.”

The Enduring Freedom cards are selling fast in Sacramento and around the country, and Shorin said they’re having a hard time keeping up with demand. He said the cards target kids rather than the sometimes older collectors of trading cards, and he said they teach valuable lessons at this difficult point in history.

“The kids need to understand that the president is dealing with it and they’ll be safe,” he said, likening the cards to a newspaper for kids. Which probably isn’t a bad analogy given all the wartime cheerleading we’ve seen in most American newspapers since September 11.

But isn’t it vaguely unsettling to be targeting our children with what can only be described as wartime propaganda? Can we hope to create a more peaceful world if the next generation equates “defending freedom” with Fighter Jets Refuel in Midair?

Shorin scoffed at the notion that his cards glorify warfare: “If you show the weapons to give them assurance that they’ll be safe, I don’t think that’s glorifying war.”

Bites is still waiting for Topps to issue a Peace Protesters Urge Restraint card, but Shorin said we’ll be waiting a long, long time.

Doctor vs. Doolittle: Congressman John Doolittle’s long reign may be the most perplexing political phenomenon in the Sacramento area. He’s a strange and alienating guy, a Tom Delay-sort of firebrand conservative prone to blacking out the press for perceived slights, big and small. When he does answers questions, he’ll work “family values” or the Auburn Dam into the answer, no matter what the topic.

He has somehow managed to retain the loyalties of many constituent groups in his solidly Republican district, but that may be changing. Enter Bill Kirby, an Auburn physician and moderate Republican who rounded up an impressive list of endorsements with which to launch his candidacy this week.

It’s the first serious primary challenge Doolittle has faced in many moons, and it’s a race Bites plans to watch closely. Liberal or conservative, if you shun accountability to the press, you’ll earn this column’s perpetual scorn. Go, Bill, go!