Carly, The Donald And Our Obsession With Appearance

Editorial Chicago Tribune.

How about if we say everybody has 24 hours to scratch the itch. Go ahead. Search the Internet for "Chris Christie weight" and "Trump's hair real." You can watch the cartography exercise on one website of Donald Trump's swirly 'do. But make it quick.

Then let's say the candidates, voters, political observers, ahem, the adults, gracefully back off this obsession with the appearance of the presidential candidates.

Resist the temptation to swipe at their looks. Forget about hair, waistline and clothes. Is that possible?

Trump has been both a frequent target and the worst offender on this score.

"Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not (supposed to) say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?"

That was Trump talking about rival GOP candidate Carly Fiorina, according to Rolling Stone.

Fiorina's response has been brilliant. "Ladies, look at this face. This is the face of a 61-year-old woman. I am proud of every year and every wrinkle," she said in a speech to the National Federation of Republican Women. Her dagger at the second Republican debate, "I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said", was the most memorable moment of that three-hour slog on CNN.

Maybe, though, Fiorina has been low-key in her response to Trump because she remembers her own caustic comment in 2010 when she was running against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California. Fiorina, in a hot mic moment, dismissed Boxer's hair as "so yesterday."

We get it. Appearance counts. Taller candidates tend to do better than shorter candidates. (Perhaps why Jeb Bush stood on tiptoes for a recent group photo of the GOP field.) A slim physique and a full head of hair never hurt.

But voters are also impressed by candidates who show a little heart and a little humbleness.

We recall when Dawn Clark Netsch ran for governor of Illinois in 1994. She didn't win, but she was well-served by how she responded to an anonymous effort to hang posters around downtown Chicago that called her a "tax cheat" and said, "The truth is as ugly as she is."

"Fortunately, I'm not extremely concerned about my looks," Netsch said at a news conference. "Now if they don't think I'm pretty enough to be governor ... I'll do the best I can. I'll take my makeup purse along with me every place. But that's not what being governor is about."

We still have her campaign button, the one with the photo of a smiling Netsch and the slogan: "More than just another pretty face!"

The lesson is this: It's shallow to speak dismissively of a political candidate's appearance. It's also self-defeating.

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