Andrew Roberts on the folly of 'looking presidential' "An enormous amount of the media coverage of presidential candidates is focused on whether or not he (or, very rarely, she) 'looks presidential,'" writes historian Andrew Roberts in The Wall Street Journal. But, Roberts wonders, what does this mean and why does it matter? "Looking presidential can be broadly translated to mean being around 6 feet tall, relatively slim and broad-shouldered, and having a full head of preferably pepper-and-salt-colored hair and a ready, winning smile." America hasn't always concerned itself with finding the right physical profile in its leaders, and it's a good thing, too, he says. "'There's no way they can run this Lincoln dude,' one can hear the media pundit telling a colleague in 1860." Lincoln's odd facial hair wasn't even conventional in his time, Roberts writes. Nor would today's public likely have warmed to the 5-foot-8, bespectacled Teddy Roosevelt or the 335-pound Howard Taft. "Andrew Jackson's long wavy hair, George Washington's ill-fitting hippo-ivory dentures and the distorted smile it gave him, Woodrow Wilson's tombstone-like teeth and lack of vision in his left eye, Ulysses Grant's grizzly little beard--all might have proven fatal at the polls if earlier ages had been as morally stunted, intellectually limited and looks-obsessed as ours." The Republican party is busy parsing candidates and determining which of them looks like a Hollywood president, but far more failed nominees, from Adlai Stevenson to John Kerry, have looked the part and still lost. "So looking presidential may in fact be a poisoned chalice or, at best, a kind of consolation prize that one gets before having the chance to lose," Roberts suggest. "Mr. Romney might look presidential, but there is still something about him that suggests a 2015 bumper sticker that will state: 'Don't blame me, I voted for Mitt.'"
Joshua Green on Perry's own health care liability Months ago, many said Mitt Romney's presidential campaign was doomed by his support for a health care plan that too closely resembled President Obama's law. "But is it really?" asks Joshua Green in The Boston Globe. "Though some conservatives have written Romney off, the subset who have done so specifically over RomneyCare--and remain untroubled by his other apostasies--would seem fairly small." More importantly, the competitor most likely to beat Romney for the nomination, Rick Perry, might have a difficult time pressing Romney on the healthcare issue. Perry's state of Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country, whereas Romney's Massachusetts has the lowest. Second, most Republicans take particular issue with the individual mandate in Romney's law. But Perry, as a defender of state's rights, has often argued that the health care plan might fit Massachusetts but not the rest of the country. "In fact, Perry conceded just this point in his recent book, 'Fed Up!'," Green writes. "'If federalism is respected, the people of Massachusetts are free to try [the Romney plan] while the rest of the nation sits back and watches to see if they have any success.'" Perry's third liability is a 1993 letter he wrote to Hillary Clinton praising her efforts to reform health care. Even if Perry decides to continue pressing Romney on the health care issue, he may find a base of Republican voters increasingly less opposed to Obama's reform law; 24 percent of Republicans, up from 8 percent last year, now approve of the law. So Romney and the others will probably be judged on issues more pressing in voters' minds, namely, jobs and the economy, Green writes.