It just wasn’t in the cards

In politics, as in poker, you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.

That could explain why the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., has decided not to stock a new set of satirical playing cards that portray Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as a less-than-flattering “ace of spades.”

The library’s gift shop has stocked California artist Peter Green’s “Politicards” for several years now. The 2004 edition still is a brisk seller, store manager Connie Fails reports.

But Fails balked at the way Sen. Clinton was portrayed in the 2008 edition — with thick thighs, a riding crop, stack of wire coat hangers and a salty quotation from the 1981 movie “Mommie Dearest.”

The cards were altered slightly in hopes of easing her concerns, but Fails later decided not to stock the cards for unrelated reasons — because of the library’s charitable tax status.

“We do have a sense of humor here,” Fails said.

But she said that the store would not sell the 2008 cards for the same reason that the library won’t stock any of the “Hillary for President” items that visitors constantly request.

“Because we’re a 501c, we’re not supposed to be political,” Fails said.

Politicards date back to the 1970s, when Green first produced a deck of politically-themed playing cards that lampooned then-President Richard Nixon and others.

This year’s deck features Hollywood themes, with Clinton as the ace of spades, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani — sketched in drag — as the ace of hearts and other candidates and politically-minded celebrities filling out the deck.

Though once a liberal, Green says he’s a libertarian-leaning conservative these days. But he skewers Democrats and Republicans alike.

“I can’t take a position politically,” he said. “My position is to draw attention to the issue and the candidates…and definitely not take it too seriously.”

Clinton’s caricature shows her as the domineering, Joan Crawford character from the Hollywood biography, “Mommie Dearest.”

The wire hangers are an homage to one of the movie’s more famous scenes, when Crawford allegedly went on a rampage because her daughter used wire hangers for finer clothing.

The quotation under Clinton’s caricature is one of the movie’s saltier lines, when Crawford ranted:

“Don’t f*** with me fellas. This ain’t my first time at the rodeo.”

Green said that after Fails raised concerns, he altered the quotation to replace the disguised F-word with the word “mess.”

“We thought, everyone knows Hillary has got a longshoreman’s vocabulary,” Green said. “They felt that ‘Mommie Dearest’ and Joan Crawford was just more unflattering than most of the others. I think it probably just hit a sour note.”

In the end, Fails said the decision not to sell the cards was not related to content — only the library’s need to remain apolitical. The 2004 cards, which portray Clinton as the “Queen of Denial,” remain on sale.

Green said the library’s sales represent just a tiny fraction of the several hundred thousand decks he expects to sell at gift shops, airport news stands and online at Politicards.com.

But he said the decision was disappointing because of the prestige that comes from a presidential library stocking his product. (No other presidential libraries do so.)

“It seems that it’s not that big a deal and it would show she has a sense of humor,” Green said.

After all, Green figured, Clinton already has taped a campaign video parodying the gangland drama, “The Sopranos.”

“Positioning yourself with mobsters is worse than Joan Crawford,” he said.

(Contact M.E. Sprengelmeyer of the Rocky Mountain News at www.rockymountainnews.com.)

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