Will America elect an ugly president?

I know it sounds like a silly question. A scan over a gallery of our nation’s past leaders will reveal a host of presidents whom the American public clearly did not elect on looks. There’s Warren Harding, the definition of curmudgeon. There’s Andrew Jackson, who looks like the Rolling Stone who got lost in time but still did too many drugs. And there’s Herbert Hoover, with his permanent I’m-crapping-my-pants-as-you-take-this-picture expression.

I won’t even bring up that ball of melting wax Lyndon Johnson – if the election had been a beauty contest, he could never have won. But yeah, before that famous televised debate between JFK and Nixon, people didn’t factor personal appearance into political success – Washington, as the saying goes, was truly Hollywood for ugly people.

But I wonder if things have changed.

Most people agree that Kerry has a good chance of snagging the Democratic Party’s nomination for candidacy in the November presidential race. As I see it, however, Kerry has a considerable obstacle standing between him and the Oval Office.

John Kerry is ugly.

He’s ugly in that way that only generations of WASP-ish inbreeding can create. His hair looks like a bad JFK wig. More often that not, his eyes are shadowed by the bags of a guy who’s already spent two terms as president. And his face – oh God, his face! – looks like an old leathery catcher’s mitt with a zipper. Clearly, the Massachusetts-raised Kerry doesn’t have access to the facial and dental technology that we Californians do. Even claiming status as a metrosexual, as Kerry did in an Oct. 29 news article in the Denver Post, and appearing to have undergone a makeover can’t redeem that face.

The recent focus on male beauty aside, Kerry has a tough act to follow as far as presidential hunkiness goes. When Bill Clinton took office at age 46, he became the youngest president since JFK. He also wore sunglasses and played the saxophone – a combination of youth and studliness that charmed many Americans. Authors Julia Anderson-Miller and Bruce Miller even had some recall their Clinton sex fantasies for a book called Dreams of Bill. Sure, he looked like hell when he left office, but who wouldn’t, after enduring an impeachment, a sex scandal and cohabitation with Hillary?

When Dubya succeeded Clinton as president, he brought a different kind of animal magnetism to the office: the simian kind. Rather than the dashing young politico-type that JFK embodied and Clinton recalled, Dubya looks like a monkey. Now, this is not a put-down. I think Dubya’s simian resemblance actually appeals to Americans, as most people think monkeys are cute and funny.

I certainly think monkeys are cute and funny. I may not seek these Curious George qualities out in my elected officials, but I think it could partly explain Bush’s popularity – he’s not especially handsome, but Ookie-Ookie Monkey Face is way easier on the eyes than a gastropod land monster like William Howard Taft.

Clearly, Kerry has an uphill battle to the White House. In addition to voters’ preference for incumbents, half the nation approves of Bush’s performance as president. Now I’m adding “not ugly” to his list of virtues. If Kerry beats Bush – a phrase that makes me snicker every time I hear it – we’ll know one of two things: either (a) that ugly-but-capable trumps cute-but-stupid in politics or (b) that people don’t care as much about male beauty as recent trends might indicate.

Just think: the Oval Office could once again be a refuge for great political minds, even if that mind is housed behind a face only a mother could love.

Daily Nexus opinion editor Drew Mackie – beat Bush. Heh heh.