8/52: Don’t Fear the Beard

February 16, 2014

I hope neither of my kids ever wants to be President. I don’t think I could really take them seriously as my Commander-in-Chief after having been what we have been through together. I can just see myself at a state dinner telling the President of Uzbekistan an anecdote about bed wetting. Or heckling Presi-Pants at public events by saying, “I hope she doesn’t clean up the Middle East like she cleaned up her room.” Then there’s the assassination thing. And the awkward moments that would come when someone hated on the President, and I would have to tell them that I didn’t know his radio-controlled habit would be the gateway to droning people with hyphenated names. And, of course, the obligatory bumper sticker I would have to get that would read, “I am the proud parent of the POTUS”. Pretty sure my car would get keyed.

If only I could get them to consider growing beards. Then we would all be safer. And probably get free circus tickets.

Why would the presence of facial follicles bring comfort? Well, a look on this handy gallery of Presidential portraits makes one thing clear. The American voter isn’t comfortable with facial hair. That’s what my exhaustive presidential research tells me, and by “exhaustive presidential research” I mean my eyes. I’m pretty sure the story went something like this:

Good old George Washington didn’t have a beard. Probably because Martha didn’t like the chafing during their make-out sessions. So since George didn’t have a beard, the next 14 presidents couldn’t have one either. Now some tried to push it, like John Quincy Adams and Martin Van Buren, by growing some serious sideburns. But even those guys ultimately made like Johnny Cash and walked the line. In addition to membership in the beardless brotherhood, the guys also had to have gray-whitish hair (with the notable exemption of Franklin “Hottie in Chief” Pierce). All this changed with #16, Abraham Lincoln. Although he is mainly known for saying, “Stop with the slavery already” and other quotable quotes, he was also the first President to wear a beard. He eventually got assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, who was notoriously challenged in the facial hair department. His cry of “Sic semper tyrannis!” can be roughly translated to, “I tried to grow a Lincoln beard and all I got was this underwhelming mustache!”

Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson, didn’t wear a beard and got impeached for it. So the next six presidents all had some type of facial hair. This included the “Hairy Trinity” of Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James A. Garfield. Then William McKinley decided he didn’t need facial hair. Or rather, the powerful razor and shaving cream lobby decided it for him. But that didn’t really work out for him, since he got assassinated too. McKinley’s successor Teddy Roosevelt smartly donned a mustache, and he was followed by another mustachioed mensch in William Howard Taft. Taft’s whiskers were the last ones worn by a sitting president. Now is the winter of our discontent, as we are currently on a 17-President streak. In this group of 17, there has been corruption, the Great Depression, the use of nuclear weapons, assassination, resignation, infidelity, and questionable wars. One wonders if all this could have been prevented with a thoughtfully-stroked beard.

And it isn’t just presidential politics that succumbs to follicle fear-mongering. Of our 100 U.S. Senators, zero are willing to don a beard and only two (Angus King of Maine and John Hoeven of North Dakota) are willing to wear a mustache.  Of our 50 U.S. governors, only Terry Branstad of Iowa wears a mustache. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii is the only major political leader with the cajones to wear a beard, but I’m not sure an electorate that enjoys SPAM so much can be considered discerning.

Unlike the shaven sleekness of the White House, gubernatorial mansions, and Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives is  a comparative petting zoo. Here you can find all sorts of stubbly statesman. From Henry Waxman’s ‘stache to Danny Davis’ soul patch, there is a plethora of pelo on la cara. Unfortunately, judging by this gallery, the U.S. House of Representatives also seems to be a clearinghouse for people who are hopelessly doomed to take bad pictures, so the likelihood of any of these folks becoming President of the U.S. of A. is about as likely as me growing a full beard.

The election of 2016 has the potential for a big breakthrough. We could have the first female President. The first Latino President. Maybe even the first super fat President since William Howard Taft. However, the biggest breakthrough of all would be the one that brought us back to our roots. Specifically the ones that grow in the facial area.

Happy Presidents’ Day.

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2 Responses to “8/52: Don’t Fear the Beard”

  1. George Says:

    Beards should rule!

  2. teachiro Says:

    Some day, George. Some day.


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