September 16, 2004

Not Entirely Unanimous

A quick reader survey at Powerline (via Absinthe & Cookies) demonstrates one respect in which renewed attention to Bush's guard service may have produced an unexpected benefit for the president:

Mrs. Rocket generally agrees with me on poltical issues, but sometimes for unexpected reasons. One opionion she has expressed that never would have occurred to me, is that the National Guard flap helps President Bush because they keep showing him in his National Guard uniform. I thought that was an eccentric view, but reader Shirley Camp agrees:

I don't know if anyone has ever pointed this out to you, but I think every time Bush is shown in his Natl Guard Uniform, is a plus for him because he looks so cute in it. His image is very appealing to women. I think this helps him instead of hurting him. What do you think? Maybe others can opine.

All I can say, Shirley, is that you're not alone. Maybe other readers will weigh in.

Other readers did, with this result:

We ask, our readers respond! And so far the response is unanimous. Every woman who has emailed us agrees that the photos of W. in his National Guard uniform are a plus.
(Emphasis mine.) Well, I was one of those readers who responded, and I'm afraid I was among the dissenters on this one.

Before I go any further, please note: By no means am I faulting Hindrocket for not including my response. I suspect I sent it after he'd already been flooded with replies on this issue, number one; number two, can you even imagine how much email these guys must be getting lately? As Kelly Bundy once said, "The mind wobbles."

But, in the "sisters are doin' it for themselves" tradition of which I'm so fond, I think I'll nonetheless present what I wrote to Hindrocket here:

Greetings, Mr. Hinderaker. You recently excerpted a comment by a female reader opining in part:

I think every time Bush is shown in his Natl Guard Uniform, is a plus for him because he looks so cute in it. His image is very appealing to women. I think this helps him instead of hurting him.

Having enjoyed your recent coverage of the forged documents scandal, I am in no position to disparage your readers, nor do I wish to; but my own opinion is quite different from Shirley's.

I do not vote for my leaders based on appearances. I vote for my leaders based on my perception of their leadership ability and character, first, and their positions on the issues, second.

One of the most grating attributes of the modern Democratic party, to me, is their assumption that they have the women's vote "sewn up" for such trivial non-reasons as, "John Edwards is young, fresh-faced, and handsome." Yes, and so was Dan Quayle--and even though I've voted Republican in more elections than not, I always thought Dan's looks were overshadowed by certain, ah, deficits in the intelligence department.

I wrote on my own site today several criticisms of statements made by Maureen Dowd in a so-called "women's forum" hosted by the New York Times. (I realize that was shooting fish in a barrel; we all know there's no limit to the idiocy of MoDo.) She said:

In New Hampshire, Kerry fans had a bumper sticker that said, "Dated Dean, Married Kerry," playing off the idea that while Howard Dean might be exciting, with all his anti-war, sweet-nothing rants, John Kerry was more solid husband, or presidential, material.

While I went for the smart remark in response to that particular bit of bimbosity, I find something I said in response to another "MoDo moment" of hers applies equally well here:

I will note that it would absolutely never occur to Maureen how belittling, condescending, and demeaning it is to suggest that the only thing women voters are after is a guy who "conveys strength." Holy cow, if a right-leaning male blogger said something this stupid I'd roast him alive. Figuratively, I mean.

I don't think it does any harm to note that George Bush, in younger days, looked remarkably handsome in his guard uniform (frankly, I think he looks pretty good even now)--but if he were advocating the terrorist-appeasing policies of John Kerry, I would not vote for him even if he were People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive.

Opinions vary, of course, and Shirley is certainly entitled to hers. But I think the right does a disservice to its many fine women when it echoes the mistakes of the left, and I am always leery of the suggestion that my vote can be swayed by how "cute" a candidate is. I consider voting both a right and a responsibility, and I do not intend to ignore the "responsibility" half of it. That means looking at something else besides a man's countenance; his record in office, for example.

