Q&A #92: Presidential Looks

Question: This question is for Melissa: Inevitably, presidential electoral contests will always find someone raising the issue of the overall attractiveness of the presidential candidates. And I’m not talking about attractiveness only regarding ideology or policy, but the whole package: physical attributes, comportment, charisma, intellect, etc. A package that might find someone, even if not voting for the candidate for other reasons, to consider him the “hottie” of the two. Since you have written in the past about male/female relationships, I’m curious to know what you think might be the results of comparing McCain to Obama in this regard. Do you think more people will find Obama more attractive than McCain, or vice versa? Why?

Posted by huckupchuck

The best thing to happen to John McCain’s campaign so far, was Paris Hilton. When she poked fun at the “old gray haired guy” and when he responded with humor, an intergenerational connection happened. Her acknowledgment made McCain “hip” and funny. I think the pundits got this all wrong, actually, because Hannity & Colmes kvetched, as did O’Reilly, that it lowered the discourse. Well, a candidate has to appeal to all people not just the pointy heads.

On that account, Obama wins the style, youth and hipness factor, hands down. What’s funny is that he kinda strikes me as a bland nerd underneath. But Obama’s strength, his appeal, is also his weakness. He is criticized for being a lightweight and his aura actually contributes to the problem. He seems more celebrity than serious. So, he has to be careful. And in some respects, I believe the damage is already done. Oh, and he could use putting on some muscle. Good grief! The man is anemic. He looks weak.

Conversely, McCain’s style, looks, and delivery could not be more bland. And yet, underneath, the guy is fiery. Part of the problem with him, superficially, is his inability to freely move his upper body. I know, this is harsh. But his physical restraint, imposed by his injuries due to torture, convey a visual frustration, if that makes any sense. It’s awkward. And yet, people are constantly reminded that he does have substance. He has lived and suffered. He knows pain and it’s not imagined. So, ultimately, I think his style turns out neutral.

If a full mop of hair determines who wins, as some research suggested we’d have had John Kerry as President and John Edwards would be the Democratic nominee. Last election, The Manolo wrote the piece d’resistance about hairstyle and the presidency. The Manolo said this about Bush:

For the example, the current president, George the W. Bush, has the mostly non-descript hair; the sort of the short, no-nonsense, cut-by-the-elderly-barber-named-Mory hair. This type of the hair, it is neither especially inspirational, nor particularly dismaying, and because of this it is part of that broad and undistinguished middle ground, where the majority of the Presidential coiffure may be found. The Bush the Elder, the Harry Truman, the Coolidge, the Wilson, the Harding, the Hoover, and the many, many others presidents of this past century and the half have had this same hair.

And this is the ground a future President has to tread. He has to look appropriate. He has to look serious but have a sense of humor. He has to project authority but not be arrogant. He has to speak well and look pleasing but also be extemporaneous and not be a dandy. In short, the President has to be an everyman and a statesman.

(And for all my feminist pals out there, I’m using the universal “man”, because a woman has to walk this line and a few more, but I’m talking to the two candidates here.)

Cross-posted at MelissaClouthier.com

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