In this often unbelievably ridiculous mess of a political world we live in, I think it’s important to occasionally have fun. I often say that there’s little difference between the parties, and thus little difference between candidates so I’ve begun giving thought to changing my criteria for the Presidential candidate I’ll support in 2016. I say-let’s bring the beard back to the White House! It’s been a long time since we had a President that sported a face full of whiskers, so I thought I’d look back at some that did, and forward at any politicians that do now, that I could put up for contention in 2016. Here are the results:
All in all, 6 former Presidents have sported facial hair that extended beyond a mustache or sideburns, and none since Harry Truman, who didn’t actually wear his while serving, but while on vacation, shaving it when he returned to work. These Presidents are as follows:
President from March 4, 1881 to September 19, 1881.
Beyond a rather elegant beard, blond in color before it went grey President Garfield is known for having served the second shortest term, lasting just 200 days before the second thing he’s known for; he was assassinated. His election came after 9 terms in the House representing the citizens of Ohio, and shortly after having been elected to be their senator for the first time. His untimely death sparked the passage the “Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act”, legislature he championed while alive. This bill required that government jobs be awarded based upon merit, not being related to or knowing a politician. Gotta give him credit for trying anyway right? And the great beard of course.
Ulysses S. Grant
Served two terms, March 1869-March 1877.
Grant is best known of course as the victorious general of the Union Army during the Civil War under Abraham Lincoln. Grant was effectively the hero of the second half of the war, battering his nemesis General Robert E. Lee until the latter’s surrender at Appomattox.
What many don’t know about Grant is that he was something of a drinker. He was a lifelong soldier, who prior to the Civil War tried his hand at business. Fulfilling the predictions of his father, he failed miserably, eventually even getting swindled by a partner. His drinking grew worse and worse until it eventually lead to his resignation from the military in 1853. It wasn’t until 1861 that he was able to re-enlist, when the Union forces put out a call for 75,000 volunteer troops. He was given a leadership position at the initial meeting given his experience, and the rest is history. Historians generally recognize his military brilliance, and his presidency was also quite successful. The party tried to push him for nomination in 1879 a third time, but he lost the nomination for Garfield, his predecessor on this list.
Harrison served one term, from 1889 to 1893.
Harrison is known as something of a big spender, his administration marking the first time annual spending soared north of a billion dollars. His presidency has to be marked as one of the least successful. The legislation that marked it: The McKinley Tarriff was so wildly unpopular that he lost in 1893 to the man he replaced in 89; Grover Cleveland.
Harrison was a career politician, serving the state of Indiana nearly his entire life, save a short stint in the Union Army during the Civil War. After his presidency he retired quietly to Indiana.
Rutherford B Hayes
Rutherford Hayes has my favorite beard of this collection, because he’s got kind of the ‘wily old man’ look going for him. It just REALLY works and I couldn’t imagine him without a beard. Had to say that. Moving on…
Hayes served one term, from 1877 to 1881.
Hayes began his professional career as a lawyer, but following a remarkable military career with the Union Army, in which he was wounded 5 times and awarded for his bravery, he was elected Governor of Ohio 3 times consecutively before winning the presidency. Hayes’ election is possibly the most interesting in history, as he lost the popular vote but overwhelmingly won the electoral vote. Naturally, this resulted in a huge ordeal which eventually ended in the Compromise of 1877 under which Hayes became President and ceased the use of federal armies to intervene in Southern politics. The biggest act of Hayes was his first, the previously mentioned withdrawal of federal troops, which meant the official end of “Reconstruction” and a return to southern rule.
Lincoln served a little over one term, from 1860 until his assassination in 1865 about a month after delivering his second inaugural address.
Lincoln is easily the most famous ex-President on this list, not only for his assassination (what is it with people killing off bearded presidents???) but also of course for his abolition of slavery, and leadership through the Civil War, the most tumultuous time in our country’s history.
Lincoln won election in 1860 running on an anti-slavery platform. With essentially zero support in the South, he swept the northern states and won the presidency. From there, most Americans know the story of the end of slavery, the Civil War, and his ultimate death at the hands of actor John Wilkes Booth.
Harry S. Truman
Truman served two terms, 1945-1953.
Truman is a borderline addition to this list, as he a) never wore a full beard but only a goatee, and b) only wore it on vacation, not while serving the country. While on vacation, he managed to catch these great fish. While in office, he managed the end of World War II, following the death of Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt, under whom he had served as Vice President.
Now moving on to politicians of today: The beard hasn’t been in style lately in DC. I had a lot of trouble finding any suitable candidates among active politicians, but here’s a few tries:
LaTourette recently retired from politics, having served as a rep from Ohio since 1995. He chose not to seek re-election in 2012, despite not having any apparent competition in his district. According to sources at the time, his retirement was due to his displeasure with his role within Congress.
I don’t think he’ll be President any time soon, but gotta have some respect for bringing a beard to the capital building these days.
Obey was known as one of the most liberal politicians in DC, but growing frustrated with the Obama administration, Obey decided not to seek re-election for a 22nd term in 2010, despite having filled a massiv war chest with $1.4 million dollars in campaign funds, he decided that given his age, tough polling numbers, and other extenuating circumstances, he would be better off lobbying, and that’s where you’ll find him today at Gephardt Government Affairs.
Coburn is a guy who made his way up in Washington, serving three terms as a Representative from Oklahoma before being elected Senator for the same state. He’s a conservative politician, with conservative stances on fiscal and social issues. Coburn sticks out from most conservatives however, as he’s publicly very open about being good friends with President Obama, a friendship formed in 2005 when they both came to the Senate together. Coburn has said publicly he “loves the man” but just doesn’t think he should be President as they disagree on “95% of the issues”. He also sticks out on this particular list as potentially the only legitimate Presidential candidate.
An American economist, current chairman of the Federal Reserve, and former tenured professor at Princeton, Bernanke certainly has the kind of mind that leads one to big things: but I’m not sure about the beard. It looks more like his hair line receded by moving all his hair back and down over his face. He needs some length. A bearded Presidential candidate must show the potential for commitment to the people his beard by showing commitment to his beard.