Obama's eye-candy comment leaves sour aftertaste

  • Pin It
Dear Barry:

Ordinarily, I'd address you as Mr. Obama or Mr. President, in deference to your office. But we need to have us a guy-to-guy chat here, so I hope you'll excuse the familiarity, because I just have to ask:

Barry, brotherman, bubbeleh, what the heck were you thinking? Did you really call California Attorney General Kamala Harris, "by far the best-looking attorney general in the country" last week at a Democratic fundraiser in the Bay Area? You weren't, like, nursing a cold and snockered on Robitussin or something? You didn't lose a bet with Joe Biden? You actually said that, of your own free will?

Dude. Wow.

Yes, MSNBC helpfully reminds us that you've also complimented men on their looks, dubbing Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the entire Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team "good-looking guys."

Want to know how much that helps you here? What's the smallest measurable fraction this side of zero?

A man, particularly a powerful man, cannot always speak of or to a woman, as he would one of the fellas. This is what you forgot and what the folks who keep saying it was "just a compliment" don't quite get.

Is that a double standard? Yes. You darn betcha. A certain columnist who happens to be my mother's oldest son has, in years past, identified this as something he calls the Goliath Principle, after Wilt Chamberlain's famous observation that "nobody roots for Goliath."

The Principle holds that, wherever there is an imbalance of power -- white vs. black, boss vs. employee, big guy vs. small, man vs. woman -- a double standard is an automatic and inevitable byproduct. As nobody roots for Goliath, so are those with more power always constrained in the things our unwritten societal rules allow them to say or do to those who have less. The maid who snaps at her boss is cheeky; the boss who snaps at her maid is overbearing. The small man who hits the big one is brave (or suicidal). The big man who hits the small one is a bully.

And the woman who compliments her male boss's looks might be a kiss up or a flirt, but the male boss who does the reverse is a letch or a creep or, at the very least, the embodiment of sexism that imprisons a woman's entirety behind miscellaneous physical attributes given by God and enhanced by Max Factor. But a woman is more than her looks.

This is a truth we heterosexual men tend to stumble on. Years ago, a woman colleague asked me about famous women I found attractive. Stupidly, I began to reel off a list. It included Marina Sirtis, whom I called "an extraordinary woman."

My colleague flexed an eyebrow and asked what made her "extraordinary." And I was majorly busted, man, because I knew next to nothing about the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" star -- certainly nothing that would make her "extraordinary" -- except that she's gorgeous and becomes more so when she wears her "Counselor Troi" contact lenses, the ones that turn her eyes into dark, liquid pools of compassion and you gaze into them and feel yourself falling in and know there is nothing you wouldn't tell her, no secret you wouldn't ... um ... wouldn't...

What were we talking about again?

Oh yeah. Women and their looks and the fact that the smart man avoids discussion of same. Especially if he presides over a Cabinet whose gender diversity is comparable to that of the club that meets in Bart Simpson's treehouse.

Nor is political embarrassment your only worry. The same day you praised Harris' looks, the first lady had a faux pas of her own. She called herself a "single mother." I'm thinking it was no accident.

So, Barry, guy to guy, I leave you with this: Citiflowers is a florist near the White House. They're open till 6 and take all major credit cards.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

  • Pin It

Editorial Poll


THE EDITORIAL BOARD


Andy Green, the opinion editor, has taken the "know a little bit about everything" approach in his time at The Sun. He was the city/state editor before coming to the editorial board, and prior to that he covered the State House and Baltimore County government.

Tricia Bishop, the deputy editorial page editor, was a reporter in the business and metro sections covering biotechnology, education and city and federal courts prior to joining the board.

Peter Jensen, former State House reporter and features writer, takes the lead on state government, transportation issues and the environment; he is the board's resident funny man and capital schmooze.

Glenn McNatt, who returned to editorial writing after serving as the newspaper's art critic, keeps an eye on the arts, culture, politics and the law for the editorial board.

Ray Rice [suspension]

Was the 2-game suspension without pay lodged against Ravens running back Ray Rice for violating the National Football League's personal-conduct policy by allegedly striking his then fiancee (now wife) too lenient?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not sure

PHOTO GALLERIES