05/18/2010 06:03 pm ET Updated 6 days ago

What Is 'Dutch Cleanser' And Should I Smoke It?

Today is primary day in Pennsylvania, where a pitched battle is being waged between current Senator Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) and Representative Joe Sestak (D-Penn.). Now, an interview between Specter and Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC today has people asking a new question: What is Dutch cleanser?


SPECTER: When you talk about Sestak being more vigorous, you must be smoking Dutch Cleanser.

As our own Sam Stein points out, this isn't the first time Specter has used this saying:

Vice President Dick Cheney bitterly complains that national security leaks are endangering America. Unless, of course, he's doing the leaking, tapping Scooter Libby to reveal national security information to punish a political critic.

President Bush says he will not talk about specific security threats to America. Unless, of course, he needs to talk about a specific threat to Los Angeles to confuse the public and gain some cheap political advantage.

The White House says it has done everything possible to protect the homeland. Unless, of course, it hasn't. Then it can lie to hide the callous portrait of Incurious George in Crawford as New Orleans drowned.

The attorney general can claim that torture and warrantless wiretapping are legal, and can mislead Congress. Unless, of course, enough Republicans stand up and say, as Arlen Specter told The Washington Post, that if that lickspittle lawyer thinks all this is legal, "he's smoking Dutch Cleanser."

Okay. So: what is Arlen Specter talking about? Let's check in with Garland Pollard, proprietor of BrandlandUSA:

We were curious about Old Dutch Cleanser; it was one of the most recognizable trademarks of the early 20th century consumer product era.

Old Dutch, along with Comet and Bon Ami, was one of the big brands of pumice-based kitchen cleaners; its railcars were even featured on Tyco and Lionel trains as late as the 1970s.

But the product is nowhere to be found on the web. And the empty can we threw away after we took the picture of it last week was NO help, though we THINK we got it at a dollar store.

A bit of Old Dutch history. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a trademark for Old Dutch was filed September 15, 1905 and registered March 27, 1906. The whole trademark is "Old Dutch Cleanser chases dirt, makes everything spick and span."

Oh, great. So, Arlen Specter, seeking to combat the perception that he is still "vigorous," cites an old-timey saying about an old-timey product which cannot be found anywhere on the Internet, but maybe you can pick some up at a "dollar store."

(No, you should not smoke it, obviously.)

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