Looks like a President

In Her Words Looks like a President By: Barb Palmer When I was nine, I had a poster that said, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.” So for two weeks, every night before I went to bed, I imagined myself having the ability to fly. When it finally dawned on me that […]

In Her Words

Looks like a President

By: Barb Palmer

When I was nine, I had a poster that said, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.” So for two weeks, every night before I went to bed, I imagined myself having the ability to fly. When it finally dawned on me that it wasn’t going to happen, I have to admit I was a bit disillusioned.

Looks like a PresidentSadly, several decades later, I find myself disillusioned again. As it turns out, Americans have horrible imaginations — especially when it comes to presidential politics.

For months prior to Fred Thompson formally announcing his presidential candidacy, the media went on and on about how Thompson “looks like a president.” He actually played the role of Ulysses S. Grant in the 2007 HBO movie, Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee. An article in Newsweek noted that Sam Waterston’s character on Law & Order was promoted to D.A, a role that was, of course, played by Fred Thompson. Interestingly, Waterston has played the role of Abraham Lincoln several times. The Newsweek article said that of the two actors, Waterston looks more like a president than Fred Thompson.

Fred Thompson “looks like a president.” Sam Waterston “looks like a president.” What does this actually mean? Is it the same thing as saying he look honest? No. Is it the same as saying he looks like he has integrity? No. I would argue that, instead, it reflects a complete lack of imagination. While Thompson is now a distant memory in the campaign, it still seems impossible for Americans to imagine anyone who isn’t a white male with a receding hairline in the position of chief executive, in spite of the fact that Representative Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House of Representatives, Condoleezza Rice is Secretary of State, and Oprah Winfrey is one of the most powerful and recognizable people on the planet.

It isn’t Hillary Clinton’s position on the Iraq War that’s holding her back; or her newly moderate position on health care; or her botched attacks on Barack Obama. It’s our lack of imagination.

Tell us: Do you think Americans have a hard time imagining a woman as president?


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