Every day, some political website or other runs through the list of potential GOP candidates for president in 2012.
You know the names: Pawlenty, Gingrich, Palin, Jindal, Romney, DeMint, Huckabee, etc.
No doubt that some of those people are going to get serious early next year about 2012. But American tradition at least over the course of the past 60 years says two of those men don't stand a chance: Mitch Daniels and Haley Barbour, and it's got nothing to do with their credentials.
Daniels is the hip choice of the wonk/green eyeshade set, as the former OMB Director with George W. Bush in his first term earned the nickname "Mitch the Knife" for his budget-cutting ways. He's continued to hone that impressive reputation among deficit hawks as governor of Indiana, where he was re-elected in 2008.
Daniels is considered by many to be "the smartest guy in the room," for those who hang out in such GOP environs. But he's got one thing working against him. Something that in 2010 should no longer be an acceptable prejudice. But it's a prejudice that exists every day.
Mitch Daniels is too short to be president.
Now, this is sensitive territory. As a man of extremely average height (which in this country I believe is around 5-10 I fall below that), it's only in recent years I've realized the major prejudice that men and women in this country have in favor of taller dudes. It's extremely shallow, but who's the shortest president we've ever elected? I've no idea, but George W. Bush was only a little taller than average, at 5-11.
For the sake of Republicans, if Mitch Daniels is as smart as they say he is, and as his body of work celebrates the rage in this country for cost-cutting, then by all means he should be a serious candidate. But history says he won't be.
Now keeping up on this very shaky ground of grading candidates' viability based on their looks god knows there's a double standard in America, period, when it comes to men and women and looks let's move on.
During election cycles, we always hear from commentators like Peggy Noonan that we need to "feel comfortable" with whomever we're going to elect to be president, because he or she will "be in our living rooms" over the course of 4 to 8 years.
Sort of bizarre to me. But I don't set the agenda. I try to influence it a little, so I know I'm on extremely tentative territory in even "going there."
But I don't think Americans will be comfortable with Haley Barbour in their bedrooms for four years, beginning in 2012, frankly.
It's not because the fiercely partisan Mississippi governor doesn't have the gravitas or the inside experience to survive the gauntlet of a GOP primary election. As a former chair of the Republican National Committee, the man is an "insider's insider," or so Newsweek deemed him in a fawning profile written nearly a year ago.
No, I'm just not sure if all of his redeeming qualities will overcome his presentation. Barbour is....beefy? Is that an appropriate term? Again, I feel extremely slimy for even mentioning these issues, but you remember the broadside brokered at Michael Dukakis back in 1988? That the "swarthy-looking Greek" was referred to as looking like "the guy on the wedding cake."
This space doesn't really feel comfortable mentioning these unpleasant truths about America and their prejudices when it comes to electing a president so far.
Obviously, Barack Obama's election was a major advancement in this country's history, regardless of whether or not you think he's a Socialist. Then again, he's definitely considered by most people to be a handsome chap, and as a product of mixed races he rides the crest of the burgeoning multicultural wave that will only continue to make America browner in the coming decades.
People react to politicians on an emotional level. They always have and probably always will, despite the reams of newsprint that refer to issues and not personality or looks.
So if America can break racial barriers in 2008 and elect Barack Hussein Obama, we can elect a man less than 5-9, or one with a "beefy" countenance, can't we?