Essay: The Gravitas Factor

The 1988 campaign proceeds in a dreamy weightlessness. Multiple images of multiple candidates float through the night air -- the bright auditorium, the shiny "hopefuls." The audience almost unconsciously makes a ritual calculation. They do not judge the men on the issues, really, so much as on the unarticulated question of gravitas. Which of the candidates has the weight, the size, the something, to become President?

Gravitas is a mystery, just as the presidency itself is something of a mystery. Gravitas is a secret of character and grasp and experience, a force in the eye, the voice, the bearing. Sometimes --...

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