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Suits and boots

"Suits and boots" Continued...

Issue: "Food fight," May 3, 2008

In 1960, however, JFK wanted to tone down the ultra-young look. He needed gravitas, so he got a haircut. Edwards and Kerry tried to imitate JFK's hair focus, but the blogosphere wasn't as sympathetic as the JFK-era media. JFK could hire a stylist and it seemed stylish; Edwards and Kerry paid hundreds for haircuts and looked elitist. JFK recognized that his hair was great, but that if the sole focus was on his hair, his gravitas would suffer.

WORLD: Kennedy's adultery is well-documented, but what do we know about Lyndon Johnson during his White House days?

SHAPIRO: Where JFK was a secret boor, Johnson was an open one. Before male and female aides, LBJ stalked about naked, burped, broke wind, urinated and defecated-all while talking politics. . . . Johnson was JFK's heir in more ways than one. He used to stock up his White House staff with good-looking young women, hoping to sleep with them-and hoping that others would assume he was sleeping with them. He engaged in sex in the Oval Office with at least six different women. "Sex to Johnson was part of the spoils of victory," explained reporter George Reedy. Lady Bird Johnson simply overlooked Johnson's affairs.

WORLD: You note that we have no magic formula that can unerringly predict winners and losers in presidential elections, but some of the trends (such as tall men generally beat short men) are evident . . .

SHAPIRO: Tall men generally beat short men. Men with hair almost always beat bald men. Boots candidates beat suits candidates. Military service is a plus, but less so now than in the past. Older candidates aren't necessarily at a disadvantage against younger candidates.

The bottom line: We look at candidates as an entire person, not an aggregation of factors. We're looking for the most genuine person, the most authentic and honest guy. Scientists say we judge whether a person is likeable, competent, attractive, trustworthy, and aggressive within less than one-tenth of a second. That means that superficial factors matter. It also means that politicians must find a winning image that meshes with their personality-Americans can spot a phony.

WORLD: What does your image analysis predict about Obama-McCain or Clinton-McCain races?

SHAPIRO: If Clinton is the nominee, McCain will beat her easily. McCain has several image drawbacks: He's old, he's short, he's balding, he's a mediocre speaker-but he's also a military hero, a boots candidate, and an energetic and vital older candidate. Hillary, by contrast, is an image disaster. She's grating. She seems distant and arrogant. She does best when she plays the victim-and it will be tough for her to do that against McCain, who has often reached across the aisle to her.

If Obama is the nominee, the race becomes more interesting. McCain's age may play in his favor-it accentuates Obama's inexperience. On the other hand, McCain's height is a dramatic disadvantage against Obama-it makes him seem stooped and decrepit. Obama's a far better speaker. But if Obama continues to cultivate his own deification, McCain's humanity may make Obama seem cold rather than caring.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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