WASHINGTON, DC -- If there is power in beauty, then the leader of the free world is Yulia Tymoshenko, the 49-year-old prime minister of Ukraine with the porcelain features and a halo of luscious golden braids. She's got the body of Barbie and the face of a Hummel figurine, not to mention the responsibility of leading 46 million people and the No. 1 ranking on the Web site HottestHeadsofState.com.
Joe Biden spoke to Tymoshenko on the phone Tuesday from his residence, five months after meeting her in Kiev and proclaiming that Ukraine boasts "the most beautiful women in the world."What did the beauty and the, uh, distinguished-looking gentleman discuss?1. The economic situation in Ukraine. (Not hot. Fugly, in fact.)2. The war in Afghanistan. (Hot, but for the wrong reasons.)No word on whether Biden blushed his way through the call. The vice president wasn't eligible for the ranking, but his boss was. President Obama came in at No. 15, despite the surf-ready torso and numerous magazine covers.Obama landed directly behind the president of the Maldives, who's been swiping headlines throughout the year because he's young, attractive and walks to work, and because his island nation is drowning in the rising waters of the Indian Ocean. Even hotter than high cheekbones and bronze skin is a man wrestling with dire climatological forces."I have no comment on the hotness of the president or any other head of state," says deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton.Comely world leaders can capitalize on their looks to goose their appeal, but they must stop short of seeming sexual, according to Barbara Kellerman, a professor of leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. This might explain Tymoshenko's tightly wound braids, which bind her looks in tradition, or why Obama often looks paternally frumpy outside of work."He has gone out of his way to not seem hot," Kellerman says. "We've been reminded that he's a devoted husband at every turn, and the way he longingly looks into his wife's eyes suggests sexuality but only in terms of his wife. He's been chided for wearing jeans that are baggy. He's trying to be middle-of-the-road."Still, Obama ranks ahead of rival beefcake. Vladimir Putin, that musky Muscovite, comes in at No. 18 and supermodel magnet Nicolas Sarkozy popped up at No. 28.But what of the science behind this ranking? Who were the loony beauty experts who scrutinized the pores of presidents?Turns out Hottest Heads of State was the idea of a temp/musician in New York named Derek Dobson. He came up with the concept after a night of drinking with friends. He, his brother and sister-in-law created the site and ranked the leaders simply because it's never been done before on the Internet, which is littered with the carcasses of a zillion lists. They threw the list onto a blog template and began to post polls and write irreverent entries on the hotness quotient of world leaders. Hilarious comments from around the world have been steadily rolling in for the past five months.One recent commenter simply purred, "Mmmm . . . Jens Stoltenberg," in reference to the somewhat dashing prime minister of Norway, who's No. 2."Some of these people are mass murderers, so it's kind of flippant to be ranking them on their good looks," says Dobson, 28, of the list's more poisonous potentates. "I'm thinking of doing a post on Ahmadinejad [No. 48], but it's hard to write with that ironic flavor when you're talking about a possibly evil man."Do crimes against humanity diminish a man's physical hotness? Can the silky hair of the president of Argentina (Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, No. 5) be compared to the piercing blue eyes of the president of Slovenia (Borut Pahor, No. 21)? The answers aren't the point. The fact that the ranking was viewed more than half a million times is the point.Apparently, it all comes down -- like everything else these days -- to Sarah Palin. She is the first female leader to overtly flaunt her sexuality, according to Kellerman, the Harvard professor. She's a timely case study in the blendering of celebrity and politics, and of statecraft and sexuality. These days, a president or prime minister or even a pope (Benedict XVI is No. 171) can be reduced to their hotness, ranked by the masses, and subjected to the whims of a temping musician who lives in Brooklyn."It's part of a larger cultural shift, with leaders weakening in many ways," says Kellerman, whose recent writing focuses on empowered masses and diluted leadership. "One of the ways they're weakening is we are daring to do to them what we'd do to a movie star or rock star. This ranking would've been considered outrageous not too long ago."Last, and maybe least, at No. 172, right behind the pontiff: Kim Jong-Il, who looks like everybody's grandmother.