UPDATE: Obama Apologizes...
When Barack Obama and Lisa Madigan were state senators, they sat together near the back of the chamber, in what was known as Liberal Row. The row also included Sen. Carol Ronen, D-Chicago, and Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan. As her seatmate, Obama had plenty of opportunities to get a good look at Madigan. And yet here’s what he said Thursday about California Attorney General Kamala Harris, from an official White House transcript:
You have to be careful to, first of all, say she is brilliant and she is dedicated and she is tough, and she is exactly what you'd want in anybody who is administering the law, and making sure that everybody is getting a fair shake. She also happens to be by far the best-looking attorney general in the country — Kamala Harris is here. (Applause.) It's true. Come on. (Laughter.) And she is a great friend and has just been a great supporter for many, many years.
Ouch. Harris is better looking “by far” than Madigan? Maybe our attorney general could have done without the compliment, though. When she first came to Springfield, as a 32-year-old, one leering colleague complimented her figure in a floor speech. And Salon called Obama
“sexist (and stupid)” for praising Harris’s looks. He would never have called Pat Quinn the nation’s handsomest governor, even if that were true.
Obama himself, however, knows that appearance matters in politics. He’s used his good looks, height and deep voice to his advantage. One of his assistants on Project Vote!, his 1992 voter registration drive, said that women volunteers worked especially hard because they wanted to be close to the handsome young organizer. (Although he also said Obama never used his sex appeal for anything beyond politics.) And an aide to Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign said suburban women loved the candidate because “they could have him in the bed without having him in the bed.” Also, don’t forget his pin-up pose on the cover of Men’s Vogue
. But, as Obama noted, you have to be careful about saying these things out loud. You might offend the person you’re praising. And the people you leave out.