Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Sexiest Presidents, or, James Madison Is Kind of Hot

Nerve magazine ranks the presidents according to their sexiness.

The top 5:
1. Theodore Roosevelt
2. John F. Kennedy
3. Barack Obama
4. Thomas Jefferson
5. Franklin Pierce (which is kind of interesting I guess. It'll certainly be the only time Pierce is ranked in the top 5 of any presidential list). 

The bottom 5:

39. Grover Cleveland
40. Benjamin Harrison
41. Warren Harding (more on this in a second)
42. William Howard Taft
43. Richard Nixon (as if this wasn't totally self-evident)

Not to take this list too seriously, but the history is terrible. For one, Rutherford Hayes did not botch Reconstruction. OK, whatever.

But I do take umbrage at disparaging the sexiness of some of our presidents.

I can't believe I'm actually writing this.

Anyway, Warren Harding was a horrible president, but he was also a massive womanizer. Nerve claims, "He had a face like putty and a dour look only a banker could love. Also, his name was Warren. Unsexy"

The 1920 election marked the first time women could vote throughout the nation. And people openly wondered whether this hot young Warren Harding would win because of his sex appeal. They didn't use those words, but his attractiveness for the supposedly non-intellectual female voters made very serious commentators wonder whether American elections hadn't been permanently cheapened. 

Moreover, Nerve itself should know this, having placed Harding's affairs at #9 in the history of American political sex scandals:

Warren G. Harding (a.k.a. Warren G Unit) is the only president whose affairs led to the extortion of a major political party. To wit: his fifteen-year romance with Carrie Fulton Phillips, the wife of a friend, who the Republican National Committee reportedly paid on a monthly basis not to erupt, bimbo-style. Once in office, Harding allegedly took up with one Nan Britton, thirty years his junior. According to Britton, Harding introduced her to a small closet in the White House, where they exchanged kisses and made sweet presidential love. Britton claimed to have had an illegitimate child by Harding as well. In 1923, Harding died unexpectedly from ptomaine poisoning. Rumors ran rampant that his wife, Florence, had poisoned him.

Almost as egregious is slamming on James Madison, who comes in at #34 with a single sentence dismissal: 

Sure, he's the father of the Constitution, but he was only five-foot-four. 

 That's like saying, "Sure, Prince can play some mean licks, but he is only five-foot-one." 

No. James Madison totally overcame the short men can't be sexy hurdle. And he did it because he was a freaking genius. The guy could speak like 6 languages, was widely seen as one of the most intelligent men of an era of very intelligent men, and had strong leadership skills. Women don't like this? Also, Exhibit A is Dolley Madison, who was considered pretty hot in her day. 

Sure, Madison might be a tiny little dude, but he was also magnetic to those who knew him, both men and women. 

So I don't mind that we rank presidential sexiness, but let's get our facts straight. James Madison was the Prince of the late 18th century.

And I guess Warren Harding was basically a decent businessman type who sleeps with his secretaries--like a much dumber Don Draper.

Note: While Harding's election was not the American cultural apocalypse many predicted, this post might be.