Grecian Formula update

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Jane Galt recalls that Bush looked pretty gray for the State of the Union, and finds some more recent photos showing him gray rather than brown. She suggests that the photo in question, where he’s clearly brown, must be the effect of lighting.

That could be right, though to my non-professional eye the rest of the tones in the photo don’t suggest it; it’s actually rather over-lit, which should tend to accentuate gray hair rather than hiding it, and it certainly isn’t at all sepia-toned.

One possibility is that Bush is inconsistent about dyeing his hair. Jane points out that the very gray pictures she found are on the first page of this Yahoo search under “State of the Union.” Those happen to be photos from the speech itself, on the 28th, and the most recent photos, from the 30th. Scroll down a little to photos from the 29th and you see him much browner.

Another possibility is that Chris, Atrios, and I simply overinterpreted the photographic evidence. That can happen.

Jane adds, sensibly, that it’s pretty silly to be arguing about whether the President dyes his hair. No disagreement here. But how does that differ from making fun of the (nonexistent) plan to dress Al Gore in “earth tones?” Politically, that stuff works, and that Republicans now have, and Democrats now lack, the capacity to make that sort of point against an opponent is a big structural advantage for the GOP.

As soon as Bush apologizes to Gore for the remark about hair-dye and the thousand other petty personal insults he and his minions spun into a “character issue,” and has Karl Rove tell his tame media attack dogs to cool it on John Kerry’s haircut, I’ll be happy to say no more about Bush’s petty vanity.

But Bush’s whole political shtick is to be the Personally Decent Man, by contrast to Clinton. There are two things wrong with that claim: its irrelevance, and its falsity. If the other side will admit to the irrelevance, I’ll be happy to shut up about the falsity. I’d much rather talk about how he cooks his budget numbers.

A year ago in his State of the Union he promised that deficits would be “small and temporary.” Now we’re headed for $300 billion worth of red ink next year, and, according to Bush’s own OMB Director, deficits stretching into the next decade. Yet Bush never condescended to explain to us why last year’s promise is now inoperative. That’s the kind of dishonesty we ought to be talking about. The personal stuff is merely metaphor.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com