The makeup scandals

Why do reporters get so excited when a candidate tries to look good on TV?


Published July 17, 2007 4:26PM (EDT)

For as long as I can remember, one of the truisms of modern politics was that Richard Nixon lost the 1960 presidential debate to John F. Kennedy because he refused to wear makeup and was all pasty and sweaty looking on TV. I can't tell you how many times I have heard the old trope "If you heard the debate on radio, Nixon definitely won!" For more than 40 years it has been an article of faith that politicians had better pay attention to how they look on television or risk being Richard Nixon.

Suddenly, in 2007, intrepid summer interns are feverishly combing through FEC reports ferreting out every last penny politicians spend on hair and makeup so journalists can breathlessly report it as if it says something unusual about the candidate. The implication is that the vain candidates are spending the donations they receive from nice little old ladies on frivolous, unnecessary personal services. Reporters seem to take particular joy in interviewing the hair and makeup artists to get a little quote that makes the male candidate look like some sort of prima donna, if not outright feminine. Just using the words "foundation and powder" in the context of a presidential candidate is apparently enough to make the newsroom giggle like schoolgirls.

Despite all this new chatter about haircuts and makeup, it's interesting that we haven't heard a thing about the one candidate in the field who actually makes a living day in and day out wearing makeup during the entire workday (and no, I'm not talking about Hillary Clinton). Like his namesake, the "Southern-fried Reagan," Fred Thompson has had hair and makeup professionals touching up his rugged visage for years. He probably also gets manicures and facials and may even get various parts of his body waxed. (In Hollywood Fred's world, makeup is the least of it.)

Since the press has decided that politicians who care about how they look on television are suspect, I assume we will be getting a full exposé of television star Thompson's beauty regime. It is, after all, now considered a measure of the man's character and sheds an important light on what kind of a leader he will make. The public has a need to know. And nobody needs to wait for his FEC reports. All they have to do is call up the production staffers at "Law & Order." (If they're too busy, maybe they can outsource it to the political professionals at "Inside Hollywood" or Page Six.)


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