The Cutest Candidate Wins
You gotta feel bad for Bob Dole. I mean, if I were a disabled war hero, an extremely influential member of Congress since the dawn of time and a morally upright hardworking American, I would be extremely annoyed at running a distant second to a smooth-talking, draft-dodging, skirt-chasing, scandal-ridden country boy like Bill Clinton. It's enough to make a young idealistic college student cranky, never mind someone four times that old; no wonder Dole always looks vaguely constipated. But that's politics, I guess, and both candidates have been in the business long enough to realize that that's the way it works. Things aren't always fair. So be it.
I read with interest a column article written by Jennifer Parkinson '99 a few weeks ago. Its topic was polls that really matter, and it included some suggested poll questions to which Dartmouth students would better relate. One that sticks out in my mind was "Which of the candidates would you trust with your blitzmail password?" I thought this was very amusing, but I didn't take it seriously. Evidently somebody did. Last Tuesday's USA Today featured the following information in a pie chart on the front page of the Life section: "Vacation candidates: The presidential candidate who voters aged 49 and up ... say would be the most fun to vacation with." Clinton received 50 percent of the vote, while Dole and Perot each got 12 percent. Twenty-six percent were undecided or uncaring.
Poor Bob Dole, not even beating Perot this time. In the same paper was a small note that Clinton Halloween masks were dramatically outselling Dole masks. But what I read Thursday completely eclipsed all that has gone before.
Evidently, Parents magazine ran baby pictures of Clinton, Dole and Perot without identifying them and asked readers to pick out the best looking of the three. Any guesses who the cutest was? That's right, Bubba by a landslide. Sixty-seven percent of respondents picked him as the cutest, while only 26 percent thought Perot was the best looking and a pitiful seven percent chose Dole as the winner. There was a second question; readers were asked to choose the smartest-looking of the tots. Results were the same, although the numbers were a little closer this time. Baby Bill got 46 percent of the vote, while Perot garnered 28 percent and Dole, in last place again, got only 26 percent. Poor Bob Dole. Not only is he getting hammered in the polls, he's also thought by the readers of Parents magazine to be a homelier baby than either Clinton or Perot.
It was an interesting feature, and while I personally think that all babies are cute, I was amazed to find that Bob Dole was apparently grumpy even at that early age; he seems the most likely of the three to have had a spontaneous temper tantrum immediately following the taking of the picture. But it sort of makes you wonder how much trivial things like this are effecting the way Americans are voting. Obviously no one is going to vote for Clinton because he was cute at six months of age, but if Americans feel that voting is a no-win situation anyway, why not just pick the best looking of the candidates? How much of Clinton's well-documented charisma is just comparative good looks? Could it be that we place as much import on looks and on image as on ideas? Sure could. Just look at recent presidents -- Reagan was a movie star who, in a pinch, would remind us of this by advising the country to "give it one for the Gipper." Bush reached the height of his popularity when he decided to be a combination of John Wayne and Mr. Rogers (Don't believe me? Take a look at the 1991 State of the Union address). And Clinton? Never was there a president better suited for Hollywood; if he ever tires of politics, Clinton has a great career ahead of him as an agent.
What does this all mean? It means that we are a country in desperate need of something to believe in, to cling to. If there were actually two parties who stood for and believed in two different things, we wouldn't be interested in which of the candidates we'd rather run into at Chi Gam. Instead, we have two candidates who sound very much alike, so we're stuck playing eenie-meenie in the voting booth. I have no idea what the solution is, but we have to do something so that we don't trivialize something so important as choosing the leader of the free world.