How Obama Can Make History Again: Grow a Beard

The president tells Red Sox fans that he once tried to grow a beard — but why not try again?

Mike Napoli of the Boston Red Sox celebrates in the clubhouse after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2013 World Series at Fenway Park on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 in Boston.
National Journal
Alex Seitz Wald
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Alex Seitz-Wald
Oct. 30, 2013, 1:43 p.m.

Be­fore Pres­id­ent Obama’s elec­tion five years ago, there were plenty of people who would tell you the coun­try wasn’t ready for a black pres­id­ent. Obama proved them wrong, and now he can do it again by ig­nor­ing the naysay­ers (in­clud­ing his own wife) by prov­ing that this coun­try is ready for an­oth­er kind of pres­id­ent again: a bearded one.

“I tried to grow a beard, but Michelle, she wasn’t hav­ing it,” the pres­id­ent said in Bo­ston on Wed­nes­day, re­mark­ing on the Red Sox’ il­lus­tri­ous and feared World Series beards. On Twit­ter, the com­ment drew ap­plause and re­quests that Obama ac­tu­ally grow whiskers.

It’s been 120 years since our last bearded pres­id­ent, Ben­jamin Har­ris­on, left of­fice, and there are now just a small hand­ful of beards in Con­gress. Ben Bernanke and Grover Nor­quist have had to go it al­most alone among power­ful Wash­ing­to­ni­ans for most of the 21st cen­tury. Mus­taches have fared a bit bet­ter, with sev­er­al dozen mem­bers of Con­gress and one Cab­in­et mem­ber (At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Eric Hold­er) sport­ing the look. Wil­li­am Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt both spor­ted ro­bust handle­bars, but our last pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate with a full beard lost in 1916.

Beards are in­creas­ingly vis­ible on TV and in cit­ies and work­places across the coun­try, so why not the marble cor­ridors of Wash­ing­ton?

The late 1800s were the golden era for fa­cial hair in Amer­ic­an polit­ics, when dur­ing one stretch, four out of five pres­id­ents — Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ruther­ford B. Hayes, and James Gar­field—all proudly car­ried out their du­ties with full beards.

Harry Tru­man, in a heady mo­ment of post­war, post-reelec­tion ex­ulta­tion, flir­ted with — and seemed to quite en­joy — the first full pres­id­en­tial beard since daguerreotypes went out of fash­ion. Days after he won the elec­tion in Novem­ber 1948, the pres­id­ent re­treated to Key West. “Pres­id­ent re­laxes and grows a beard,” ran the head­line in LIFE Magazine:

“Then, out at the Navy base along the cool blue sea, he took his ease. He got in­to a lin­en sport shirt…and let his sil­ver whiskers be­gin to sprout. When [Vice Pres­id­ent] Al­ben Barkley dropped in for a vis­it…the Pres­id­ent look so re­laxed as to be mo­ment­ar­ily un­re­cog­niz­able to his run­ning mate. By the next day, [Tru­man] had had enough beard to be­gin spec­u­lat­ing on how it would look when full grown. But the Pres­id­ent of the U.S. is sub­ject to some very hu­man re­straints — Mrs. Tru­man joined him and the whiskers dis­ap­peared.”

His beard nev­er quite made it to fruition, but it re­sembled Ok­lahoma Re­pub­lic­an Sen. Tom Coburn’s come-and-mostly-go beard.

One group today is at least try­ing to get more beards in polit­ics. The Bearded En­tre­pren­eurs for the Ad­vance­ment of a Re­spons­ible Demo­cracy, or BEARD PAC, which formed this year, hopes to help elect full-bearded can­did­ates in the 2014 elec­tion (so far, it’s only raised $52 as of its latest FEC re­port).

But the PAC’s Andy Shapero is with­hold­ing judg­ment on Obama’s fa­cial-hair pro­spects, since BEARD PAC is “firmly fo­cused on its mis­sion to elect bearded in­di­vidu­als, and as Pres­id­ent Obama is cur­rently term lim­ited.” Shapero did en­cour­age Na­tion­al Journ­al to fo­cus on can­did­ates “who sport both a full beard and a savvy mind full of growth-ori­ented policy po­s­i­tions that will move our great na­tion to­wards a more lush and mag­ni­fi­cent fu­ture.”

Will Obama be a part of that fu­ture? Prob­ably not any­time soon. But we’ll check back on Jan. 21, 2017, some­where on a golf course in Hawaii.

What We're Following See More »
SHUTDOWN LOOMING
House Approves Spending Bill
18 hours ago
BREAKING

The House has completed it's business for 2016 by passing a spending bill which will keep the government funded through April 28. The final vote tally was 326-96. The bill's standing in the Senate is a bit tenuous at the moment, as a trio of Democratic Senators have pledged to block the bill unless coal miners get a permanent extension on retirement and health benefits. The government runs out of money on Friday night.

HEADS TO OBAMA
Senate Approves Defense Bill
19 hours ago
THE LATEST

The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act today, sending the $618 billion measure to President Obama. The president vetoed the defense authorization bill a year ago, but both houses could override his disapproval this time around.

Source:
ANTI-MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE
Trump Chooses Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr CEO as Labor Sec
21 hours ago
BREAKING
BUCKING THE BOSS?
Trump Cabinet Full of TPP Supporters
21 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"President-elect Donald Trump railed against the Trans-Pacific Partnership on his way to winning the White House and has vowed immediately to withdraw the U.S. from the 12-nation accord. Several of his cabinet picks and other early nominees to top posts, however, have endorsed or spoken favorably about the trade pact, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, announced Wednesday as Mr. Trump’s pick for ambassador to China, and retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, Mr. Trump’s pick to head the Department of Defense."

Source:
WWE WRESTLING OWNER
Trump to Nominate Linda McMahon to Head SBA
1 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login