Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 30, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

THE STATURE GAP....It's not true that taller candidates always beat shorter candidates in presidential races. However, it is true that short men almost never win presidential elections. It's been nearly two centuries since anyone more than an inch shorter than the national male average won the presidency.

So how tall is John McCain, anyway? Really?

Kevin Drum 5:56 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (58)

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As a child, when he got angry, McCain would hold his breath until he blacked out."


Wow.

Posted by: Jet on March 30, 2008 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

but you didn't say what the national male average is. if it's 5'8", he's cool. 5'9", not so cool.

Posted by: halstoon on March 30, 2008 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Vote Bellicose '08

[or he'll hold his breath till he blacks out]

Posted by: Jet on March 30, 2008 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

The photo of him hugging Bush around the waist is the best illustration of this.

Posted by: shortstop on March 30, 2008 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

That's an odd report. I had heard he had troubles fitting into his A-4 Skyhawk because he was too tall. Someone may have been embellishing somewhere....

Posted by: jerry on March 30, 2008 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Is height the reason women have such a difficult time being elected on the national level?

Posted by: jen flowers on March 30, 2008 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

So how tall is Obama?

Posted by: Simplico on March 30, 2008 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

So how tall is Obama?

6'1".

Posted by: shortstop on March 30, 2008 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

Yes!!! it's 5'9" :

http://pediatrics.about.com/cs/growthcharts2/f/avg_ht_male.htm

Posted by: Andy on March 30, 2008 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

The other truism is that the candidate with the shorter name wins, except when they don't. Except, that in the post war era, the Republicans rarely run candidates with names longer than the democrat. Bush/Kerry; Bush/Gore; Dole/Clinton; Bush/Clinton; Bush/Dukakis; Reagan/Mondale; Reagan/Carter; Ford/Carter; Nixon/McGovern; Nixon/Humphrey; Goldwater/Johnson (exception); Nixon/Kennedy; Eisenhower/Stevenson III; Dewey/Truman.

Posted by: ggersten on March 30, 2008 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Well, but maybe there's a way out of this for McCain. Let's measure by primary states instead of cauc--wait, I mean, let's measure by his circumference. He trounces Obama in that department.

Posted by: shortstop on March 30, 2008 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

White men always win!

Though I've heard that no white man who was also bald-headed has won since Eisenhower.

OK, tall usually wins. Make that tall and white, preferably, blondish.

This year I'm rooting for Obama, though. Tall,tan, and tempting--just like the Temptations.

(see them in all their glory at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v/RfyFI-4ZsaE)

(Seriously folks, both Clinton and McCain induce catatonia!)

Posted by: Fran,the latte drinking,upper east-side limousine liberal on March 30, 2008 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

McCain held his breath until he blacked out, George Bush blew up frogs, Hillary Clinton was a Goldwater Girl--enough!!!

Posted by: Dr Wu on March 30, 2008 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK
That's an odd report. I had heard he had troubles fitting into his A-4 Skyhawk because he was too tall. Someone may have been embellishing somewhere....

Hmmm. Pilots and their jet aircraft, their speed, their size--the hyperbole never ends.

I will never forget the viral right-wing email I received after 9-11 claiming to be an eyewitness report from "the Pentagon" rapturously describing GWB in manly-man prose you can spot a mile off: "First, let me tell you, [breathless sounding here] he's a big man . . . ." Bush is 5'11, shorter than his father, but word went out that he was well over 6 feet tall.

After the war lust subsided, and as the 2004 election approached, I recall GWB was transformed--yes, same breathless prose--into a Right Stuff-caliber pilot with all the qualities of a Chuck Yeager. And you would see the same frickin' text nearly word for word on the usual right-wing blogs, and here at PA as well.

But I digress.

With McCain's height and age presenting obvious disadvantages in 2008 against the 6'2, 47-year-old candidate who can stand in the sun for more than ten minutes (I'm sorry, is this harsh?)--against a candidate who didn't graduate fifth from the bottom of his class--you can expect hearing a lot about McCain's unassailable POW bona fides.

If I were working oppo, however, I would work the short, old, very white, and not very bright angles, while suggesting that his five and a half years as a POW both made him and unmade him.

