In defense of Barack Obama’s Kamala Harris ‘best looking’ remark

OPINION - President Obama was at a fundraiser. He was comfortable among friends. I am choosing to believe the best in the president of the United States of America...

I have never labeled myself as a feminist, but I wholeheartedly support the parity of the sexes particularly as it relates to justice, and fairness.

The values listed are those shared very clearly by President Barack Obama—as evidenced by his words and more importantly, his actions.

Let’s start with the very first piece of legislation ever signed into law by the 44th president—the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

He went on to establish the White House Council on Women and Girls.  Most recently, the president signed a re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

And remember, the president’s two appointments to the Supreme Court of the United States were also women.

 A president uniquely influenced by women

The president was inspired to ensure parity in the health care system because of the challenges his mother faced with ovarian cancer.

The president lovingly called his wife the “closer” during the 2008 campaign because of the critical role she played and now, as first lady, she continues to address some of the most important policy issues of our time.  The president has openly stated that his daughters have everything to do with his evolution on gay marriage.

The president has a cabinet full (not just binders, but actual appointments) of women and one of his closest advisors is Valerie Jarrett, among many other key White House personnel.

Needless to say, the president is influenced by women personally, professionally and politically.

Take another look at what Obama really said

I thought it critical to clarify the president’s record before addressing his comments related to Kamala Harris, the first African-American, Asian-American, and female Attorney General in the state of California.  She also happens to be a great friend of the president’s and served as a campaign co-chair for Obama for America.  Here’s what President Obama said about his friend (read this like one of your friends is saying this about you):

Second of all, 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.  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.

But before that he said…

First of all, though, I want to give a special acknowledgement to John and Marcia for the incredible job they’ve done and their great hospitality.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  And I must say that if you had a cute baby competition, their granddaughter would have to be an entry.  (Laughter.) 

And then…

First of all, somebody who works tirelessly on behalf of California every day, but also works on behalf of working people and makes sure that we’ve got a more inclusive America — a good friend of mine, somebody who you guys should be very proud of, Congressman Mike Honda is here.  Where is Mike?  (Applause.)  He is around here somewhere.  There he is.  Yes, I mean, he’s not like a real tall guy, but he’s a great guy.  (Laughter.)

Is there a problem with this? Because President Obama said this on the same day, same event, and same speech:

And I look around the room — young people — (laughter) — kind of vaguely know, yes, Jackie Robinson — (laughter) — first African-American baseball player.  His widow was there, Rachel Robinson, who’s gorgeous and 90, but looks better than I do — (laughter) — and could not be more gracious.

Or how about this? Also, same day, same event, and same speech:

That’s why we do what we do.  That’s why I do what I do — for Malia and Sasha, and all the Malias and Sashas out there, I want to make sure we’re doing right by them.

Let’s drop the sexist talk

President Obama was at a fundraiser. He was comfortable among friends. I am choosing to believe the best of the president of the United States of America.

The same president who has championed women’s rights by signing bills into law to protect us, issuing executive orders to strengthen us, and appointing women like you and me to make a difference has a record that screams the exact opposite of sexism.

Oh…and did I mention at the fundraiser the night before the president articulated how critical it was to him to have Nancy Pelosi return as Speaker (not to mention he called her grandkids gorgeous)?

She, too, like Harris is a brilliant woman.  Let’s drop this sexist talk about the president and get back to the real issues.

Angela Rye is a Principal at IMPACT Strategies (@StrategicIMPACT) and is an attorney and political strategist who is a co-Founder of IMPACT (@TeamIMPACT). She most recently served as the Executive Director/General Counsel for the Congressional Black Caucus. She has been featured on MSNBC, TV One, BET, C-Span as well as in The Root 100, MSNBC’s “BLTWY Power List: 35 Under 35 Who Changed DC”, the Washington Post’s “Who Runs Gov”, and recognized as one of DC’s Most Influential, among others. Follow her on Twitter: @angela_rye