In the wake of [Abraham Lincoln]'s assassination, things got out of hand. Martyrdom of the Whiskered One emboldened such fuzzy-faced extremists as War Secretary Edwin Stanton, who nearly engineered the ouster of Vice President Andrew Johnson as Lincoln's successor. Johnson's clean cheeks had helped balance the 1864 ticket, and his sympathy for strop and razor brought down the wrath of the newly empowered Hispiditionists.
Harry Truman's stunning 1948 defeat of Thomas Dewey has been attributed by more than one analyst to the Republican nominee's resemblance to film idol Clark Gable. Which is typical: We're perfectly willing to be entertained by the well-whiskered-but God forbid they should ever govern. Indeed, the last candidate to brave so little as a 5 o'clock shadow, Richard Nixon, was shaved to pieces by a popular press that was unabashedly tonsorial.