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Pretty Pols

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Today, Emily Yoffe explores our political fixation with good looks on the LA Times opinion page. After spilling some ink in honor of the much-discussed VP hopeful John Edwards, she takes a historical view:

Abraham Lincoln received a letter from an 11-year-old girl, Grace Bedell, that read in part, "If you let your whiskers grow … you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband's [sic] to vote for you and then you would be president."

Lincoln replied, "As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affect[ta]ion if I were to begin it now?"

He grew the beard.

Luckily, Lincoln didn't have to save the union during the Age of Television. The triumph of visual media - TV, cinema, billboards, glossy magazines - has changed our tastes and attitudes. John Kerry's looks might have been thought to be distinguished as little as 30 years ago - today, our view of him is shaped by a torrent of unflattering photos. To get an idea of the profundity of this change, consider the media obsession with the Olsen Twins - I certainly don't remember reading about anyone counting the days until Shirley Temple's 18th birthday.

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Apology in advance: I've got a number of personal issues to deal with this week, and posting may be light until Friday. So sorry.