I am hopeful other women voters this year will feel similarly.

And as Dennis Miller used to end his rants, "Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong."

Posted by Ilyka at September 16, 2004 11:33 PM in hell is other people

I'm not voting for him (nor did I vote for him last time) based on his looks. I was only trying to have a little fun on the blog for a slight change of pace.

Posted by: Ith at September 16, 2004 11:45 PM

It is an unfortunate reality that my wife will ruefully confess to you, that in the 1990s she and many of her girlfriends voted for Clinton no small part because he was hot. They were in their early 20s of course, and rather shallow, as she'll admit.

How significant is this factor? Hell if I know. I know it exists. Is it worth 5 points on election day, or 1, or .1?

But I will observe this: we often think we don't care about things like this even when we do. Watch men fall all over themselves being really nice to an attractive woman at random. They'll deny that it makes any difference to them but it does.

Once again, this is unmeasurable. I am actually quite sympathetic to your view. I find it annoying that someone would so casually accept and embrace this view.

Yet a part of me is saying that the human animal is what it is.

How's that for ambivalency?

Posted by: Dean Esmay at September 17, 2004 11:28 AM

I'm sure a panel of anthropologists can pick apart why we've picked who we've picked for presidential material, and while I agree with you in principle about the substance over beauty part. . .

Good gawd, woman! Have you seen John Kerry up close? It's like a painting. . .left out in the sun too long.

But whyinhell do you think he picked Edwards as his running mate?

Posted by: Margi at September 17, 2004 04:36 PM

Oh my god.... "I'm voting for the cute one! Squeal!" Excuse me while I go bang my head on the wall for an hour.

By the way, I've never had a woman tell me that she voted for someone for office because he was better looking than the challenger. Nev. Er. And Clinton hot? Well, he did look kind of sweaty in most pictures but we know he wasn't living the healthiest lifestyle and anyone who's been in DC in the summer knows it's got the climate of hell's intestines at that time of year.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at September 18, 2004 04:39 AM

Hmmm...I honestly didn't think he was being very serious, more sort of a "This is amusing" kind of thing.

I thought Bush's photos looked OK, but didn't think much about them otherwise. The ones that got me were the photos of the young John Kerry which I saw in our library's copy of The New Soldier the other day. Hangdog, droopy, fashionably uncut hair, the glint of self-righteousness glaring from the gooseberry eye - the vintage First College Boyfriend. You know, the one who was all different and noble, who shocked your parents, and who was going to save the world, and you adored him until realizing, roughly six months in, that his self-regard was such that 1. his noble ego would not tolerate any dissent from his opinion, even from you 2. he was seeing another girl on the side, because in your bourgeious selfishness, you were trying to keep him tied down as a slave of the Establishment.

First College Boyfriends tend to either wash out or grow up; Kerry, oddly enough, seems not to have done either. But no, I'm not voting against him *just for that*. Plenty of other reasons :).

Posted by: Sonetka at September 18, 2004 04:55 AM

Sonetka has nailed it.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at September 19, 2004 01:51 PM

Although I agree with you about voting with our... brains, I think there's an element here of any publicity is good publicity. Since undermining the value of Bush's military service is the goal of a lot of this stuff, constantly showing Bush in a military uniform does have somewhat the opposite effect, especially in the context of 'a picture is worth a thousand words'.

Posted by: Tara Bognar at September 20, 2004 11:24 PM

Andrea is right. Sonetka has just explained a facet as to why, no matter what he does, I will NEVER warm up to Kerry. Aside from all of my attempts to remain erudite and left-brain-oriented about this election, Kerry's just plain creepy to me. Is it a "Can't vote for someone you don't trust" thing? Nah. . .I don't trust a single, solitary politician in the White House or on The Hill. It's more of a gut feeling. In sum, it's not so much that I am in love with Bush; it's that I trust Kerry even less.

Posted by: Margi at September 22, 2004 10:29 PM