RHETA GRIMSLEY JOHNSON: Beauty and the beast in today’s politics

The Republicans are whining because NBC has cast beautiful actress Diane Lane to play smart Hillary Clinton in a television mini-series.

Watch out, undecideds.

When you wed glamour and competence and give it prime-time exposure, Republicans fear the electorate will be suckered into voting for Super Woman.

For once they might be right in their thinking. We all have read those stories about how American voters sometimes choose candidates based on things as frivolous as the color of campaign buttons. Superficial R Us.

If Diane Lane’s beauty and Hillary’s pluck captivate the television audience, ipso facto the electorate, the Republicans next election will have to hire Disney to create an animatronic candidate. Perhaps they could borrow Lincoln from Disney World’s Hall of Presidents. Or recruit Daniel Day Lewis.

Now, if you want to subscribe to this theory that Hollywood casting can control the outcome of a presidential election, the Democrats might want to ask themselves if Diane Lane is a little too, hmm, familiar. She famously played Lorena the pretty prostitute in “Lonesome Dove” and the wayward wife, Connie, whose infidelity inspired a murder in “Unfaithful.”

To pursue a tangent, I contend the messing around in “Unfaithful” was mostly the fault of her Frenchman paramour, actor Olivier Martinez, who was even prettier than Diane. But nobody will remember that. It’s always the woman’s fault.

The Republicans would have preferred actress Kathy Bates in the role of Hillary, but then they don’t get to pick. The Democrats probably would just as soon the series not be done at all, since it reportedly will begin with the Monica Lewinsky affair and remind us all about the scandal.

But Hillary rose from that marital muck to become a U.S. senator, a formidable presidential candidate and Secretary of State. She routinely is one of the most admired women in the world.

And, if you want to judge on a superficial level – which, of course, we do – she’s a good-looking woman in her own right. Certainly if whippet Meryl Streep can play matronly Margaret Thatcher, Diane Lane can reach for Hillary.

Hillary as an activist first lady often was compared to Eleanor Roosevelt. Photographer Yousuf Karsh, whose portraits included practically every great beauty of his time, quoted a letter he received from a soldier who wanted a copy of his Eleanor photograph. The president’s widow had paid a visit to a Korean military hospital where the soldier once had been a patient.

“When she came in, I thought she was the homeliest woman I had ever seen – and when she left, the most beautiful!”

This society as a whole doesn’t care if its women are compassionate, smart, diplomatic, tough, generous, cunning and rise Phoenix-like from more ashes than produced at your neighborhood crematorium. For women, in any public arena, it’s about looks. Many don’t like Hillary’s.

But Hillary has confounded critics of both her substance and style in the past. And she’s done the most dangerous thing a woman can do: She’s lost the need for a last name. Marilyn, Cher, Hillary.

If she has another act left in her, Hillary doesn’t need Diane Lane to boost her chances.

Contact syndicated columnist RHETA GRIMSLEY JOHNSON at Iuka, MS 38852. To find out more about Rheta Grimsley Johnson and her books, visit www.rhetagrimsleyjohnsonbooks.com.

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