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FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, APRIL 9, 2013
THE SEXIST PRESIDENT
BY BOB FRANKEN
Let’s be honest: For someone whose rhetoric can reach such heights, sometimes, when Barack Obama opens his mouth, he can really step in it. No, I’m not going to specify what “it” is, but he certainly will want to pull his foot out of his mouth real fast.
In case you missed it, POTUS was in a San Francisco suburb at a fundraising event when it came time to acknowledge California Attorney General Kamala Harris. “You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough,” he began, but then Mr. President suddenly slipped into street-corner construction worker mode: “She also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general in the country.” What possessed him to say that? Was he the victim of another “Jedi mind meld,” this time with his vice president, the gaffe-a-minute Joe Biden?
Yes, he called to apologize and trotted out press secretary Jay Carney to say that “he fully recognizes the challenge women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged on appearance.” Wowee zowee, what amazing insight! Harris’ looks, of course, have nothing to do whatsoever with her performance. Nothing. This is not prudishness or political correctness gone wild. The sad truth is that appearance is given inordinate importance. Far too many glide into prominence or prosperity simply because they’re physically attractive. They end up way over their heads and cause real problems for everyone. Conversely, those who are attractive and accomplished often see their capabilities dismissed.
Even worse, way too many qualified people are held back because they don’t meet the narrow standard of sexiness that prevails at any particular point in time. They are deprived of a fair opportunity; we are deprived of their talents. So the president’s description of Attorney General Harris as “best looking” is irrelevant, demeaning and harmful. It was a dumb thing to say.
It’s even dumber than his announcement that he’ll forgo 5 percent of his salary “to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants.” It’s supposed to be a show of support for the federal workers who stand to lose 20 percent of their pay when they’re furloughed because of the sequester. He’s not the only one, of course: Cabinet secretaries and other Washington pooh-bahs are tripping over each other to voluntarily forfeit a bit of their salaries to show solidarity. Never mind that most of them are so independently wealthy they probably weren’t even aware they were compensated for their government work. In addition, their lofty positions come with so many perks that they will live high on the hog anyway. They won’t be struggling to make ends meet or have to take a second job.
In the case of the president, he simply encouraged the inane critics on the right who are already trashing the Obamas for the expensive vacations they take. While it’s totally unfair, the pay cut also might be accompanied by scaling back the leisure activity. Head to beaches nearby, or maybe rent out Camp David when it’s not in use.
If these guys really want to make a sacrifice, maybe they can give up all the political posturing that brought on the sequester. Right now, whatever we pay them, it’s too much. If they’re looking for other ways to cut the budget, maybe they should lop off the jobs given to the image makers who buzz around our high-level officials, always constructing a perception that they’re worthy of their jobs, which is usually a mirage. Surely our leaders can create a way to undo the mindless sequester. Everyone needs to start acting like grown-ups, including the leader of the free world. Let us hope he can restrain himself from making immature, foolish public comments that, under normal circumstances, would get him in trouble with HR.
© 2013 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.