Ah, the president: an individual who has summoned up enough courage and ego to want to be the leader of America. Throughout history, each president has presumably backstabbed, lied and climbed his way to the top. Potential candidates tell Americans what they want to hear. We vote, and then wait to see whom the Electoral College elects as president.
After the ordeal, he is flooded with the responsibilities of making foreign and domestic policies, shaking lots of hands and perhaps redecorating the Oval Office. Some presidents choose to place photos of past leaders in the office, while others choose to spice the place up with some bodily fluids.
Among these duties, the most important thing is that the president is the face of America. Whether he wears a top hat and beard or round glasses and a cane, he essentially represents our country. Everything about him is judged, from his personality and demeanor right down to his shoes.
Sometimes as voters, we have to ask ourselves important questions. Do I want my president to be like Homer Simpson, lovable and stupid? Or do I want my president to be more like James Dean, cool and aloof? Maybe I want my president to be like Oprah, a charismatic leader who rose from the trash pile of poverty and sexual abuse.
Whether we like to admit it or not, Americans are judgmental people focused on looks and image. Why else would thousands of girls wear Uggs if not to emulate Jessica Simpson? We constantly "judge a book by its cover," and the president is no exception. By examining the success of past presidents, we can clearly see what made many of us like them.
Take Bill Clinton, for instance. He played saxophone on "The Arsenio Hall Show," a very smart move on his part. He showed younger voters that he was cool. To this day, he is hailed as the president who "got laid in office." Let's face it, it's not that hard to get laid; I see ugly people walking around with babies all the time. But if infidelity is what makes America love him, then good for him.
Another well-loved president was JFK. He was the epitome of American health and attractiveness. He won Germans over with his infamous "Ich bin ein Berliner" incident. What wasn't known was that he suffered numerous health problems including STDs and a bad back. He took many prescription drugs. While he was fighting to stay alive, his fragile life ironically ended with an assassination.
We are drawn to people that we find attractive and personable. To a certain extent, why shouldn't we want to think of our president as the "ideal American?" If a candidate mirrors our lifestyles and religious beliefs, then we are more apt to vote for him. The race for the presidency is in many ways a personality contest. This is probably why Jedidiah White-Trash III from the backwoods county of Louisiana hasn't been elected as president.
But these days, it's important that we elect someone who will do what is best for our country in addition to electing someone we admire. It's tempting for many Christians to support Bush because he incorporates religion in many of his policies. Unfortunately, many of us have overlooked the idea of separation of church and state. It isn't exactly fair for the president to be pushing his religious agenda on us when he should be doing what's best for the country.
If we can find a happy voting medium between looks and ability, then this is what will make us smart voters. Besides, what is better than being wise and looking good?
I will wait for the day when we elect a president who displays the American ideal, visually and politically. We can have our cake and eat it too.
Megan Schulz is a sophomore technical journalism major. Her column runs every Tuesday in the Collegian.