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Too much time wasted on candidates’ image


His enemies mocked him with the nickname “His Rotundity,” but John Adams’ weight did not keep him from being elected president. “Little Jemmie Madison,” tipping the scales at about a hundred pounds, was also known as the father of the Constitution and also occupied the presidency. Abraham Lincoln bemoaned his ugliness, married a snarky lady with a pinched face and an unpinched figure, yet he is one of our chief American heroes.

Quintessential Yankee Calvin Coolidge, inheriting the presidency at the death of President Warren G. Harding and then being elected in his own right in 1924, looked like the ultimate hick and was the butt of much mockery because of his reticence, yet won much admiration without playing the shows of power. Franklin Roosevelt married a homely distant cousin, Eleanor, and as an adult suffered a bout of polio, leaving him a paraplegic. But he was elected and re-elected president nevertheless. Eleanor became one of the most beloved and admired women in America.

But that was yesteryear. We have fallen since then. Now we demand that our candidates be tall, handsome, well spoken, charming and married to trophy wives. Ken and Barbie run for office, and we tend to be impressed. Why? Hollywood, New York, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and even Fox. No bad suits or funky hairdos. No stutterers. Nobody challenged by weight (unless it’s Oprah, who is perennially stunningly beautiful nevertheless). Newsbabes. Pretty boys. Teleprompters to make it seem that talking heads come up with their own words. Image, all image. A homely person has little to tell us: Newt Gingrich is a weeble who wobbles but never falls down; Ron Paul is a skinny whiner; Tim Pawlently is achingly boring. Even handsome, tall Mitt Romney seems made of wood (so of course, like the Tin Man, has no heart).

Who today listens, really listens, to the words of politicians, remembers and evaluates them, researches their backgrounds, comparing one to another? Who watches the kids, who are like computer printouts of what their parents are really like? Who brings a shaker of salt to test the blatherings of the media? Look. Think (especially think). Research. Dare to doubt. Dare to believe. Dare not to follow the crowd. Dare to be a real citizen. You’ll be surprised at what you find, and what you can do as a result.

Dare to look at yourself, and ignore the image. Whom might you be?

Richard Bastille


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