SPOKANE, Wash. — Call it the burning Bush.
The co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is on the road, towing a 12-foot-tall effigy of President Bush with fake flames shooting out of the pants.
Ben Cohen says it’s an acceptable way to point out what he calls the president’s lies.
“In a polite society, you don’t go up to a person and look at them in the face and say, ’You’re a liar,”’ Cohen said in a telephone interview before arriving in Spokane, the next stop on the Pants on Fire Tour.
“We think it’s a lot more dignified and there’s a lot more decorum to say, ‘Excuse me sir, your pants are getting a little warm, don’t you think?”’ Cohen said.
The “PantsOnFire-Mobile” is a trailer pulled behind a car. The Bush character wears a flight suit with the words “Mission Accomplished” emblazoned on the back, a reference to the president’s declaration aboard the deck of an aircraft carrier that major hostilities had ended in Iraq. An electronic ticker on the front displays what Cohen says are Bush’s lies.
The head is a rotating cylinder with various Bush facial expressions.
White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said most people in America support Bush’s policies, and that the president supports free speech.
“The president welcomes the fact that we live in a democracy and that people in this country are free to make their own opinions known,” Lisaius said.
A pioneer of 'mobile promotions'
Ben & Jerry’s pioneered “mobile promotions” when Cohen and co-founder Jerry Greenfield took a recreational vehicle across the country and doled out ice cream on a nationwide “scooping tour,” in lieu of expensive national advertising. The same concept is at work with the PantsOnFire-Mobile, Cohen said.
The project is run by volunteers. Cohen flies to a town to train a crew of drivers, teaching them things like how to crank up the smoke machine. Volunteers come from an Internet organization Cohen founded called TrueMajority.org, which he said has 500,000 members.
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The Web site, which sends out liberal action calls to subscribers, is not affiliated with Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. In 2000, international conglomerate Unilever purchased the ice cream company. Cohen and co-founder Jerry Greenfield now serve as “ambassadors” for the company.
Reaction to the effigy across the country has been overwhelmingly positive, Cohen said, so much so that he has commissioned a second one to tour.
Portraying flames shooting out of the pants of the president isn’t disrespectful, Cohen argued.
“I believe that it’s disrespectful of the president to essentially lead the country based on lies,” he said. “If that happens, then I believe it’s actually our patriotic duty to make people aware of it.”
The PantsOnFire-Mobile will spend two weeks in Spokane before rolling off to Seattle. The tour began last November on Long Island, N.Y., and will continue until the Nov. 2 elections. It has been to Florida, Texas, Arizona and Colorado.
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