Given the importance of TV, looking good is essential in politics. The problem is that it’s risky to be seen trying.
Discussing a candidate’s appearance is equally dicey. On one hand, political discourse is shallow enough. Yet when the bedrock foundation of a candidate’s relationship with voters is the 30-second TV spot, what candidates choose to display becomes a topic worth noting.
Women are judged more harshly. Look at Nikki Haley, the new Republican nominee for governor in South Carolina.
Sarah Palin recently had to beat off breast enhancement rumors. We all chuckle at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Bambi-in-the-headlights stare, wondering what work she’s had done.
And remember that, four years ago, former state School Superintendent Linda Schrenko, once a GOP favorite to become governor of Georgia, was convicted of using federal tax dollars to finance, among other things, a face lift.
Men have it slightly easier. Glasses are often ditched for contacts. Once they reached Congress, U.S. Reps. Phil Gingrey and Tom Price, one after another, shaved their moustaches – presumably to improve their Q ratings.
We know of one prominent Georgia Republican – a male — whose Rolodex at one point included the name of a Beverly Hills surgeon.
The most reliable sign of kindling ambition in a male politician is weight loss. Former Gov. Roy Barnes says he’s dropped 30 pounds, and has more to go.
Before he qualified as a candidate, House Democratic Leader DuBose Porter of Dublin lost his combover.
All of this is by way of mentioning the small admission contained in a 30-second TV ad released Monday by Attorney General Thurbert Baker, the Democratic candidate for governor.
For two brief seconds, the biographical spot shows a photograph of Baker as a new state lawmaker in the 1990s.
The picture is that of a man with a hairline in retreat, far different from the ruler-straight line of follicles now seen on the candidate. See for yourself:
There have been some rumblings that Barnes exhibits more hair in his TV spots than in person. But his campaign denies any artificial liberties with the former governor’s unruly mop. And hair spray can work wonders.
On a more substantive topic, Georgia Public Broadcasting reports that Thurbert Baker has weighed in on the Gulf oil spill:
Attorneys general of 11 Atlantic coast states, including Georgia, are putting BP on notice to pay legitimate claims, if oil shows up on Atlantic shores….
In [a letter], they ask BP for assurances that legitimate claims would be paid by the company. The prosecutors also want BP to keep all documents relating to the spill and response.
Larry Sanders with Emory University’s Turner Enviromental Law Clinic says the letter from the attorneys general could be seen as a public relations move, but maybe something else.
“It could be that the attorneys general have some legitimate interest in getting in line, or at least putting BP on notice that the $20 billion may not be the end of their liabilities.”
My AJC colleague Bob Keefe in Washington reports that the link between the nation’s airliners and Georgia peanuts will remain intact – a victory for U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Albany):
The U.S. Department of Transportation is backing off from a proposed rule that could have banned peanuts on airplanes, after realizing it didn’t have the legal authority to do so.
The DOT on Tuesday issued a clarification stating that it was wrong when it issued an official notice of proposed rulemaking earlier this month. Such a peanut ban would have violated a 2000 appropriations act that funds the DOT, the agency acknowledged.
The DOT’s original peanut ban proposal on June 8 drew cheers from peanut allergy sufferers but scorn from Georgia’s peanut growers and the politicians who represent them. Georgia is the country’s biggest peanut producer.
And Shannon McCaffrey of the Associated Press today takes a look at whether Karen Handel will be forced to pay a price next month for her refusal to appear on the stage with GOP rival Ray McBerry:
Republican gubernatorial hopeful Karen Handel sought to grab the ethical high ground in April when she said she would no longer share the stage with Ray McBerry following allegations that he carried on an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old girl.
But now, as the primary campaign races into its final weeks, Handel’s stance is putting her in a bind and could force the former secretary of state to sit out several high-profile debates that would guarantee her candidacy free exposure leading up to the July 20 primary.
“You don’t want to pass up a chance for air time and that’s what she could be doing,” said Kerwin Swint, political science professor at Kennesaw State University.
At last week’s Georgia Press Association debate, Handel was on the sidelines while her opponents sparred over issues from immigration to taxes. And McBerry, a longshot states’ rights candidate for his party’s nomination, has plans to attend televised debates sponsored by WSB-TV and the Atlanta Press Club in July.
McBerry has denied any wrongdoing and no criminal charges were ever filed.
Handel is sticking to her guns, insisting the issue shows her willingness to make the tough decisions no matter the political consequences.
“Giving him (McBerry) a microphone and a platform, particularly as candidate for governor, is like saying that his reprehensible behavior is OK,” she said in an interview.