Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time-- more than warranted, I am sure-- in studying photos of the Republican vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin.
Governor Palin is beautiful, no denying it. She was a beauty queen in 1984, and there is a photo of her from that time that confirms she was a legitimate contender. Google image her name and everything will come up.
What of it? Who cares? It's Palin's record in office that we are most concerned with, isn't it? We're most concerned with why she's qualified to step in at a moment's notice, and become the leader of a great superpower. That will influence our vote most, won't it?
Not hardly. Male politicians routinely use their good looks and/or charm and/or flirtiness to influence votes. Wasn't it Dan Quayle who was considered quite the hottie once upon a time?
The more I think about it, the more I realize that Palin is unique in American presidential politics. She is the second woman to be nominated for vice president by a major party-- Geraldine Ferraro was the first, in 1984. But she is the first and only woman that I remember at any time who is a big-time politician and also strikingly attractive.
Ferraro ran when I was an adult, and no one that I know of discussed her looks. She was sort of tough as nails, and that's as far as it went. That Democratic ticket was doomed from the beginning.
When Hillary Clinton came on the scene in 1992, I thought of her as beautiful, but in a noble rather than erotic way. She looked like someone worthy of being queen-- I mean, of a nation. I had friends who worked for the Clinton campaign who gushed about her character. When you looked into her eyes you saw caring rather than flirtiness.
In this campaign, Hillary has sometimes looked grim and exhausted, nowhere near her regal self of a decade and a half ago. We are all older.
Palin is radiant. She is very young for a vice-presidential nominee, 44, and has come into a polished beauty that women in their twenties can't have. She is not scarred by Washington ambition, and looks as if she got her eight hours on a sleep number bed.
She does not look like a queen-- of a nation, I mean. Her eyes flirt. The talk show host Craig Ferguson suggested "naughty librarian." Aphrodite redux.
At the same time she is a mom. She is pro-life and apparently is going to appeal to the evangelical Christian vote. She's going to bring the Moral Majority squarely back into Senator McCain's camp.
So quite apart from Palin's policy positions, there is this wild card that will be played in the election, a card that has never been played before by a woman in a presidential race.
What will America make of this potent combination of pagan eroticism and wholesome stay-at-home mom integrity?
The story possibilities are endless.
But it's clear that the McCain campaign has decided to counter Barack Obama's star power with its own pop culture, Internet-era power play. Obama has inspired the nation with, among other things, his rhetoric and his appearance. History was made this week because of Obama's appearance. So the Republicans balanced that with their own bold move having to do with appearance.
We'll find out soon about the rhetoric part of Governor Palin's campaigning package. She made mincemeat out of her opponents in Alaska. I can't imagine what a Palin-Biden debate would look like. That just doesn't compute at the moment.
A friend of mine once said that politics was the greatest spectator sport in the world. At times like these, one is inclined to believe him. I just wish the greatest spectator sport in the world didn't have to lead to thousands upon thousands of our best and brightest being killed or maimed overseas-- not to mention hundreds of thousands of civilian citizens of that overseas land-- so that a few megalomaniacs could satisfy their desire for shaping reality.
This fall, I'm voting for the guy that opposed that war, all appearances aside.