Andrew Roberts: Our Obsession With 'Looking Presidential'





Mr. Roberts is author most recently of The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War (Harper, 2011).  

What does it mean to "look presidential," and why does it matter? An enormous amount of the media coverage of presidential candidates is focused on whether or not he (or, very rarely, she) "looks presidential."

Grow up, America! Has the great democratic system of the Republic really come down to choosing leaders not on the basis of what they say, or even the way they say it, but on the way they fill a suit while saying it?

Looking presidential can be broadly translated to mean being around 6 feet tall, relatively slim and broad-shouldered, and having a full head of preferably pepper-and-salt-colored hair and a ready, winning smile. It isn't being only 5 feet 6 inches tall and slightly balding that makes me want to blaspheme at the TV screen whenever I hear approving talk of Messrs. Romney, Perry and Huntsman "looking presidential." It's because I'm a historian—and where would the United States be if she had always adopted such blatantly look-ist criteria in the past?..

 



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