• A spritz of power
    February 13,2013
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    It’s kind of amazing, given our politicians’ obsession with self-promotion, that we haven’t yet seen a line of congressional colognes.

    Think about it. Actors, athletes, models and singers have signature scents. Snooki has two. So why not one for the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee?

    Or for — Marco Rubio?

    He could deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address not just as an immigration reformer with an eye on 2016 but as the pitchman for Amnesty by Marco Rubio, the eau de toilette for the man or woman who craves a clean break, a new beginning. I imagine a top note of citrus, nodding to Rubio’s native Florida, and a middle note of tea, nodding to his party-within-a-party.

    Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic majority leader, could be the face and spirit of Nevada Naughty, named for his home state and his habit of playing rough. I detect a whiff of desert wildflowers. Vanilla, too. Also some nutmeg, clove and coriander. No, wait, that’s my lentil soup recipe.

    From John Boehner I’m getting tobacco. And leather. And I don’t mean his cigarette dependence or dependably tanned skin. I mean his sporty new scent, Acqua di Speaker. It comes not just in a spray and a splash but also in a shower gel, for those times when you want to wash away the stink of lobbyists and emerge feeling refreshed and smelling like Camel Ultra Lights.

    And John McCain could channel his spooky fury into a fragrance for the grudge holder who has never suffered a slight that he didn’t avenge. Its name would be Payback, and it would smell of sour grapes and scorched earth.

    It’s past time for lawmakers, and not just in the nation’s capital, to get in on the aromatic action. The distinction between a headliner in politics and a headliner in movies, music, fashion or sports has pretty much evaporated. It’s all show business now, all relentless marketing and meticulous brand management, and Chris Christie is just Beyonce with shorter hair, bigger lungs and a less rigorous workout routine. She calls one of her colognes Midnight Heat. He could call his Autumn Hurricane, to capture the pummeling force of his personality and the event that made him, politically speaking, destiny’s child.

    With signature scents, our designated leaders might be much more appealing. The television cameras could pan the senators, representatives, Cabinet members and Supreme Court justices in the Capitol on Tuesday night and we’d see not just a snake pit of bitter enemies taking a rare time-out. We’d behold a human potpourri of nose-tickling possibility.

    Why, there’s Eric Cantor, who recently joined the Republicans’ reinvention mission with talk and tweets about transcending partisanship and helping the little guy. He’s worried about immigrant kids. He’s oozing empathy for working moms. And he’s wearing Eric Cantor’s Eau de Changement, a chameleon of a cologne that makes you smell harsh at certain times, approachable at others. Eau de Changement keeps voters guessing. Paul Ryan wears it, too.

    Sonia Sotomayor may turn up in the Capitol for Obama’s remarks. She’s taking a breather from the tour for “My Beloved World,” her memoir, which is just the first chapter in a new saga of Supreme merchandising. Next comes her scent, Black Robe, with currents of jasmine and bergamot, in a bottle shaped like Lady Justice.

    Of course Hillary Clinton’s stratospheric approval ratings demand a cologne all her own. It should be a symphony of spices and flowers from the different continents she visited as secretary of state, a bouquet of international ambition, with a moniker to match. All our diplomats will wear Beyond Borders, or they’ll wear nothing at all.

    It’ll be unisex, while Bill Clinton’s signature scent will be a musky number for men only. It’ll use cedar, incense and wormwood to rewrite history, and be called Unimpeachable.

    The way I figure it, politicians aren’t making much progress in fixing the budget or saving the post office. But they just might be able to make America smell a little better. A more perfect union eludes us. Perhaps we should set our sights on a more perfumed one.

    C-SPAN could evolve into something like QVC, where you’d see the former governor of Tennessee, now its senior senator, pop up to present a special deal on Lamar Noir, with half off the after-shave balm if you also get the soap on a rope.

    And instead of showily haranguing Cabinet nominees, Ted Cruz, the Texas Tea Partier, could lend his aggrieved voice and censorious visage to a showy cologne, Cruz Control. It’s tailor-made for preening, with a top note of sandalwood, a middle note of tonka bean and a base of self-righteousness.



    Frank Bruni is a columnist for The New York Times.
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