Aug 28, 2007

The clothes make the president

by Mitchel Malcheff

In a July edition of the Washington Post, fashion critic Robin Givhan devoted an entire column to Hillary Clinton. The article did not detail Clinton’s position on Iraq, Social Security or domestic affairs. Instead, Givhan focused on Clinton’s slight display of cleavage during a recent speech she delivered on the Senate floor. Givhan questioned Clinton’s choice of clothing and conjectured what it suggested about her political motives.

Givhan delved further into Clinton’s fashion sense, detailing the different attire which Clinton had displayed in public appearances dating back to her time as the First Lady. Givhan even mentioned Rudy Giuliani’s decision to unbutton what Givhan believed was one too many buttons on his shirt during a recent appearance.

Givhan enjoys a wide readership at the Post and is well-respected in her field, enough so that she garnered a 2006 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Her comments about Mrs. Clinton and Giuliani speak volumes about the cultural landscape of America. Something as trivial as clothing choice should never be a factor in the public’s decision about who to choose as the next president. Sadly, though, I find myself falling into that same trap.

Just a few months ago, as I watched a Republican debate, I found myself thinking that Mitt Romney looked like a president. Thinking back on that, should that have any bearing? What should a president look like anyway?

President William Howard Taft weighed 350 pounds, and precious little of that was muscle. In contrast, our current president is an avid jogger who takes his vacations at his ranch in Texas and spends his time there bush-hogging fields and repairing broken fences. Appearance should not affect how candidates are viewed by their constituents. Politics is an animal better suited for the halls of Congress than the pages of Vogue.

Perhaps editors are scrambling to find new ideas about a presidential race that will not be decided for well over a year. However, even comments written this early will have an impact on next year’s election. The seemingly never-ending debates may lack something in the way of pizzazz but they should still be taken seriously and not placed on the same level as a fashion show.

The 2008 election looms as one of the most important in U.S. history. The traditional party lines have been blurred now more than ever. Republicans who support abortion dominate the polls while some of the most liberal Democrats in recent history are vying for control of a tight race. Our country stands at a crossroads of social morals and a diminishing status on the world stage. Both are issues that our next president will be burdened to rectify.

We must elect our next president based not on appearance, charisma, or fashion sense. The fact that I think Mitt Romney looks like a president or that I disagree with Hillary’s hemline should be the furthest thing from my mind when the curtain closes on November 4, 2008 and the next president is chosen.

Contact Mitchel Malcheff at

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