Headed for Trouble

Shortly after he was nominated as Barack Obama’s running mate, reporters overheard Joe Biden speaking with a National Guardsman. “If I had your hair, I’d be president, you know what I mean?” Mr. Biden said. “I wouldn’t be screwing around with this job.”

Mr. Biden, long known for working the border between candor and too much candor, must be scratching his hair-plugged forehead over this week’s events involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois. Mr. Blagojevich has enough hair for himself, Mr. Biden and Sam Zell, the skin-pated publisher of the Chicago Tribune, who Mr. Blagojevich attempted to extort into more lenient editorial coverage by threatening to withhold political favors. Perhaps he’d have done better to offer a few locks hair.

Joe Biden’s a pretty bright guy, really bright when it comes to politics. If he says the only things that’s kept him from the nation’s highest office are a few hundred follicles, then that’s where I’m looking to understand this whole Blagojevich scandal.

(Can I let my fingers have a second of airtime here? We’ve been pounding keyboards for 30 years and we have to say “Blagojevich” is the most unnatural word we’ve ever typed. “Blago” gets out OK, but then there’s some sort of alphabetical u-turn that aims for “jevich.” The fingers rebel. This can’t be right. “Hang on, boss!” they yell. “We’re heading for a typo!” But no, it’s correct. The brain has to go to “manual override” and force the fingers to finish the word.)

Last weekend, a 13-year-old girl sat at my kitchen table, preening her wavy hair and lamenting that it’s not straight. Straight-haired girls lament their hair isn’t wavy.

Last night Adrienne told me I get more handsome as I age, one of her not-quite compliments. She’s right, though. If, when I was 20, someone said, “All the handsome guys, over here,” a hand would have been placed on my arm and a voice would have said, “Not so fast, Floegel.” Then I was all cowlicks and elbows. Now, as I push 50 with most (!) of my hair and a bit heavier than that gawky kid, I’m (relatively) more handsome. Not handsome enough to run for office, so don’t fret.

Got a holiday card from some friends I haven’t seen in a while and damn, if the dad in the family isn’t getting bald. Fortunately, he’s a scientist. I think baldness is an asset in that field.

If, as Mr. Biden thinks, there’s a proportional correlation between hair density and political success, then all becomes clear. I’ve been reading the case against Mr. Blagojevich and I couldn’t figure how anyone this freaking stupid could be elected fence watcher, much less congressman or governor. Worse still, this guy is a former prosecutor who knows he’s been under investigation for the past three years and yet he’s screaming curse words into the telephone and promising everyone in sight that he’s gonna demand cash and seven kinds of favors in return for one of Illinois’s seats in the US Senate.

But Joe Biden explains it. It’s the hair. Mr. Biden’s lack of hair has prevented him – he thinks – from realizing his full political potential, despite his brains and his drive. In Mr. Blagojevich’s case the headful of luxuriant brown strands have caused his political fortunes to vastly overshoot his mental and ethical capacities.

I’d like to think we elect leaders based on what’s in their heads, rather than what’s on them, but who knows? Joe Biden may be right. Kind of explains Ronald Reagan, too.

© Mark Floegel, 2008

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