Monday, August 13, 2007
Do Looks Matter A Lot In Politics?
A thought came to my mind this evening as I watched Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) being interviewed on Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes" tonight about his second-place finish in an Iowa straw poll over the weekend behind the photogenic former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA). Does a guy with an obvious lazy eye have a shot at becoming president? When I listened to Huckabee speak, I couldn't get my mind off that lazy eye and how it bothered me. It reminded me of that old, bearded guy who used to play in all the old western movies we used to make fun of as kids. Now I know it's very superficial of anyone to discriminate against someone simply because of their looks, but as a society we do it all the time. Football coaches are among the worst on that score. When is the last time you saw an ugly quarterback? Think about it.
No sooner had Huckabee's interview concluded than I ran across an article on the Internet discussing President Abraham Lincoln's facial defects. Laser scans of life masks made during Lincoln's lifetime have revealed he suffered from cranial fascial microsomia, a condition which left the left side of his face much smaller than his right side. Lincoln, like Huckabee, also had a wandering eye according to his contemporaries. He was mocked by his political opponents according to historians because of his rather homely looks. According to AP writer Carla Johnson, a Lincoln author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, described Lincoln's "homely sagacity" and his "sallow, queer, sagacious visage." Lincoln had nothing to do with his unfortunate bad looks. A kick in the head by a horse when he was a young boy may have contributed to his condition.
In a time when there was no television, Lincoln's bad looks did not get in the way of political and professional success, although he did suffer from deep depression. Since the age of television, however, we have not had any presidents who were distinctly ugly. Several, including Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton, were considered quite handsome by their contemporaries. A younger Ford worked part-time as a model when he played football at the University of Michigan.
On the GOP side, front-runner Rudy Guiliani is not a handsome man by any stretch of the imagination but it hasn't hurt him with voters or the ladies for that matter (he's been married three times). Mitt Romney is easily the best looking among the GOP candidates, but he's struggling even with all his money, running well behind the front of the pack in most national polls. Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads. Most men I know don't find her attractive, although she's certainly not ugly. Obama is running a close second, and his admirers consider him very attractive.
So back to Huckabee's lazy eye. I still don't like him, but that's primarily because I don't think a Baptist minister has any business being involved in politics, even if he does play a pretty good guitar and can sing Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild". As much as people would hate to admit it, I suspect the lazy eye is something most people don't want to have to look at every time their president gives an important televised address. What do you think?