Monday, October 13, 2003

Sex Appeal: I've been pondering the sex factor in presidential politics and presidential history. Some of it is, obviously, old hat -- like Kennedy looking better than Nixon on TV. But looking just at presidents we've had in my (aware) lifetime, the sexiest candidate wins. Reagan, the former movie star, made Carter look pretty milquetoasty; he made Mondale look like an old hen, a scold. Bush the Elder looked sexy, but only compared to someone like Dukakis. Clinton came along and proved that it was pretty easy to outsex the old man, even if we all later pined for the gentle, honorable George when Clinton stood us up at the prom to hit the back seat with a waitress from Waffle House. Then, when Clinton went up against Dole, we all thought the walking libido, however caddish, was preferable to the guy who took his reputation for stiffness to the bank with Pfizer. The came 2000, pitting a shallow but comfortably self-deprecating party-boy against a lecturing drone who epitomized all the redundancy, banality, and inconsequence of the vice-presidency. Tough call, wasn't it?

Anyhow, looking at the A-list Democrats lining up for 2004, who has the juice to run against Bush the Younger? Not Gephardt, sad as it is that he's obviously wanted the job for as long as I can remember. But he's about as sexy as a kiss from a nun. John Edwards may be handsome, but it's a pretty-boy kind of handsome. You'd never call him "rugged." Kerry? Liberman? A couple of effete Northeasterners, one of them a goy, the other not. Sounds like a sitcom. Lieberman may be hawkish, but I can't imagine either of them striking fear into the hearts of al Qaeda.

I have to admit, based on the theory of sex appeal, Howard Dean is the Dems best bet: the rolled-up-sleeves swagger, the non-focus-grouped gesticulation (including pointing -- remember how Clinton's handlers turned that into a limp, bent-fingered, point-with-the-knuckle gesture?). Wes Clark is still a bit of a cipher here, but his handlers seem to be castrating him, too, as Tim Blair has noted in Clark's cries for help from "Mary."

I'm starting to take Dean more seriously. And despite what they may claim, I don't think the GOP is.

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