Fred Thompson Not Teh Sexy?

Garance Franke-Ruta assures us that, media swooning notwithstanding, Fred Thompson is not a sexually appealing man. I’ll defer to her greater expertise in the field, especially since I already had my suspicions. I’m with her, too, in thinking that “you smell the English leather on this guy” is at best a backhanded compliment.

As to the larger notion that the fair sex is looking for the same qualities in a president as a boyfriend, Belle Waring wonders “are women voters, taken as a whole, really so much like retarded kittens in our motivations?

It seems to me that there are two theories along these lines, one plausible and the other not. The latter is the Dan Quayle Theory: that women will vote for a man simply because he’s handsome (for a politician). That’s rather silly, if not downright insulting. On the other hand, women may be more inclined to vote for men that make them feel safe. That is, they’re looking to vote for an idealized version of a father figure rather than a dreamboat. The type, the “Man’s man,” is attractive to male voters, too, under the “Guy I’d Like to Have a Beer With” formula of presidential selection.

In this context, Thompson may indeed be, if not sexy, quite attractive. He’s, as even Garance concedes, very tall. He’s also got the deepest voice of any of the major contenders. And he manages to affect the “Regular Guy” persona that people seem comfortable with better than most.

Arguably, this is a damned silly way to pick a president. But when was the last time that we didn’t do it that way?

UPDATE: Zathras, commenting at Belgravia Dispatch, is even more cynical:

The current President could not have been elected had he not been the son of the last Republican President; the leading candidate to succeed him could not occupy that status were she not the wife of the last Democratic President. The three leading Democratic candidates for President have between them not accomplished as much in public life as any one of the three second-tier candidates has by himself — but the top three are all celebrities, and the next three aren’t. The top three Republican candidates for President include two guys who bailed out of public life just as the war on terror was getting started, one to cash in on his 9/11 celebrity, the other to goof off in Hollywood.

You won’t hear any of these people discussed very often in terms anything like this — not in the media, not even by their political opponents. Celebrity status has become in this country a kind of political magic cloak; it doesn’t matter how good you are as long as you can somehow make yourself famous.

A bit overstated, methinks, but there’s more than a kernel of truth there.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    My favorite idiotic way of explaining presidential preference was the hypothesis that males preferred Bush over Gore because men could envision “having a beer” with him.

    Talk about shallow! It always struck me as weird why anyone would like to have a beer with a recovering alcoholic–maybe because it leaves more beer for the voter?!?

  2. James Joyner says:

    Heh. Mostly, I think “regular guy” or “have a beer with” and other variants just translate into a sense of trust. The alternative is “phony.”

  3. cirby says:

    It’s really funny how the people who used to complain about the “pretty people” in high school are the same ones who will defend (to their last breath) their favorite “pretty politician,” no matter how much they screw up or go off-message.

    John Edwards, for example. Or, as some call him, the “Silky Pony.” He says the dumbest damned things, takes the worst positions, keeps getting caught in the most hypocritical acts, and he’s still the favorite of a helluva lot of folks.

    This election has Obama, of course – who is running almost exclusively on charisma, and who keeps getting a pass for saying the wrong things and having the wrong connections.

  4. Bithead says:

    not quite so silly as you make out, James. It comes down to, who you think is going to be able to represent your interests the best. Generally speaking that comes down to somebody that you could have a beer with .

    Granted, at the extreme of that situation, comes the need for somebody to be black, to represent blacks. Or, in Jesse Jackson’s situation, someone who acts black. But, there it is; the Precedent is already set.

  5. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Heh. Mostly, I think “regular guy” or “have a beer with” and other variants just translate into a sense of trust. The alternative is “phony.”

    Amen to that! For all you elites inside the Beltway, there is a whole nation of voters out here in middle America who aren’t looking for an intellectual genius (e.g. Bill Clinton) or a smooth talker (e.g. G.W. Bush), or even a pretty-boy (e.g. George Bush Sr.). We want someone who represents our values without pretentious affectations.

    Having said that, I know a well educated, professional woman who voted for John Kerry. When I asked her why, her reply was “I just like the way he looks, I think he is sexy”.

    Go figure!

  6. James Joyner says:

    a smooth talker (e.g. G.W. Bush), or even a pretty-boy (e.g. George Bush Sr.).

    Heh. It’s probably the first time either Bush has been tarred with those brushes.

  7. Steve says:

    Personally, I vote for a person whose platform most closely aligns with my values and principles. I use this criteria in all elections. I know that being human my choice for an office is going to make mistakes, play politics and be criticized. I would have to be the candidate for this not to be true.(lol) But as long as they are still the closest candidate/office holder to my values then they will continue to have my allegiance. If they lie to me and vote differently then how they campaigned or commit an unforgivable sin (using my definition)and I find someone else who aligns with me more closely, I will change my allegiance.

  8. Matthew J. Stinson says:

    Does Zathras mean that … gulp … Paris Hilton has a shot at being Madame President someday?

    P.S. James, if we take a stroll down a cringeworthy memory lane, there once actually were women who thought George H.W. Bush was … do-able. Shudder.

  9. spencer says:

    My reaction on seeing him on TV recently, after not seeing him in a long time, is that he does not look healthy.

    Who finds that sexy?

  10. jim says:

    Pretty much every presidential election since WWII can be explained by the cowboy theory. That is who we think looks better on a horse.
    Carter v Ford provides the difficulty and can be explained with picturing Ford trying to get on and then falling off.

  11. Dodd says:

    The top three Republican candidates for President include two guys who bailed out of public life just as the war on terror was getting started, one to cash in on his 9/11 celebrity, the other to goof off in Hollywood.

    I don’t mean to be tendentious, and I admit the possibility of error, but didn’t getting cancer and a promise only to serve one termm, respectively, also play into those decisions?

  12. James Joyner says:

    I don’t mean to be tendentious, and I admit the possibility of error, but didn’t getting cancer and a promise only to serve one termm, respectively, also play into those decisions?

    Sure. It’s true, though, the Giuliani had plenty of energy for speechifying and other lucrative activities and declined to take a more active role in the homeland security program. Thompson had a whole host of good reasons for not coming back to the Senate but, certainly, the timing wasn’t outstanding.