New York governor Andrew Cuomo paid his ladyfriend's stylist to make him look good for TV. Well, of course — we don't want our politicians looking all shiny on camera.
According to the Times, Cuomo's records from last year's campaign reveal a payment of $1,383.86 to one Alx Galasinao (yes, Alx — the spelling is quite efficient), a stylist who usually works for Cuomo's girlfriend Sandra Lee. He did Cuomo's makeup for campaign commercials and for the October debate. Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto hastens to point out that the candidate wasn't the only one receiving Galasinao's services: "The costs were for styling and makeup services for the entire period of the campaign, including numerous occasions for numerous video shoots and for numerous people."
Sarah Palin famously got flack for her allegedly expensive wardrobe in the 2008 campaign, but the American media does seem to have a special disdain for male vanity. Remember Bill Clinton's $200 haircut, which supposedly caused huge delays at LAX (a claim that turned out to be untrue)? Or John Edwards's $400 version? In both cases, part of the scandal was Democrats spending money on luxury, but there was clearly an element of gender stereotype involved: real men aren't supposed to care about their hair. And yet America wants its men to look good too — Nixon supposedly lost his 1960 TV debate with Kennedy in part because of his crappy makeup.
Certainly nobody likes to see political candidates waste money. But as the Times points out, "In the age of high-definition broadcasting, hiring a stylist to prepare a politician for a campaign advertisement is a common practice." Certainly Cuomo could decide to buck the trend — but we could also, as an electorate, try to pay less attention to what a politician's makeup looks like. In an AdWeek discussion of the famous Nixon debate debacle, Robert Thompson writes,
The media and the public started playing the same games after the first presidential debate that they are still playing today. The press coverage of the debate tended to focus less on what the candidates had said than on how they had appeared on TV.
He adds, "It remains unclear to me how much the physical appearance of a candidate on television really impacts the outcome of an election, but I am certain of one thing: We'll never be able to quit talking about that question, often at the expense of more important things." Maybe if we didn't care so much what candidates looked like, they could spend less money trying to impress us.