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Karen Heller | So much political piffle, so much time to go

A number of years ago, I was assigned a magazine story, possibly for the cover, on a rising United States senator. He had the right credentials and appeared to be going places.

A number of years ago, I was assigned a magazine story, possibly for the cover, on a rising United States senator. He had the right credentials and appeared to be going places.

Sen. John Kerry turned me down. The magazine was GQ, and Kerry, his staffers told me at the time, was worried about appearing frivolous.

What a difference a decade, a proliferation of video outlets, a YouTube debate, and a ramping up of the absurdity quotient in politics make.

"The hair, up close, is peppered with tiny strands of blond. Chestnut brown and so finely trimmed, mellifluous [Hair? Mellifluous?], smooth, and feathery, it could almost be a weave, the Platonic ideal as imagined by the Hair Club for Men," a magazine article slobbers over its current cover model, posed with golden retriever, pickup truck and barn jacket in an earth tone women are supposed to love so well.

"Along with the piercing blue eyes, slashing V-shaped smile, and a shimmering burgundy shirt tucked into stonewashed Levis resting low on the hips, the hair completes the man: John Edwards, a populist Adonis, a golden god of a Southern Democrat."

The writer, incidentally, is a man. The publication is Men's Vogue, the magazine for men who think GQ is too butch. Barack Obama served as last fall's love object. This was long before Obama Girl's cheerleading erupted on the Internet. That's all politics needs, Hooters girls.

Somehow, I don't think Ron Paul is a future cover model. But if Chuck Hagel gets in the race - no one asked, but I think he's the GOP's best chance - watch out. The man, to paraphrase Men's Vogue gush, is a Cornhusker hunk, a silver fox of Midwestern conservatism.

News abhors a vacuum. It will seize on stupid, if facts fail. The perpetual presidential campaign is so much noise and imagery, a slow death by constant vivisection, the sort of nonstop, onanistic analysis, like a Warhol movie or mindless video Weblog, that makes C-Span sizzling by comparison.

Which, of course, was the source of so much recent frenzy when Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan took to critiquing Hillary Clinton's décolletage on the channel that almost no one watches except reporters trolling for "news." Clinton was charged with showing skin. "To display cleavage in a setting that does not involve cocktails and hors d'oeuvres is a provocation," Givhan adjured before an avalanche of angry e-mails reached her office.

Frankly, I don't see much cleavage. Clothes matter, but only so much, especially when they scream for attention, as Clinton's don't. She dresses appropriately, which means her attire never distracts from her more serious purpose. The same holds true of Condoleezza Rice and Laura Bush, practitioners of a quiet, professional style. The only folly is when there's too much time and space and the void needs to be filled with blather.

And here's the thing about John Edwards' hair: It's very nice - not mellifluous as Men's Vogue claims, but nice. An intelligent person might be more interested in Edwards' plans for the poor, which are comprehensive. I don't care if he spends $400 on his hair, as long as it's his money and he has it, which he does. Frankly, I spend $60 on my haircuts. Then again, I'm not a former trial lawyer.

"If the election was tomorrow," pollsters and pundits constantly ask. Well, it isn't. It's impossible to know who will win because the two candidates, or three, aren't apparent, nor are the circumstances on Election Day.

Super Tuesday, or "Super Duper Tuesday" as they're calling it in keeping with the cheerleader leitmotif, is Feb. 5, when as many as 20 states may cast ballots and hold caucuses.

By the calendar on the wall, that's 188 days from now, give or take a few hours. Cleavage? Haircuts? Internet bimbos? As they say in show business, you ain't seen nothing yet.