The presidency and the toll it takes

I’ve spent a lot of time tonight on the New York Times website, much of it reading about the long strange trip of Sarah Palin as well as the paper’s endorsement of Barack Obama.

The latter article also led me to an interesting interactive feature on the Times’ various presidential endorsements from 1860 to the present day. Aside from picking the winner in 22 of the 37 elections (59.5%) over the past 148 years, the Times has also provided some photographic evidence for the (not terribly revelatory) theory SLP and I have, that the presidency ages a person like few other jobs (outside of, perhaps, coal mining) could. Witness below the shocking deteriorations that a mere 4 years in the Oval Office can produce.

First up we have Honest Abe. Now we all know that his first term was probably about as rough as any in the history of the country. And it shows.

I’m not an historian, so I must confess I don’t know much about what was going on in the mid-1880s. Whatever it was, I get the impression Grover could have done with a little less of it.

In 1912, voters had just one question: Is this Mr. Wilson, who fancies himself a President-to-be, in fact, a bogey-man? By 1916, they had their answer.

By the time FDR took office, the suckitude of the job had once again reached levels not seen in 70-odd years. The only things we have to fear are fear itself and premature aging due to the rigors of the highest political office in the land. Having to pretend you aren’t paralyzed isn’t exactly all it’s cracked up to be, either.

Now, in 1980 Jimmy Carter at least does not show the ravaging physical deterioration typical of an incumbent. I suspect it may be due to the cannabis everyone in the country was smoking so heavily at the time (or so I’ve been led to believe). So he still has that youthful glow, but it’s clear nonetheless that something has harshed his mellow.

We all remember well enough what was keeping the smile on Bill’s face by 1996. But everything else in his life brought on the gray hair.