Tuesday’s primaries were something of a hullabaloo, I suppose. The media narrative began with the establishment losing again, even though incumbents won virtually all of the races. It then evolved into a storyline of victory for women candidates when producers and anchors realized that five or six names had come out of the day favorably.
My favorite headline of the vote is definitely “Mama Grizzlies Roar,” in reference to many of Sarah Palin’s anointed picks advancing their chances of holding office. (She has an 8-3 record this midterm cycle: did someone say playoffs?) To be sure, this year’s crop of Republican women is raising eyebrows.
Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina won her primary fight, earning the right to face off against Democrat Barbara Boxer for the latter’s California Senate seat. Fiorina actually went on-air this week to apologize to Sean Hannity for calling him a “tough interviewer.” Since when is that an insult? If it is, Tim Russert (rest his soul) would have been accepting mea culpa calls on a daily basis.
Oh, but that’s just goofy ticky-tack stuff. Not like the horrific scathe, the brutal laceration Fiorina cut Boxer with Friday into an unexpected open mic. Did you hear? Carly said Barbara has a dated haircut!
Ragging on her hair? That’s red meat right there, Carly! You should expect at least a 6-point bump out of this in the next LA Times/USC poll. If there is one thing the voters of the Golden State despise, it’s a subpar ‘do. (By the way I think it’s pretty safe to say they both have less than striking follicular arrangements. Joe Biden has better hair, and that, my friends, is saying something.)
It’s also pretty weird, not to mention insensitive, to take potshots at a rival’s hair when you yourself are still growing it out after chemotherapy from breast cancer, as Fiorina is.
This story grew legs… of course. It’s sort of amazing how The New York Times can expose Iranian shipping shell corporations and put out a serious article positing “Oh no, you di’int!” in the same week. To be fair, the article does try to keep this in perspective by saying, “Ms. Fiorina’s comments were, all told, really no more incendiary than a bit of warm pasta salad.” But, then a long, overwrought analysis gets going. (And for the record, I’ll have you know, I’ve had some controversial pasta salad before: those kalamata olives came out of nowhere.)
At its base, this Fiorina dust-up is lame for two reasons. Right as we are about to have what appears to be the “highest-profile contest between two female candidates in the history of American politics,” we are forced to spend time on this pathetic catty stereotype.
Yes, there are differing mores surrounding women and men, both in daily life and political life. There’s no debate there, and if there is I’m not biting off more than I can chew with that one today. Perhaps it’s the particulars of the issue in this case. They make it so nauseatingly banal and contrived and small that you don’t want to think about it, but are forced to. If a female politician had called another fat, that would have been a big deal. And yet, a Jon Corzine attack ad’s intentional (or subconscious) jab at his opponent Chris Christie’s weight ended up working against the incumbent governor, who eventually lost the race to the portly Christie. Just as in the world of men’s politics, appearance, mannerisms, and style matter or at least hold some currency, but to have this be the opening scuttlebutt hurts the high expectations I expect both ladies believe the state deserves in this debate.
Secondly, gender aside, these shenanigans bring a now common occurrence to the fore. Can we once and for all settle this recurring situation with an a much-needed political rule: if you’re a politican and you’re in front of a microphone at any point, don’t say anything you don’t want repeated. Assume the mic is hot or at least ask “Is this thing on?” From now defunct British PM Gordon Brown to a California State Assemblymen’s sexual preferences, I hope we can agree assuming the mic is on should be the default position of any officeholder or seeker.