Date: Mon, 8 Jun 1998 10:00:35 -0400
From: Larry Horn
Subject: Re: big weekend

At 8:22 AM -0700 6/8/98, Yongwei Gao wrote:
>Dear all,
>2. Is looksmanship ever recorded in any dictionaries? Example: Ever
>since the dawn of the television age, when John F. Kennedy wiped the
>floor with Richard Nixon before he had opened his mouth (a lesson on
> looksmanship that Nixon never forgot) American politicians have been
>hitting the hair dye bottle and hiring image consultants. (Sources:
>presumably Newsweek) And what does it exactly mean?
I doubt it's in dictionaries. My suspicion is that was a nonce word (it
doesn't show up on Nexis, which started cataloguing well after the
Kennedy-Nixon campaign, so it doesn't seem to have stuck). As the
quotation suggests, it refers to the use of the physical component of
"image" politics--control over one's appearance on TV as a key element in
winning minds and influencing elections. The story is that radio listeners
thought that Nixon had "won" the debate with Kennedy (I believe it was the
one that dealt with the all-important issue of the fate of Quemoy and Matsu
[spelling approximate]), but that television viewers were convinced Kennedy
thrashed him, all because Nixon had the wrong make-up, seemed to be
sweating, had his usual 5:00 shadow, etc., while Kennedy--the
"novice"--appeared cool and relaxed. The term "looksmanship" itself would
have been an analogous formation based on the then-popular "brinksmanship",
dealing with U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War years.
Or so I'd guess.