Jewish World Review Sept. 22, 2000 / 21 Elul 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- HAVE YOU noticed our elegant presidential candidates campaigning across America dressed in their laid-back “causal Friday” attire? They look like they belong in the pages of a resort wear catalogue, not the White House. What happened to dignity? Oh, that’s right -- Bill Clinton became president.
Clinton aside, being President of the United States is a serious job. I’m sorry, but I prefer to see the men who are aspiring to the highest office in the land dressing a bit more seriously. Is it really necessary for these guys to resemble marketing executives trying to look cool at an off-site bonding retreat?
Why must I be subjected to Al Gore in a knit short-sleeve Polo shirt which clings to his soft flabby middle every time he raises his hands? If he’s gonna fight for me he’d better lose that gut. And who wants to look at that, anyway? It reminds me of when Clinton was first elected and we kept seeing video clips of him jogging around the White House in those shorts which exposed his Poppin’ Fresh Philsbury Doughboy white legs. There are some things in life we’re all better off not seeing.
And I don’t want to see George W. all decked out in his finest preppy button-down plaid shirt, cotton Dockers, and deck shoes, either. Hey--you’re running for president, for heaven sake, not social director on a cruise ship.
Back in the dark ages, presidential candidates wouldn’t be caught dead without a tie on. How many photos have you seen of our past presidents without a jacket and tie? Remember the photo of President Nixon after leaving office, walking alone along the surf at his beach-front home fully dressed in a black suit? Well, okay, one can carry anything to extremes. But would you really rather see Nixon in flip-flops and a speedo? How about a shot of Abraham Lincoln relaxing in his T-shirt, baseball cap and jeans? Or President Truman in jogging shorts?
President Kennedy did take off his suit and tie, but only long enough to play tag football. The only time you saw President Reagan without a suit and tie was when he was out on his ranch riding horses or pulling up stumps or plowing the back forty or whatever it was they did out there.
I hate to sound like a stuffed shirt, but I believe that a person acts and feels differently depending on the way he or she dresses. And when you’re dressed up, others have a different attitude about you and treat you accordingly. I want my president to look really important, not like some middle-aged dad taking the kids to Disney World on a Sunday afternoon. I don’t want my president to look like me, I want him to look like my president. And I want him to feel like a president -- if he does, who knows, maybe he’ll do something presidential. You never can tell.
It’s bad enough that the rest of the world has gone so clothing casual -- there are few dress codes for most occupations today. In California it’s against the law for an employer to ask a female employee to wear a skirt or dress as opposed to pants. Very few jobs require a man to wear a suit and tie anymore. Politics is one of the last professions to require business suit attire. But this can change too.
Once the public gets used to seeing their candidates campaigning in casual clothes, the next logical step would be to continue that mode of dress into the office. It makes sense. If polo shirts help Al Gore get elected because the public likes to see him dressing that way, why not continue dressing him that way to ensure that his approval ratings stay high?
And think about these three facts; a) a pol will do anything to get votes, b) the trend in campaigning is to “identify with the voters,” and c) consider what most people in America look like today. I shudder to imagine what the politician of tomorrow might look like. Which politician will be the first to sport a visible tattoo? Who will be the first US senator to address Congress in a backwards baseball cap? Who will be the first elected official to wear an eyebrow ring?
Alec Baldwin says he will leave the country if Bush gets elected -- I can assure you,
at the first sign of a presidential tongue-stud, I’m outta here in a New York
JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.
09/15/00: A sneak peek at The William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library