Sunday, January 14, 2001

Fashion police

Women in politics targeted

        Linda Chavez got off easy. Blaming “search and destroy” politics, she withdrew Tuesday as President-elect Bush's nominee to be secretary of labor.

        So she won't get to sit around the Cabinet table. But at least she didn't have to twist in the wind for a month like Zoe Baird. At least she was Mr. Bush's first choice. And at least nobody started giving her makeup or diet tips.

        “I now know the household help issues of Christie Todd Whitman, Gale Norton, Linda Chavez, Zoe Baird, Kimba Wood,” Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women, told Fox TV's Paula Zahn.

        “I haven't heard the first word about how John Ashcroft's house gets cleaned or who does his yard work. I don't know anything about Tommy Thompson's household help.”

        After a woman's domestic arrangements are thoroughly explored, the public eye turns relently to her looks.

        “I was really appalled by the way Florida Secretary of State Harris was treated in the media, really horrified — from her makeup to her dress, everything,” Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said. “Now we personalize our attacks to undermine someone's credibility.”

        Well, not always. But most dependably if the person in the public eye is a woman.

        Katherine Harris called it “unnerving.”

        How about unfair? How about irrelevant? How about unkind? Uncivil? Untrue?

        The Washington Post's fashion critic, Robin Givhan, wrote that Ms. “Harris' skin had been plastered and powdered to the texture of prewar walls. She looked as if she were wearing a mask. The American public doesn't like falsehoods, and Harris is clearly presenting herself in a fake manner. Why would anyone trust her?”

        Clinton White House adviser Paul Begala on MSNBC sniped that “anybody who appears in public like she did yesterday, looking like Cruella de Vil coming to steal the puppies, is not very interested in what other people think.”


        Janet Reno is too tall. Donna Shalala is too short. Madeleine Albright is too fat.

        Alan Greenspan and Warren Christopher are not exactly hotties, but when was the last time you heard it discussed on national television? On a news show.

        ABC's Diane Sawyer previewed her PrimeTime interview with Ms. Harris by telling her morning audience, “We're going to talk to her about everything. We're going to talk about makeup, those charges that she's Cruella De Vil. And, of course, some serious questions about the election and her decision.”

        Of course.

        Feisty Secretary of State Albright, when she was still U.N. ambassador said, “If I wear a red suit and reporters say I look like a fat little red ball, that's their problem.”

        But Monica-gate's Linda Tripp and O.J.'s prosecutor Marcia Clark obligingly had make-overs. And Hillary ditched her headband.

        Already the buzzards are circling around Laura Bush. A New York hairdresser told the London Times that she is “begging for a make-over.”

        So, Linda Chavez escaped with attacks on her ideas and her behavior.

        Every woman in public life should be so lucky.

       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


Cities budget less tax growth
Gulf War, 10 years later
Local vets remember a time of pride and worry
Orange ribbon campaign began here
People tell of police actions
Statistics just one aspect of profiling
Project seeks to improve diagnosis of depression
- PULFER: Fashion police
Schools to hear plans for revisions
BRONSON: Cop Island
Q&A with the FBI
Jumping through the hoops
Cincinnati-bred rhino dies
Dream a little dream of spring
A list of events for MLK Day
For first time, all Ky. schools closed for MLK day
Is new DUI law working?
Mason approves tax breaks for wine company
Mayor warns ex-chief
Oral surgeon dies in crash in Ashland; wife injured
CROWLEY: Politics
Practicing icy rescues
Schools postpone tax plans
The new kid on the bloc
Tristate A.M. Report