- The Washington Times - Monday, August 15, 2011

It’s one thing to read about Monicagate. It’s quite another to see the sex scandal that rocked the leader of the free world depicted on a novelty T-shirt.

As part of his class on the American presidency, Villanova University political science professor David Barrett hands out presidential souvenirs - the odder, the better. “The pieces represent a certain time and say something - a lot of times something amusing - about a particular president,” Mr. Barrett said.

Here are some of his favorites:

Washington beer can

Item: A 1970s bicentennial tribute to our first commander in chief, courtesy of an aluminum suds container - because sometimes a giant obelisk, the name of the capital city and your mug on the $1 bill just aren’t enough.

Fun fact: Text on the can reads, “I cannot tell a lie.” “Of course, George Washington never really said that,” Mr. Barrett said.

FDR match case

Item: A matchbook with a drawing of a sailboat; the drawing contains the letters “f-d-r.”

Fun fact: The New Deal champion loved to smoke, sail and - who knew? - draw. “This was for use in FDR’s home,” Mr. Barrett said. “Friends could have them. Something like this reminds students that presidents are people, too. They can have talent.”

JFK trading cards

Item: Think baseball cards - only with smiling sluggers and copious statistics replaced by Lee Harvey Oswald, J. Edgar Hoover, mafia leaders and everything else remotely linked to John F. Kennedy’s death.

Fun fact: Each card contains text that adds up to a wide-ranging conspiracy theory. “The text is very historically unreliable,” Mr. Barrett said.

Right. That’s what they want you to believe.

Bill Clinton T-shirt

Item: A T-shirt created by a Mexican restaurant in Texas. It features a caricature of Mr. Clinton with a caption that reads, “I did not have Tex-Mex with that woman.”

Fun fact: “For my current students, Clinton is the first president that they can remember,” Mr. Barrett said. “So I actually have to explain to them what the joke means.”

Great - now we feel old.

LBJ plate

Item: A commemorative plate featuring Lyndon B. Johnson and short text references to issues of his era, including the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement and the war on poverty.

Fun fact: Mr. Barrett seldom brings this item to class. The reason? “I put this one up on the wall in my bathroom, because LBJ would conduct business anywhere,” he said. “Including, famously, in the White House bathroom.”

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