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Filler: What's in the swag bag? The perks of being a delegate to the Democratic National Convention

DNC swag bag

DNC swag bag Credit: Lane Filler

Charlotte, N.C. — One of the great joys of covering big news events is the “swag bag” — the collection of free stuff organizers hand out to attendees. Planned events, anyway. You rarely get good swag covering a 27-car collision or a three-alarm fire.

Since the Democratic National Convention is the second one we’re covering in a short span, and Walt Handelsman and I have been sharing a room for 164 consecutive days now (OK, 10) I had hoped the goodies would include fresh undergarments and industrial strength air fresheners, but no such luck. Instead, we got a mixed collection of mundane items and oddities that the New York Democratic delegation apparently feels are must-haves for the Charlotte celebration.

There’s the standard water bottle, sponsored by Pitta Bishop Del Giorno & Giblin LLC, a consulting and government relations firm, and its corporate cousin, Pitta and Giblin LLP, Attorneys at Law. The message, I think, is “It’s important to stay hydrated, but it’s really important to know who to call when you get in trouble.”

There are the two notepads, sponsored by former Republican Sen. Alfonse D’Amato’s mega-powerful consulting and public relations firm Park Strategies LLC. Since there are two, delegates can use one for the list “1,000 reasons I love President Barack Obama” and the other for the list “1,000 Reasons I’m Terrified to Cross Alfonse D’Amato.”

There’s antibacterial spray from Yahoo! (so, so much handshaking), a poncho (in case God is cheeky enough to let it rain on this parade) and a squeezy yellow ball from the good folks at Sprint — good for Democrats who need to relieve tension while watching new reports on jobs and spending.

Seemingly included just to induce columnist-penned jokes about the “liberal East Coast elites” are the Kenneth Cole clutch for carrying everything and the two sweet-and-salty almond-flavored “Odwalla Chewy Nut Bars,” which contain no high fructose corn syrup but are instead sweetened with brown rice syrup, organic dried date syrup and evaporated cane juice syrup.

You don’t really appreciate high fructose corn syrup until it’s gone. These things taste like Styrofoam packing peanuts, but without all that rich Styrofoam goodness.

Then there are the two pedometers. Are they a warning about how far we’re going to have to hoof it to the convention once we clear the security perimeter? A plea to embrace the active lifestyle, to turn off our favorite reality show (“American Sloth” for me) and go for a brisk walk? Is there any way I can get one of mine to Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, along with a working stopwatch?

Then there are the really odd gifts, the puzzlers.

The tire pressure gauge, sponsored by the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association, seems a cryptic messaging device at best. What jingoistic slogan should pop to mind as we hold this instrument? Are we “Floating On Air With Obama?” Seeking “Four More Years of a Smooth Ride With Barack?” Or is it a dire warning? “Mitt Romney Will Put this Nation in a Ditch Faster Than a High-Speed Blowout?” “The Republicans Will Take the Air Out of This Great Nation’s Tires?”

But by far the wackiest bits of swag in the bags are the brand new copies of the DVD “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II.” Everybody got one.

It’s the story of how a wondrous boy wizard perseveres, overcoming great evil, to set things right in the world, and I suppose it’s possible that we are supposed to see President Obama as being a hero to rival the bespectacled teen all the world loves.

If so, I think it’s an unfortunate comparison. If Obama asked me how he measured up, I’d have no choice but to tell him the truth. “To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen in a long-ago campaign: I’ve read the Harry Potter books. I’ve seen the Harry Potter movies. And you, sir, are no Harry Potter.”


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