Oh, and for the photo op at the WH, when Bush danced a bit, waiting for McCain to show up for lunnch? Wasn't McCain conspicuously tall in that photo? I want a story on the magic of John McCain's heel lifts.

Posted by: paxr55 on March 30, 2008 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

George W Bush: 5'11"
John Kerry: 6'4"

Obviously the tallest candidate doesn't necessarily win.

However it seems to me the more important criteria would be relative heights of the two candidates. Few Americans ever encounter candidates face-to-face. What we do see is them standing side-by-side in the debates and that sort of thing.

Posted by: Kent on March 30, 2008 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Here's a picture of Bush and McCain side-by-side.

Bush looks to be at least 3" taller which would put McCain in the 5'8" range

Posted by: Kent on March 30, 2008 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Yup: heel lifts.

Posted by: paxr55 on March 30, 2008 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Kent, we're way ahead of you. Read Kevin's post and the thread.

Posted by: on March 30, 2008 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously the tallest candidate doesn't necessarily win -Kent

By popular vote Kerry did win.

Posted by: on March 30, 2008 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing to see here folks...look, over there, Oprah now weighs 245 pounds!!

Posted by: Jet on March 30, 2008 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

Hey pazr55 - While you're at it - How tall is Hillary - really? Without the heels and lifts. Height is temperament after all, isn't it. How tall was Teddie Roosevelt -really? And does the latitude in Denver make one shorter?

Posted by: C.B. Todd on March 30, 2008 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

If I were working oppo, however, I would work the short, old, very white, and not very bright angles, while suggesting that his five and a half years as a POW both made him and unmade him.

Posted by: paxr55 on March 30, 2008 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

I love it. This from a die-hard Obama supporter who has routinely scolded Hillary Clinton here for "dirty campaigning." You're gonna suggest Sen. McCain's years as a POW "unmade him." Gee, I guess all that "St.Obama-post-partisan-the-old-politics-is-dying-because-we're-reclaiming-America's-soul" stuff didn't last too long, did it? Just exactly what about his years as a POW do you think "unmade him." I'm interested.

Posted by: Pat on March 30, 2008 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

Pat - "Unmade" as in resulting in his a very "short"(no pun intended) temper.

Posted by: C.B. Todd on March 30, 2008 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

Couple years ago, McCain was stumping for a congressional rep in a nearby district on a street corner (no, really - it was something like 10 in the morning in a tiny little town in michigan). Mostly out of curiosity, i went to see him, stood 10 feet away from him during his short prepared speech, and shook his hand afterward.

5'7" is extremely generous.

Posted by: TMRM on March 30, 2008 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

So his favorite film is Kubrick's "Paths of Glory" - a movie about a bungled military adventure, and the scapegoating of the troops.

Posted by: woodyNYC on March 30, 2008 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

obama had better not pick jack reed as his running mate. sen. reed is so short that he would cancel out barack's tallness.

Posted by: Nancy Green on March 30, 2008 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

His great-aunt was a descendant of Robert the Bruce.

Huuuh? How does a factoid, or, rather, alleged factoid, like that get out? He or one of his family members is extolling the ancestry of someone who isn't even a blood relative, someone's whose ancestry they don't share??? Freaky, bizarre, snobby, and just plain weird.

And if he was 5'7" at one time, then he's probably shrunk by now. That's just how height and aging work.

Posted by: Anon on March 30, 2008 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

http://tinyurl.com/2yu3pu

From: The Arizona Republic

By Bill Muller
The Arizona Republic
June 05, 1999 12:12:00

"In late 1986, as Kimball gained ground on McCain in the Senate race, the candidates agreed to debate on television.

"Since McCain was a good deal shorter than the lanky Kimball, he stood on a riser behind the podium. At one point, Kimball called him on it, saying McCain was 'standing on a soapbox' to make himself look taller.

"McCain was angry but kept his cool. The next day, he got mad all over again when he saw himself standing on the riser on the front page of The Republic. "

Posted by: arturo on March 30, 2008 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

Why McCain might be perfect for our country:

Suffers from short man syndrome

Hair trigger explosive temper

Wife is of the trophy wife variety--beer heiress, something of a pill-freak. Meds/Crime in her past.

