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Obama calls Kamala Harris 'best-looking:' Accurate, but sexist?

April 04, 2013|By Robin Abcarian
  • California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris
California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris (Justin Sullivan / Getty…)

Let’s just get it out on the table:

California, quite simply, has freakishly good-looking elected officials. Between the stunning Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and the gorgeous Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, this, as they say, is the objective truth.

I’d like to think that’s what President Obama was getting at today when, according to a transcript provided by the White House, he referred to Harris’ good looks when he introduced her at an Atherton fundraiser at the home of philanthropist John Goldman, a Levi Strauss heir, and his wife Marcia:

“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,” said Obama. “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.”

Does merely stating the obvious make the president sexist? More wolfish than sexist, I’d say. And this may be a little problem he needs to work on.

As Arlette Saenz of ABC News pointed out, Obama got into some hot water a while back when he addressed a reporter as “sweetie.” That was obnoxious, and demeaning, and Obama rightfully apologized. In 2008, he told Hillary Clinton she was “likeable enough” during one of the primary debates, which turned off God knows how many women, who heard the smug judgment of an arrogant upstart. 

But still.

Let’s not pretend that physical beauty is not a bonus in politics, particularly for women, who then walk a fine line between wanting to be found attractive and not wanting to be judged on looks.

The Obamas have benefited immensely from their cool beauty. Likewise, the Romneys benefited from their classic good looks. The rewards of beauty, we all know, can be plentiful, especially when combined with superior brains and ambition.

I’ve always said, if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who is frankly gorgeous, had looked like Margaret Thatcher, no one would have given a rip what she had to say, let alone put her on a presidential ticket.

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Twitter: @robinabcarian

Email: robin.abcarian@latimes.com

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