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LAS: I guess I should ask right off - are you a Republican or a Democrat?
Matt Michael: Definitely not a Republican. Mostly Democratic background. My step-dad was Iowa's state treasurer for two terms in the 1960s and ran for governor, unsuccessfully, in 1968 and 1972 against Robert D. Ray. I consider myself the 1972 democratic gubernatorial campaign mascot, as I was 7 years old and went everywhere with the campaign. Mostly, I'm not very politically active but seem to have a lot of liberal friends. My wife runs a non-profit community development project and has actually received more support from the republicans in state politics. We were amazed at this.
Who do you imagine your stickers appealing to, or perhaps speaking to?
They were a reaction to the Bush campaign and appealed quite a bit to everyone who was sick of Bush. The response I got at the Michael Moore rally in November of 2004 was phenomenal.
Where did the idea for Poor Laura come from?
Just prior to the 2004 election I was visiting with my elderly Aunt Marie Hardman from West Virginia and she asked what I thought of Bush. Not having seen her in years and not knowing her politics my answer was measured. "Well, I'm sure he's a very intelligent person but he seems to say a lot of really confusing things". She responded by saying, "I think he's as dumb as DIRT!" and shot me one of her trademark giant smiles. Laughing, I remarked that Bush's wife Laura seemed pretty sharp and I kind of felt sorry for her. In her classic southern drawl Aunt Marie replied, "Oh I know, Poor Laura!" Laughing, I realized that would make a funny button or bumper sticker. It took some thought to figure out how to do it, but the result was a somewhat kinder and gentler anti-Bush statement.
Is this a one-off foray into stickers and street level imagery for you?
Is it a political statement, a cultural statement, a message of sympathy? I'm sort of wondering why anyone should feel sorry for her - although I obviously don't know her personally her public persona is one of a ditzy lapdog. It is widely held that her personal politics are pro-choice, yet she doesn't offer a peep of support publicly. Do you really feel sorry for her?
Yes, it's a political statement, and a cultural statement in the sense that it's a different angle on the direct, somewhat harsh, and un-creative "Down With Bush" statements that became so prevalent around election time. The sympathy is tongue-in-cheek. Mostly, it's a tribute to the great sense of humor of my beloved Aunt Marie, who has since passed away. She got a huge kick out of the stickers.
What sort of reaction do most people have to the stickers? Have you had any major confrontations?
No major confrontations, though I get some spastic negative thumbs down scowls from some passing motorists. When I was going to drive through Midland Texas I planned on covering the sticker on the back of my car just to avoid pissing people off and creating trouble for myself but I simply forgot and it seemed that no one noticed. At a small town in far west Texas someone commented favorably and said that "not everyone out here likes the Bush's."
At the Michael Moore rally in Ames I couldn't give them away fast enough. One woman put one on the front of her shirt and when Moore's cameras zoomed in on her and projected it up on the big screen behind the podium, which elicited a loud cheer from the crowd. I hope it makes it into one of his films! After the rally I stood outside one of the main exits and was literally thronged 5 deep on all sides with hands thrust forth and a barrage of positive exclamations and back slaps. For about 10 minutes I got a taste of what it might have been like to be one of the Beatles back in 1965!
Have you gone through a lot of the stickers? How do people go about getting one?
I only made 500 of them and aside from a small personal stash of a dozen or so they are all gone.
Were you hoping that the Poor Laura craze was going to sweep the nation, like an "Assholes Drive Imports" for the Bush years?
It certainly occurred to me, especially after the response at the Moore rally. But I got them out too late in the game. Had I done it a couple months earlier and traveled around the country selling them it might have taken off.
Do you really think she sold bags of weed in college?
No idea. I have not heard about that.
Would you get high with Laura Bush? What about George?
I stick to aircraft for getting high anymore. Can't beat it.
What do you think of the bumper sticker as a tool for information/propaganda spread? There are far more cars in circulation than any magazine or newspaper, and more people drive than watch all of the news programs combined. Just look at the ubiquitous yellow ribbons in support of the military plastered on every other car! How powerful of a podium is the back bumper of a car?
I think that real social change requires quite a bit more. I think it is great for humor. One of my favorites is "Honk if you are Jesus".
What are you going to do with the leftover stickers in 2008?
Archive them for sale on ebay in 2108
Any plans for other stickers?
I have a couple other quotes that would make great stickers but I'm keeping them to myself till I get around to it.
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.
See other articles by Eric J Herboth.
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