Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Pantsuit Primary & Other Stuff

Pantsuits for Everyone. Last week, I noted the curious fact Leno and Letterman both happened to seize on Hillary's pantsuits on the same night in their opening monologue. A few days later, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd also used the word in writing about Hillary in this column. Have you spotted any other mentions of Hillary's pantsuits? Please send them along if and when you do.

More Interesting Timing. Fast on the heels of the welcome news that Josh Marshall's Talkingpointsmemo site has just landed the Polk Award for investigative journalism, for breaking the story of how the White House corrupted the Justice Department (by piecing together isolated reports from around the country and finding a pattern), we note this CBS 60 Minutes report that explores more corrupt dealings by Karl Rove. He was also the main mastermind of the sackings of the U.S. Attorneys for failing to do Republican bidding. Anyway, congratulations to Josh Marshall and his team, which I've written about often before in this space.

ESPN.com Helps Launch Hoops Legend's Audio Book. Check out Kareem Abdul Jabbar's new interactive story project here.

Finally, last year I noted the 40th anniversary of the iconic photo of Israeli paratroopers pausing in wonder in front of the Western Wall, shortly after their victory in 1967's so-called Six Day war. The other day I noticed this interesting article, which recounts the story behind that photo, taken by a photographer for Time-Life.


At 2:02 PM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

I had yet to notice the "pantsuit" references, but there was something (either in TIME or NEW YORK magazines) that had me wondering the other day about the wardrobe issue for politicians and how it must differ for women in particular. That clothes-make-the-man cliche applies just as much to women in the eyes of voters, doesn't it? Perhaps it applies more to one gender. I don't know. Haven't seen any polls on that. However, it does seem that, since powdered wigs went out of vogue, men in politics have mostly been in suits and conservative neckties (if they live long enough, a tasteful silk scarf seems permissible). Then again, it's not uncommon to see these guys with their shirtsleeves rolled up on the campaign trail. Remember Lamar Alexander's red-and-black plaid shirts?

So what about that? Have the unwritten rules of wardrobe already been set for women in politics? And, if so, what are the rules? Pantsuits only? How do these standards get set anyway? Corporate America? Maybe, but both male and female corporate types seem far more willing to experiment with what's considered "professional" dress. Does Hillary's campaign advise her on wardrobe at all? Do any of the male candidates get advice on clothing from their campaigns? Does Hillary have to consider things that her male counterparts don't, and if so, what?

Have there been pioneers with regard to political wardrobe shifts? Jimmy Carter is the first president I ever recall seeing in a t-shirt and running shorts (and thank God for that cause I couldn't have handled Nixon dressed in shorts ... no, wait, I couldn't handle Nixon in any way, so ... bleh ... gotta get that image out of my head). How about Lamar? Did he make plaid OK? And how about for women? Perhaps Margaret Thatcher was a pioneer there. How about Benazir Bhutto? Does royalty count? Queen Elizabeth II? Princess Grace of Monaco? Queen Noor of Jordan? Princess Diana? Perhaps the rules are different for the quasi-political role of royalty.

It'd be an interesting story. Maybe it's already been done. I don't know. I haven't seen it done yet.

At 2:13 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Boy, you've raised a lot of interesting issues, TJ. I do remember that awful plaid shirt that Alexander wore, and remember thinking: if that's his signature thing, then that's a sorry campaign.

I think you've zeroed in on why I think this whole pantsuit issue is so unfair to female candidates: men have the standard uniform, but women don't. And I interpret the constant pantsuit refrain as an unfortunate reference to the fact that poor Hillary is not so fortunate as to have the problems that Lady Di and Princess Grace had, ladies who would look darn great in anything they happened to be wearing. Women of a certain age don't have quite so much leeway in this culture, at least in the unrelenting glare of a presidential race, where looks and appearance are half the battle.

Finally, you bring up poor Nixon, whose signature sartorial gaffe happened to center around an area not far from you in LA. He was once (or maybe several times for all I know) photographed walking the beach in California in full formal garb, including the best touch: wearing wingtip loafers. That detail always seemed to me to be the essence of the poor fellow's extreme discomfort in his own skin. JFK never wore wingtips on the beach at the family compound in Cape Cod.

At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So did you get to the debates at CSU to size up the wardrobes and issues close up?

At 8:14 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Afraid not. I was around national politics (well, government, to be more precise) more than enough when I lived in D.C. and covered Capitol Hill, and got my fill for a lifetime. Besides, that would have prevented me from something REALLY important, the Cavs hoops game, which begins in just a moment. But I'll no doubt troll the cable news channels later tonight to watch at least a portion of the debate. After about 20 of these things this election cycle (for the Dems alone), I can't say they seem all that interesting anymore. On the other hand, now that it's tightened to a two-person race, the dynamics are different, and more interesting. Hillary will be fighting for her life. We'll see if she does so in a pantsuit.

At 11:53 AM, Blogger TJ Sullivan said...

I saw highlights of the debate and decided Hillary really needs to start wearing armor. Her complaint about always going first in debates came off as childish. That may also have been the first time in the history of presidential politics that a candidate has cited the political commentary of Saturday Night Live to support an argument.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You said it, man. Jesus, was she awful last night, worse than I can ever remember. She may be in near-meltdown over her campaign having hit the wall (after being presumtive nominee forever), and last night it showed. Unfortunately, I think last night we saw the real person, who's far more vulnerable and able to be shaken, than the iron woman exterior she's been showing to the world for a long time, and for understandable reasons. The poor lady has just had the awful bad luck of being sandwiched between two political naturals, though I think Obama has a VERY long way to go before he begins to catch up with Bill C. in the substance and depth of his knowledge. But he's got the packaging and slick surfaces down almost as well. Great point about the Saturday Night Live reference, which merely seemed odd when I saw it, but now that you mention it seems more like mildly bizarre. But it did come off as a prepared sound bit/applause line, and was so canned and contrived that it just plain fell flat.

At 5:04 PM, Blogger Pho said...

Googling "Hillary pantsuit" yields 25,300 hits.

At 5:24 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That made me laugh, Scott. Funny, I meant to do that too, and include the link with that item. Thanks for helping enrich the point. We've come to think of you as our Akron office, and we'll gladly reciprocate.


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