Friday, December 29, 2006

In Honor of Hot Presidents.

As most of my readers know, I have the highest regard for US Presidents, regardless of political affiliation. There are certainly Presidents with policies that I completely disagree with who don't appear to have any of the qualities necessary to actually perform their job competently - cough cough, Jimmy Carter, cough cough - but I'm always fascinated by the people who somehow separate themselves from their peers and end up becoming the face of this country.

I haven't decided if they all had some indelible quality that led to their political ascension, or if the 43 men just happened to seize the initiative at the right place and time. This country has had Presidents who were lawyers (TONS of them), teachers/professors, military men (again, A LOT. It was practically a requirement until people in the late 1800s got sick of hearing about candidates who had been in the Civil War decades earlier), diplomats, actors, journalists, farmers, and the list legitimately could go on for quite a while. But with the passing of Gerald Ford, whose two-year Presidency was doomed when he decided to pardon a criminal whose only positive attribute appears to be the wonderful Checkers speech of 1952, we are officially reaching the end of an era: the 20th century Presidential athletic studmuffin.

I am not suggesting that Gerald Ford was amazingly good looking on his death bed or even when he was President in the mid-70s. However, Ford was one of several Presidents born in the early 1900s who happened to be intensely hot with athletic prowess. We won't reach the end of that golden age until George H.W. Bush dies, but I think this is an important political quality that is often deemed too superficial for a legitimate discussion. That ends today.

Gerald Ford: 1913-2006.

We start our journey with President Ford, who chose to bypass a lucrative professional football career with the Detroit Lions to enter politics. Ford played center and lineback for the Michigan Wolverines' two championship teams in 1932 and 1933, and was their MVP in 1934. In the preceding decades, particularly between 1880 and 1900, you had a lot of men with political acumen who bypassed an opportunity to represent their country because they could make more money in the industrial sector. Clearly, the Presidency suffered as a result. I think it says a lot about Ford, who could have easily gone the same route via athletics, that he chose to get into politics. Hard. Core. And look at that jawline.

JFK: 1917-1963.

We're making an exception for JFK because he was probably the only genuinely hot President besides MAYBE James Polk, and he's holding a puppy. Also, he served in the Navy during WWII and totally mutilated his back towing a wounded soldier for three miles in the ocean. I suspect the physical nature of his tenure in the Navy can be comparable to, say, a collegiate athletic career. Though he loses points for nonexistent Presidential muscle tone, it was during an age when the only people who DID have muscle tone were Marlon Brando and Olympic athletes. (Note: Arnold Schwarzenegger did not start accruing massive muscular goodness until the early 1960s.)

Ronald Reagan: 1911-2004.

Reagan was not an amateur athlete, BUT he did play collegiate football player George Gipp in Knute Rockne, All American. One suspects he had to at least know how to PLAY football and fill out the uniform to be in the movie. We ARE talking about a former high school lifeguard, after all. Besides, even if he were only a pseudo athlete, he won national elections with cliche football-related utterances ("Win one for the Gipper!"), and the existences of Edward G. Robinson and Steve Buscemi notwithstanding, aesthetics have always been rather important in the movie industry.

George H.W. Bush: 1924-

George Bush is the baseball version of Gerald Ford. Both participated in championship games for their respective sport, Bush helming a Yale squad that had back-to-back appearances in the first two College World Series in 1947 and 1948. Some credit must also be given for his obvious influence on George W. Bush, who became the first former Little Leaguer in the White House.

While much of this post has been dedicated to a less-than-thought-provoking topic, my athletic montage is only a precurser to a larger issue. These men represent a generation that for all intents and purposes is gone and forgotten. When people look at George H.W. Bush, they don't see a clean-cut collegiate baseball star - they see an old man in his 80s who trades laughs and hugs with Bill Clinton during humanitarian missions to Indonesia.

DB Bogangles and I had a rousing discussion today about the topic at hand, and she respectfully disagrees with much of my argument, quickly pointing to other Presidents from this generation who were neither athletic or as all-American as I believe these aforementioned men appeared to be. By no means am I saying that Ford, JFK, Reagan and H.W. Bush were perfect men who embodied all of the positive attributes of this country's past generation; however, I think they were often looked upon as representatives from that era, and one of the qualities that best typified that homegrown aura was the emergence of athletics into our national culture. You certainly never saw pictures of Jefferson on the gridiron.

I OWN photoshop.

Of course, DB Bogangles immediately brought up Nixon. He certainly grew up in this generation, but he was flabby, gross and beyond corrupt. My theory doesn't hold up. Well, that would be true if my argument was that EVERY SINGLE PERSON born between 1900 and 1930 was nobility defined. I'm not even claiming that a MAJORITY of the people from this generation were geuinally good people. What I AM saying is that with the changing times, American culture began manufacturing individuals into an ideal cookie-cutter all-American persona that fit in well with comfortable domestic images of apple pie, stable households with disposable income. People like Nixon did not bring this generation down, despite having ties to it. When Nixon officially went under in 1974, he undoubtedly tarnished the Oval Office and much of the public's image of politics, but no one pointed to the people from his era and said, "You've all been officially tainted by Nixonian corruption!"

THAT is why I think Gerald Ford is incredibly important to the political dialogue. He didn't have a particularly distinguished Presidency. Not only was it limited in time and scope, but so much of it was overshadowed by the circumstances that elevated him to the position to begin with. But I believe his tenure in the White House had a lot of subtle importance to it. People who had a bad taste in their mouths from the previous Administration got a bit of a respite from the nasty political shenanigans that doomed Nixon to infamy. Of course, that brings us back to the reason a virtual unknown from Georgia was able to come out of nowhere and take the White House in 1976. The decision to pardon Nixon will always be highly questionable and the subject of unending debate, which is sad because it stands in stark opposition to what Ford was trying to do - move on and try to get the bad taste out of the mouths of the American people. I personally don't know if it was the right decision or not, and the fact that this country has had 30 years to decide without arriving at a consensus suggests that it's never going to be answered.

In conclusion, I leave you with a montage of Presidential pets, the REAL heroes at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Him and Her Johnson! This has to be the only time the mainstream media has officially covered a female creature sunning her naughty bits on the White House lawn.


Liberty Ford! Who...doesn't seem to mind having a photo op whilst pups tug at her udders. Presidential pets are a peculiar breed.

Misty Malarky Ying Yang Carter! Held by the female Ron Howard?

Rex Reagan! Say what you will about the Reagans, they know how to dress their animals.

Millie Bush! I have no trouble believing that Barbara spent her entire time in the White House doing that.

SOCKS CLINTON! My personal favorite of the Presidential pets, who withstood the appearance of Buddy Clinton with dignity and grace befitting such a creature.

Ofelia Bush! Despite the fake nature of this picture (it makes my Jefferson gridiron picture look like a masterpiece), there legit is a cow at the Crawford ranch that's considered a pet. I love the bovine. See burger, ham.


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