Monday, July 16, 2007

Campaigns and Cleavage

Sunday morning as I was hanging around the house preparing to go out and work in the yard, I had the TV on in the background but was in and out of the room and only vaguely aware of the program that was on. The program was To the Contrary which describes itself as “commentary from a variety of women’s perspective” or some such characterization. Suddenly the words “push-up bra” and “cleavage” caught my attention. (Words like that always seem to catch my attention.) The panelist were discussing the wife of Presidential undeclared, maybe-a-candidate Fred Thompson. I did not catch enough of the program to find out which panelist was saying what, but they were speculating how the public would respond to the wife of Fred Thomson as the potential first lady. I was surprised that they were even having this conversation and discussing her cleavage. The gist of the conversation seemed to be that she is so glamorous and sexy that it may cost him some votes, if he should run.

Wanting to know more, I later in the day, googled “Fred Thompson’s wife” and surprisingly found 1,570,000 hits! It seems that she has been fodder for gossip columnist and political pundits recently. Joe Scarborough who hosts a daily newscast on MSNBC as well as providing commentary on CNBC and NBC’s “Today Show” created controversy by speculating whether she “works the pole”.

A New York Times story referred to her as Fred’s “Trophy wife”. A feminist site called “Guerrilla Women of Tennessee” questioned: “The church ladies are going to vote for Jeri as First Lady?”

While the hip and sensitive are quick to condemn the slightest hint of sexism, bigotry or the slightest prejudicial remark or characterization of any group, it seems that beautiful women are still fair game. After all, people will tell a “dumb blond” joke who would not dare joke about any other identifiable group. And, in an age when "profiling" is taboo and we are to consider an Arabic-speaking, dark-skinned man in robes as an equal security threat to airline security as granny on her walker, it is still OK to assume that a younger attractive women with an older successful man is with him for suspect motives.

When we elect a President it is not just his policies we are voting for but whether or not we like the person. In the television age, the campaign is, in part, a beauty contest. “Charisma” may be more important than the candidates position on Social Security reform. Ronald Reagan had a likability that certainly helped him. Bill Clinton also benefited from being likable. He seemed like a guy with whom I would like to go bar hoping. I never voted for Bill Clinton, but I couldn't help but kind of like the guy. On the other hand, Al Gore seemed to suffer from a lack of personality. If Al Gore would have had only a little bit more of Reagan's or Clinton's likability, he might have been president.

Fred Thompson just looks “Presidential” and inspires trust and confidence. Maybe it is that deep voice and the roles he has played in the movies. He is the strong father-figure type and that can’t help but benefit him, should he seek the office. Along with the candidate however, the candidate’s family is also a consideration. We are not just selected the President but The First Family. JFK was certainly helped by having Jacqueline for a wife. She brought style and grace to the office along with JFK’s vitality and good looks. On the other hand, having Teresa Heinz Kerry as his wife did not help John Kerry.

Jeri Thompson is not the first beautiful glamorous blond in the life of Fred Thompson. When Fred was serving as Tennessee’s Senator he dated another beautiful, glamorous blond; country music star Lorrie Morgan. Jeri Thompson, it turns out, is not a country music singer or a Hollywood starlet. She has worked as a political media consultant for a large Washington law firm and has worked for the Senate Republican Conference and the Republican National Committee. She is 24 years younger than Fred Thompson and they have two young children. She is not a home-wrecker. Fred Thompson was divorced for seventeen years before he even met his second wife.

If Fred Thompson runs, it will be interesting to speculate which demographic will most likely vote against him because of his attractive wife. Will it be the “church wives” or the drab and less attractive, which may or may not be "church wives"? Single women or married? Will it help him with any demographic? Maybe it will actually help him with some voters. Maybe people won't hold the couples' good looks and charm against them. As for me, I will not hold it against Fred Thompson that he has a young, blond, beautiful, busty, brainy wife.

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