Let me share with you some details of my investigation of a truly inconsequential and yet to me somehow fascinating mystery. Yesterday, in the midst of the shock over President Trump’s sudden decision to cancel the North Korea summit in Singapore, I saw an image on Twitter about The White House Gift Shop website selling those summit “challenge coins” with the profiles of President Trump and Kim Jong-un. I went to the White House website to see if this could possibly be true. Does the White House really hawk souvenirs on its website? Even under Trump? I soon realized that everyone was talking about a separate White House Gift Shop website, under its own domain name, which looked pretty rickety to me and left me not at all sure it had anything to do with the White House.
Then a short time later I saw a chyron on MSNBC announcing that the White House was in fact still selling the summit challenge coins even as the summit had been called off. I did a double-take because my initial take made me think that the “White House Gift Shop” wasn’t actually part of the White House or even the U.S. government. But with MSNBC saying this was the White House I decided I needed to figure out what was going on.
When I first looked at the site all the pages but the front page were broken. The products I saw weren’t exactly MAGA caps. But they seemed a bit more partisan and campaigny and cheesy than I’d expect from any U.S. government website. [Scratch that: The Gift Shop actually does sell a MAGA cap.] (In fairness their archived Obama gifts were at least a bit campaigny.)
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