There is no escaping attacks on physical appearance in today's world. It's the one prejudice that is still tolerated in our politically correct society. It also has less to do with character and intelligence than any other factor. Many of our problems can be traced back to a preference for looks and charisma rather than insight and principle.

Pick your poison.

There is no escaping attacks on physical appearance in today's world. It's the one prejudice that is still tolerated in our politically correct society.

It also has less to do with character and intelligence than any other factor. Many of our problems can be traced back to a preference for looks and charisma rather than insight and principle.

Garrison Keillor said it best: "Beauty isn't worth thinking about; what's important is your mind. You don't want a fifty-dollar haircut on a fifty-cent head."

Are you too skinny, too fat, or just too unattractive? That will siphon away your political credibility thanks to a media machine anxious to pounce on anyone who doesn't fit the ideal.

On Monday's Drudge Report, the lead headline was "Barack and Bones."

One of the few paragraphs actually produced by the staff of the Drudge Report - not merely linked to the work of real reporters - claimed that Obama emerged from a gym at Fort McNair "as thin as a rail."

Working out, playing basketball and skipping a few meals were noted as reasons for the president's svelte physique. There was an implication that he was "chain smoking," which was denied by one person quoted only as "an insider." If you can't trust an unnamed insider, who can you trust?

Obama defended himself last week in Miami: "Just because I'm skinny, doesn't mean I'm not tough."

Apparently those on the portly end of the political playground also feel the need to show they are tough.

The New Jersey gubernatorial race has been sullied by incumbent John Corzine's less than subtle attacks on his opponent Chris Christie's less than athletic physique.

In one commercial about Christie getting away with traffic offenses, Corzine's campaign accused Christie of  "throwing his weight around" with a slow motion segment of Christie getting out of an SUV.

Other commercials have featured Corzine jogging in 5K races. Of course, Corzine and the campaign are shocked that anyone would think they would sink to such levels.

Christie has grown tired of the innuendo. He is ready for Corzine to bring his fat jokes out from behind the veil.

"If you're going to do it, at least man up and say I'm fat," Christie said in an interview. "Afterwards [Gov. Corzine] wusses out and says, 'Oh no, no, I didn't mean that, I don't know what you're talking about.' Man up - if you say I'm fat let's go, let's talk about it."

In a state with soaring taxes and unemployment, who would have ever thought they would find time to debate the body mass indices.

What about Hillary Clinton? If she looked like Cameron Diaz, would her message have made a bigger impact on voters? I have heard some really attractive people say some pretty stupid things and not get challenged for it.

If Sarah Palin looked like Rosie O'Donnell instead of Tina Fey, would anyone care about her views on health care or how many guns she owned?

Everyone wants to look good. Companies promising to help people lose weight or improve their looks in another way make billions of dollars each year.

But on matters as important as who will lead the country in tough economic times, can't we go more than skin deep?

Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta Gazette in Augusta, Kan. Contact him at publisher@augustagazette.com.