For political leaders like Moammar Kadafi, ruling power is really all about The Hat
As not many realize by now, the key to holding enduring political power over a nation on this planet is The Hat.
To survive a long time, leaders must have a wide assortment of power hats and people hats and know exactly which one to wear to make that definitive leaderly statement on a very diverse variety of occasions.
The advance teams for American politicians are instructed to do almost anything to avoid forcing their boss to wear a hat at political events (excluding yarmulkes, of course).
These wily operatives will obediently orchestrate political events at construction sites out into the middle of street intersections to avoid forcing their boss to wear anything as funny-looking as one of those construction hardhats that sit way up on your head as if they're covering some enormous Dallas hairdo.
But they're never going to face an election opponent who'll publish their hat-wearing photo to make them look like a doofus.
Back in the 1988 presidential campaign, Michael Dukakis' staff felt he had to look stronger on things military than voters would normally associate with some wimpy Massachusetts governor. Especially when said governor was running against World War II carrier pilot George H.W. Bush.
But ask Democrat Dukakis now if he regrets grinning while. ...
Worse are those goofy-looking bicycle helmets that some states now require and media photographers cannot resist snapping. The pol can appear to act above-the-law or he/she can look dumb. Tough spot, but that's why they get the big bucks.
Every politician knows those photos will show up out of context on later occasions to make them look silly or worse.
Just ask President Calvin Coolidge if he really wanted to wear that Indian headdress to become an honorary chief.
But overseas, it's different.
Think Queen Elizabeth II, who isn't a political leader. But she does have some grand chapeaus in her closets -- and as a result, look, she's been around in that palace since President Obama's father was one of her young subjects in Kenya.
But the king of leader hats is surely Libya's Moammar Kadafi, even if this news organization is the only one that chooses to spell his name this ridiculous way. No wonder he hasn't paid his subscription bill.
This Libyan ruler may well be disconnected from reality, as the State Department has suggested. Kadafi told TV interviewers the other day that his people, the ones taking over city after city from Kadafi forces, absolutely adore him, just love him.
However, although Kadafi never managed to rise above the rank of colonel, even as he ran the entire country, he has hung on for 42 very long years.
Thanks obviously to his diverse collection of hats.
There are military hats, designed to create an imposing figure despite the lousy haircut.
And tribal hats (note the nice Michael Jackson white-glove touch).
Jauntily angled blue caps to accompany matching blue robes.
Visiting Chechnya a few years ago, Kadafi donned a fur hat with those floppy earflaps.
When Kadafi chatted up Obama in 2009, the Libyan opted for a power red brocade cap and matching robe to dominate the hatless new American leader's pale blue tie.
The desert ruler apparently liked the fur cap so much, the uber-colonel wore it again the other day for his I'm-never-gonna-give-you-up harangue to an unruly crowd from safely atop a Tripoli parapet. Don't make me come down there, people.
-- Andrew Malcolm
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Photos: from the top, Reuters; Associated Press (Coolidge, Dukakis, colonel hat, fur hat, chic sheik get-up); Desmond Boylan / Reuters (jaunty blue cap); Reuters (Kadafi and Obama); Associated Press (Obama in reversed White Sox cap); Associated Press (Obama safely rides a bicycle in Chicago).