Lapel Pins were a focal point of the debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Political pundits and media gurus have analyzed every moment of the presidential debate that took place last week. Every nuance, claim and sentence uttered by the President and Mr. Romney was dissected and nitpicked with a fine-tooth comb. Their hair, suits, ties and shoes were discussed and scrutinized. The pins the candidates sported on their lapels was no different. The tradition of wearing a patriotic lapel pin started with Richard Nixon, who wore an American flag lapel pin regularly. Nixon biographer Stephen Ambrose claims that the president, besieged by protests over the Vietnam War, was advised to wear a patriotic pin by his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman. Haldeman’s idea came from Robert Redford’s 1972 film, “The Candidate”. The practice of wearing flag lapel pins waned in the coming years only to be reawakened by the events of 9/11. Even then, the idea was embroiled in controversy as the Republicans claimed that not wearing a flag lapel pin was a sign of weak patriotism. Since that time, wearing a flag lapel pin has becone standard among politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Even though President Obama has said in the past that “My attitude is that I’m less concerned about what you’re wearing on your lapel than what’s in your heart,” the pin has been a permanent addition to his lapel. Not wearing a lapel pin would be akin to not wearing clothes at all – in today’s political climate and social norm.
At the presidential debate last week, President Obama wore the standard, smaller sized American Flag lapel pin. Mr. Romney’s pin was more prominent and had an unusual design on the stripes. Pundits and analysts pored over the debate tapes to determine the exact design and meaning of Mr. Romney’s pin. As it turns out, the lapel pin was a special Secret Service flag lapel pin, with the Secret Service emblem emblazoned on the stripes of the American Flag. The pin is worn by members of the Secret Service and their fans and gives no security clearance. The pins are traded between members and fans just like Olympic pins.
Mr. Romney is not the first to change up his lapel pins. Congressman Paul Ryan, Mr. Romney’s running mate, sports what appears to be a variant, and sometimes, a flag with a GOP elephant. During the Republican debates, Newt Gingrich wore a pin replica of George Washington’s Revolutionary War flag. So far, the president and Vice President Joe Biden are still wearing the classic American flag pin.