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The Observer did a double take driving past the bronzes of the Little Rock Nine on the northern side of the state Capitol last week. Each of the nine, who are shown walking with school books in hand, was wearing a Santa Claus hat with “Happy Holidays” knitted into it. Some carried stuffed bears, others felt poinsettias, some wore green and red necklaces.

The artist, John Deering, said he didn’t mind the additions to his work, as long as they were done in the right spirit — as the flowers that someone placed on Elizabeth Eckford’s statue some time back. Of public connection to the art.

The Observer was not so copasetic with the sight of Minnijean Brown decked out in a cheap hat with a merry greeting on it. She was not merry when she went to Central High School. She might have been when she dumped the bowl of chili on the deserving head of the taunting white boy, but on the whole, it was not a felicitous experience.

One would not put a Santa hat on the soldier at the Vietnam Memorial or a sack of playthings on the outstretched wings of the eagle at the memorial to the state’s Congressional Medal of Honor winners.

These memorials are of grave events lived in our own lifetime. People died in the course of these wars and during the civil rights struggle. Holiday merchandise belittles the reason they stand on the Capitol grounds.

A spray of flowers placed before the list of the dead on the wall, mementoes of the fallen soldiers, wreaths — these things are different. They, too, are evidence of a personal connection with the memorialized, but do not alter the look of the memorial or add a frivolous touch. Flowers are a way of paying one’s respect. Santa hats, not so much.

We were driving past Baptist Health’s Eye Center. “We take out logs,” pronounced our 15-year-old. For a minute, we thought the Baptist facility truly had a sign out front saying so. It turns out the 15-year-old was just trying out an advertising idea. Funny, yes. Good idea ... not so much.

The Observer had one of those wish-our-mother-was-still-alive-so-we-could-show-her-this moment over the weekend: Christmas trees priced for $165. Which, we were told, was $30 cheaper than they were elsewhere.

When we were a kid, thousands of years ago, we bought our trees where Walker Tennis Courts now stand. They came with an X made of boards nailed to the bottom so they could stand up. Didn’t even have to buy a stand, because they weren’t put up at Halloween. Boy, we sound old. But still.

George Stephanopoulos came to town on Monday, brought in by the Clinton School of Public Service. He recalled fondly the birth of Clinton’s presidential campaign in an old paint store on Seventh Street near Vino’s. When he and James Carville were running the War Room, the cell phones “were bigger than this microphone,” he said, holding up his 10-inch mike. The office had two whole fax machines. The number of cable news stations: One, CNN. The number of news cycles: Two. The campaign was official a year before the election.

So, he said, in this day of Fox and MSNBC in the mix and 10 news cycles, expect no surprise candidates, no unfamiliar and unbelievably intelligent governors to rise to the surface. Besides, surfacing these days takes about $100 million on the way up.

Now, two years before it’s time to choose, it looks like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will be seeking our vote. Could they be elected? Maybe, he said. “It depends on how sexist we are or how racist we are.”

The Observer daringly predicts a white male will be elected president in 2008.

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