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Another Voice: Whisker-phobia denies us a bearded president

By Chris Churchill

ALBANY – Santa Claus would be an outstanding president.

He is kindly and joyful, of course, but also a masterful organizer who oversees a complex toymaking and delivery bureaucracy. Santa is decisive, with an eye for untapped talent. (See: Rudolph.) He is a born leader.

Best of all, he is not on Twitter.

But barring a shocking change to his appearance, Santa could never be elected president. His beard disqualifies him.

If you’re like me, you will be horrified to learn it has been 105 years since we’ve had a president with real hair on his face. In all those years, not a beard or mustache. No goatees or muttonchops. Not even a lonely little presidential soul patch.

Scan the official portraits and you see nothing but bare faces until you find William Howard Taft, who sported a wonderfully bushy mustache that erupted from under his nose to cover a good portion of his plump cheeks.

There can be only one explanation for the dearth of presidential whiskers, and it reveals a darkness within the American soul. We’re talking bigotry, pure and simple, an irrational distrust of the men who refuse to scrape their faces clean each morning – a senseless ritual, if ever there was one.

I’m ashamed to admit that as recently as a month ago, I was blind to the outrageousness of this prejudice. But during the sunless days of December, I have undergone a remarkable transformation as, hour by hour, a fine carpet gradually covered my face and neck.

Yes, I am now among the bearded, and I say it proudly. I’m compelled to speak out for my new community.

We have not always been so biased against the whiskered. Until the 20th century, presidential facial hair was common among our presidents. The latter half of the 1800s, especially, was the golden age of presidential face fur. Look no further than Honest Abe, who arrived in the White House with an Amish look – bearded, but with an exposed upper lip. After Andrew Johnson came the fully bearded Ulysses Grant, followed by Rutherford Hayes and James Garfield, men who easily had the longest plumes among our presidents.

With brush that stretched over their shirt collars, Hayes and Garfield didn’t go full Santa, but dress them in red suits and they could convincingly ho-ho-ho at children in your local mall.
Presidential facial plumage went downhill from there, largely because Chester Arthur decided on a hideous mutton chop-mustache combo that defies explanation.

Why, Chester? Why?

I come to you arguing for a new course. It is time to embrace the hairiest among us. Voters of America, dump your narrow-minded bias against the bearded. End the razor’s tyranny!

Chris Churchill is a columnist for the Albany Times Union.

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