Father and grandfather really famous navy
admirals--John, though, is not that bright. (be careful--we might be looking at another George Bush type

Posted by: Rootless Cosmopolitan on March 30, 2008 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

I understand about the tradition of tall candidates winning, but in this case does "short and white" trump "black"?

Does "short/white/with insane surrogates who'll lie and break the law to get their candidate elected" trump "black running a sane, civil, and legal campaign"?

Posted by: aghast on March 30, 2008 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

Pat,

Happy to oblige. But let me reword my first: "made him" in the sense of giving him the cred for a lucrative political career. Instead of "unmade," "undid" might be more accurate. It explains his careening from deploring war to wanting to wage it continuously. His 100 years of war gaffe has roots, I contend, in his torture and captivity during a war we famously lost.

I find the story of his ordeal compelling and much more. I also believe it prevents us from asking legitimate questions about his judgment and state of mind.

Posted by: paxr55 on March 30, 2008 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

paxr55 - Teddy Roosevelt was 5'8" average height. How tall do astronauts have to be?

http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/life/heightweight.htm

Posted by: C.B. Todd on March 30, 2008 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on March 30, 2008 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, I'm 5'7" and a couple years older than McCain, so I'm more "experienced" than he, as even Hillary would have to admit. Maybe it's not too late to ace out Gravel for the Libertarian Party nomination.

Posted by: fyreflye on March 30, 2008 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: mhr on March 30, 2008

Henry Kissinger shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 with North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho for brokering the peace treaty that ended American participation in the Vietnam War in January of that year.

Posted by: Jet on March 30, 2008 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

WOW mhr, you are 4 of last 4 for your comments staying up! Your mom must be so proud!

Posted by: R.L. on March 30, 2008 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

but in this case does "short and white" trump "black"?

Well, but "white" fathered an illegitimate black baby, or so they tell me.

Posted by: craigie on March 30, 2008 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

I notice that men (maybe women too) tend to quote their their maximum height and never adjust it as they get older. I doubt that Jimmy Carter was actually 5'9" by the time he was elected President. If McCain claims 5'7, it's probably less than that.

Posted by: little ole jim on March 30, 2008 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

C.B.--

Regarding relative heights, hey, Howard Dean was my guy, and he was, like, 5'8? And he would've beaten the pants off the taller Bush in 2004 'cept for something about a scream.

And what's not to like about T.R., average in only in height?

Kevin asked a provocative question about the role of physical attributes, specifically height, for presidential candidates, and I at least like to turn the OP to political advantage for my candidate.

As for astronauts, aren't there issues regarding payload limits and available cabin space? And haven't these changed over time? Mercury astros had to be 5'11 or less. To speak to Kevin's point, IIRC, Alan Shepard was the tallest of the Mercury astros, and he was the first in space.

I s'pose shuttle astros don't have quite the space constraints as the early dudes and as a consequence can be well over 6 feet. But I really don't know.

Posted by: paxr55 on March 30, 2008 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

We haven't got to discussing the nature v. nurture angle to this yet?

Posted by: Swan on March 30, 2008 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

At first glance I thought it was good that McCain liked the movie "Paths of Glory." At one level that is good since the movie and the novel of the same name is about the ruthlessness, criminal behavior of the French High Command in WWI. Very dispicable conduct.

But now McCain is on the same path that the French High Command was depicted as embracing, embracing the Bush2 War and a hundred of years more of it. That is not good and McCain deserves to be defeated in November regardless if he is 5'7 or 6'7". Jees, let's get serious. Do we need at this juncture in America an old man, capable of switching his ideas with the winds, who wants to war on other peoples without let up?

Posted by: pete on March 30, 2008 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

short or tall,

john mccain is the bob dole of the 2008 presidential election campaign.

he is old, foolish, and unattractive in his beliefs.

that's why obama and clinton are fighting so hard;

one of the two of them will be the next president.

i happen to consider clinton to be the superior candidate in experience, in caring, and in political intellect,

but whether i am right or wrong is immaterial,

one of the two will be the next president.

john mccain could be 5'7" or 7'5",

and he'd still lose.


hey, kevin, where's the full disclosure?

