Opinion: Did Barack Obama re-open ‘sweetiegate’ in Unity?


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Among the concerns some of Hillary Clinton female backers have with Barack Obama is the perception that he can slide into misogynist comments at the blink of an eye. And as we mentioned in an earlier post today, he made an odd, unplanned comment about women and heels during his Unity moment of rapprochement with Clinton. (The Swamp looks at Obama and John McCain on women’s rights.)

This is from the transcript of the appearance: ‘[B]ecause of the campaign that Hillary Clinton waged, my daughters and all of your daughters will forever know that there is no barrier to who they are and what they can be in the United States of America. They can take for granted that women can do anything that the boys can do (cheers begin) -- and do it better, and do it in heels. I still (Obama laughs) -- I still don’t know how she does it in heels.’


Clinton laughed with him, but for a guy with some pretty good political instincts -- or who has at least hired people with good political instincts -- it was an odd verbal cul de sac to turn into. Remember, Obama caught some serious flak a few weeks back by dismissing a Michigan television reporter with a ‘sweetie.’ And he was criticized during a debate performance for another off-the-cuff comment about Clinton being ‘likable enough.’ Now he falls into the faux-joke of expressing amazement that a woman can outperform a man despite wearing heels.

That’s not likely to go very far in mending fences with women already suspicious of him.

UPDATE: Tommy Vietor, Obama spokesman, says via e-mail that although Obama didn’t cite Ann Richards, that was the genesis of his comment: ‘Sen. Obama was referencing Ann Richards’ famous quote: ‘Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.’ Certainly Gov. Richards didn’t mean [to] make that comment, as you described, as a ‘faux-joke of expressing amazement that a woman can outperform a man despite wearing heels,’ and it’s disappointing that you’d draw that cynical conclusion.’

Fair enough. But Vietor -- like many posters below -- missed the point of the blog item. For a candidate with past troubles with off-the-cuff comments on gender, it struck us as an odd comment. Some took offense; many did not (read the comments for a rather scathing discussion). Remember, this is a political blog, where we write about the political implications of campaign events and appearances.

-- Scott Martelle