You can complain about President Barack Obama's insurance law, drone use, chilly demeanor, unwillingness to ever pick underdogs in his NCAA tournament brackets or a host of other possible flaws.
None of that, however, has ever bothered The Morning File nearly as much as what he did in California last week. Speaking at a fundraising lunch, he set off a firestorm with the following comments about that state's attorney general, Kamala Harris:
"She's brilliant and she's dedicated, she's tough. ... She also happens to be, by far, the best-looking attorney general."
I know, I know -- outrageous! You never saw Abraham Lincoln or Rutherford B. Hayes flying around the country in Air Force One handing out such inappropriate praise. Because here's what they would have considered first, other than the fact they didn't know what an airplane was:
Pennsylvania has an attorney general who's also rather hot, and there's a big risk that you just insulted her, if she cares about that sort of thing. I know that I, as a Pennsylvanian proud of my top lawyer, am offended the president doesn't put Kathleen Kane anywhere in Ms. Harris' league.
This point of view will no doubt disappoint our feminist readers, who were looking for us to join in the condemnation of Mr. Obama as a sexist pig. His comments concerning a female office-holder's looks, instead of leaving it at her mental attributes, created a kerfuffle and forced him to quickly backtrack and apologize.
"They are old friends, good friends and he did not want in any way to diminish the attorney general's professional accomplishments and her capabilities," said the president's press secretary/wing man, Jay Carney.
There's no indication that Ms. Harris was offended or that Michelle Obama menaced the president with a frying pan when he got home for calling attention to another woman's good looks. But some women have had to work so hard for equal treatment in their professions, Ms. Harris and Mrs. Obama likely among them, that any comment on their appearance -- whether good or bad -- becomes a no-win proposition.
Some would say that Mr. Obama should keep his mouth shut about such things because he presumably would have said nothing about Ms. Harris' looks if she were unattractive (though since he's a man, after all, maybe he would have been stupid enough to stumble into that quagmire as well.) Certainly, if the pol being mentioned were a man, even a good-looking one like California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (OMG, have you seen the pictures of him?), the president would likely focus on other attributes.
This sensitive issue has not come up much in Pennsylvania because, frankly, we understand there are more important positions for women than our top political offices, such as telling us what our weather will be like the next day or giving us some professional football action during the Steelers' down time. (Hey, how 'bout dem Passion?)
We've never had a female governor or U.S. senator. Only one of our 18 members of Congress is a woman. The proportional representation of females in our state Legislature ranks among the lowest in the country.
And until young, long-haired, fresh-looking Kathleen Kane came along, we had elected as Pennsylvania's top prosecutor nothing but these doughy middle-aged men who would have had a tough time getting Kamala Harris to give them the time of day during social hour at the National Association of Attorneys General annual meeting.
Ms. Kane, one of eight women to hold the position nationally, is in a tough position here. If she answers the president's remarks about her California counterpart with a "Wait, what about me?" retort, she appears a little too defensive and superficial. But by being silent, she misses a big chance to get on the national radar in the same way as Ms. Harris, whom we have to admit we'd never heard of until a few days ago.
This is where it's inexcusable that Gov. Tom Corbett, a former AG himself from the opposite party of everyone else mentioned above, hasn't come to the defense of Ms. Kane and stood up for the state he's supposed to serve as No. 1 cheerleader.
He should be pointing out that even though Ms. Kane has questioned his handling of the Jerry Sandusky investigation and shot down his plan to privatize management of the Pennsylvania Lottery, she ought not to be left out of any conversation about the best-looking attorneys general.
That's unless Mr. Corbett thinks Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, of his own party, is hotter -- which is entirely possible.
Gary Rotstein: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1255. First Published April 8, 2013 4:00 AM