Posted by: orionATL on March 31, 2008 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

The tallest guy obviously doesn't always win. You could make a case that the more stereotypically masculine guy always wins, though, in which case McCain is in good shape.

Posted by: Chris on March 31, 2008 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

Rather than focusing on external beauty, I see the inner snake or worm.

Posted by: Luther on March 31, 2008 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

I recall reading that John Kenneth Galbraith had a conversation with Charles De Gaulle during which De Gaulle said "We must save the world from short men."

Posted by: steve on March 31, 2008 at 7:15 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, there was only one time in recent history when the taller candidate didn't win, and that was Kerry v. Bush. Al Gore was actually a half inch taller than Bush, and of course he won.

Several people told me they didn't vote for Dean because he was so short (5'8") and although I was a Dean supporter, I did worry about that. A lot.

And now we have an answer to all those worried voters, who think a black man can't be elected: the truth is, there is more evidence that a short man can't be elected, and Obama is certainly not short.

Posted by: KathyF on March 31, 2008 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

People might have more problems with the "divorced his first wife in February, married the second wife in May" thing than with the shortness...

Posted by: sullijan on March 31, 2008 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK
Actually, there was only one time in recent history when the taller candidate didn't win, and that was Kerry v. Bush. Al Gore was actually a half inch taller than Bush, and of course he won.
Don't forget that the bush-team "negotiated" that the camera framing in the debates would show the 2 candidates at the same screen height. That's why in the side-by-side shots, while appearing to be the same height, bush's podium was up around his neck, while Kerry's was well-below his shoulders. It looked ridiculous, but I guess it worked.

Posted by: G.Kerby on March 31, 2008 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

I recall reading that John Kenneth Galbraith had a conversation with Charles De Gaulle during which De Gaulle said "We must save the world from short men."

That's so French. How tall was Saddam Hussein, and is Osama bin Laden, by the way? My impression was that Hussein was something like a healthy 6' 1", and Osama is like Abraham Lincoln.

Just trying to nip a stereotype in the bud, here- I'm sure there must be something about being short that can contribute to an immoral attitude, but there has to have been as many tall men who are equally fascist. People will develop an insecurty about all sorts of personal traits, which they will then take out on others. It's almost irrelevant what the fodder for the insecurity is, if you have a personality that's ready to be insecure about things to that demented level in the first place-- the personality seeks out rationalizations for being an immoral person.

Posted by: Swan on March 31, 2008 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Swan, you have no filter whatsoever between your brain and your fingers, do you?

Posted by: boy howdy on March 31, 2008 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently most people lose about 1/2 an inch per decade in height past the age of thirty or forty. Say he was 5'7" at age 25. I'd say he is at most 5'5" now. Maybe less.

And he can't raise his hands to block a punch. So Obama should have no problem.

Posted by: Manfred on March 31, 2008 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

...but there has to have been as many tall men who are equally fascist.
Posted by: Swan on March 31, 2008 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Nope, tall people are easy-going jolly fellows.

Posted by: rusrus on March 31, 2008 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

I remember reading somewhere that people are inclined to vote for a candidate with -ON or -AN at the end of his name (Reagan, Clinton, Nixon, Truman, Lincoln, Johnson, etc) because it sounds strong or something.

Posted by: Speed on March 31, 2008 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Being short is an advantage for a fighter pilot; they can withstand more G forces before blacking out. Also, they don't develop hemorrhoids quite as badly as a result of high G maneuvering.

Posted by: fafner1 on March 31, 2008 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

After C+ Augustus I worry about graduated 5th from the bottom at the navel acadamy more than his height.

Posted by: Bethie on March 31, 2008 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Shaquille O'Neal for Obama's VP!

Hey, he's done fewer criminal things and made an arse of himself on fewer occasions than GWB's VP.

Posted by: ally on April 1, 2008 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Digby explains everything

Post-Truth Coverage of McCain

Posted by: paxr55 on April 1, 2008 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

The height difference is so large between McCain and Obama that McCain should probably make a joke of it. If I were McCain I'd stand on a box to avoid looking up at my opponent. Assuming Obama wins the nomination, of course. With Hillary, no problem.

Posted by: Joanna on April 2, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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