Does Your Candidate Look Presidential Enough?

It is amazing to me that with the many problems we have in our country, there are those who are still interested in whether or not someone looks presidential. It comes up all of the time. And, don't believe for a minute that these comments only come from those cheesy media outlets that talk about one's looks based on a genuine lack of knowledge about the real issues of an election. They really don't have a choice except to focus on this perspective. They have nothing else to talk about. But, it is sad that you might hear this comment from mainstream media who has all of the tools, to at least, be able to have a grasp on the real issues that face our country.

But, even they will find time to include a portion of their coverage or commentary to bring up the "who looks presidential" comment. First of all, what does that statement even mean? If there is a look that a candidate should strive for, what is that look and who set that look as the standard? Is it short or tall? Is it black or white or brown or a mix of the three? Is it overweight or slim? Is it athletic or studious? Is it mature or youthful? What is this look that we keep hearing about?

I took some time to review some people who had actually been president. Surely, they would have the presidential look. They must have it. If not, how did they get elected? I started with our first President George Washington. President Washington is generally considered to have been a good President, but his looks are a different story. I'm not one to criticize, but George was not necessarily an attractive man. Let’s face it … bad wig, unusually common face, and a mouth full of wooden teeth. Did he look presidential? Apparently to somebody ... he did. Sorry, but I don't see it. By the way, his wife Martha was no beauty queen either.

What about Honest Abe, our 16th president? He happens to be my favorite president of all time. I read everything that I can get my hands on concerning his presidency. But looks? Not so much! He was tall and gangly. He had a nose that was eclipsing each time he turned against the rays of the sun and a mole that every plastic surgeon in 1863 Washington would have loved to get their scalpel on. And, that chin-lined beard and top hat; need I say more? A great president but not much for looks either.

What about Teddy Roosevelt? He served two terms and was generally well respected. But, did he look like a president? Some might argue that. When he put on his battle gear, he looked more like a stand-in for The Crocodile Hunter. Dainja, Dainja!!! He seemed more at home on the back of a horse than in the big seat of the presidency. He wore those round glasses and accompanying lancet very well but neither was very stylish. That look might have been well suited for the land down under and someone with a slight vision impairment, but it did not bode so well for a president. He was a smart and courageous man, no doubt, but not so much of a fashion icon. In his defense, very few men can carry off that bloused trouser look. He gave it his best shot.

I would be remiss if I did not at least mention our 27th President, William Howard Taft. You remember Mr. Taft don't you? He was the heaviest President in our nation's history at over 300 pounds. He was definitely substantial, but Presidential?... I'm not so sure. Taft is the only President to actually get stuck in the White House tub. I can't imagine he looked very Presidential at the time. He wasn't much for looks, but you have to give him some credit. He never met a meal that he didn't like. And, what about our fourth President, James Madison? At only five foot, four inches and less than 100 pounds, could he have possibly looked Presidential? Maybe he was the first to coin the "light" phrase. As in Presidential- Lite. I'm sure his parents were proud of the little rascal, but I suspect that he looked much tinier than Presidential.

So who is it that someone would say looked presidential? Was it Kennedy, was it Eisenhower, or maybe it is Obama? Although I do not hold my breath every time a strong wind blows by those ears of our current leader. On any given day, I expect him to take flight. I have no idea what it means to look presidential. Is it one of our current slates of candidates? I look at Gingrich, I look at Ron Paul. Is that the look we are talking about? Really? If it is based on sheer "easy on the eye" concept, maybe it is Romney or Perry. At least, you can look them head on without putting one hand over your eye as a natural filter. I think that whoever started this whole business has been to one too many movies. Robert Redford and Harrison Ford looked presidential in the movies, but we must not forget they were acting. Come to think of it, maybe the line between fact and fiction is not that different. Aren't they all actors to some degree? Hey, it worked very well for Ronald Reagan. He did pretty well at both. Someone once said that politics is show business for ugly folks. I'm just saying.

Perhaps looks should have nothing to do with it and we just stick with qualifications and abilities. Nah, it'll never happen. We'll just keep searching for the candidate that has that look, whatever it is, that looks presidential. Let's just be glad that Ben Franklin never made it to the White House. He is responsible for so many of the great things that have happened in our country, but I challenge anyone to say that he had the look. He would add a factor and an element to this whole formula that would require such a corrective curve to the point that would never allow us to find the look we are searching for. Give him his due. He was the originator of bifocals and could work that mullet like it was nobody's business. Most of us wish that his early, yet apparently long lasting, fashion statement had also been struck by lightning on that fateful night. It wasn't pretty then and it's not pretty now.

So the search continues. We're not sure what is it but somebody has it and we won't stop until we find it. It may, however, prove difficult. In the meantime, here's looking at you. Feeling Presidential?

About this column: Stan Hall is a victim advocate with the Gwinnett County District Attorney's Office and Director of the Victim Witness Program in Gwinnett County. He also writes a weekly column and is host of a government access cable show, both of which are titled "Behind the Badge."