Haught: “Isn’t Basic Black Still in Style?”

By Robert L. Haught
Haughtline Dweethly magazine
Robert Haught

Robert Haught

Some outrageous insinuations are being made about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan by a nationally syndicated columnist with a reputation for smearing reputations of public figures.

   Kagan has been the target of some harsh political attacks since President Obama selected the former U.S. Solicitor General to succeed the retiring justice John Paul Stevens, but none quite so vicious as the scathing commentary of Robin Givhan of the Washington Post. It is difficult to imagine that one woman would say what she did about another woman. 

   Givhan’s column of May 23 began with a comparatively mild rebuke — that “in matters of style, she is unabashedly conservative.” But she was just getting warmed up. 

   After some snide broad-brush putdowns of justices Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor, she wrote this about Kagan: “She put on rouge and lipstick for the formal White House announcement of her nomination, but mostly she embraced dowdy as a mark of brainpower.” 



   Her pen figuratively dripping with contempt, Givhan described the clothing and accessories Kagan wore as she made her debut as Obama’s latest pick for the high court. “Her style was tidy and conservative but with a generous sprinkling of frumpiness …” A cutline for a photo accompanying the article used the word “frumpy.” 



   Then she landed a potentially damaging body blow in commenting on Kagan’s body language. One could almost imagine Givhan shuddering as she reported on the nominee’s meetings with senators, saying that “she didn’t bother maintaining an image of poised perfection. She sat hunched over. She sat with her legs ajar.” 

Legs ajar!


   Givhan couldn’t let this perceived character flaw go. She must have pounded her keyboard like a demon possessed as she continued: 

   “… she doesn’t appear to ever cross her legs.”
   “Kagan keeps both feet planted firmly on the ground.”
   “She does not cross her legs at the ankles either, the way so many older women do.” 

   Older women!


   Kagan is 50. Givhan sneered, “Her style, however, makes her seem so much older.” 

   If it weren’t for the fact that the Washington Post is generally supportive of Democratic administrations, Givhan’s insults might be dismissed. After all when former President George W. Bush, a Republican, named John Roberts chief justice, she wrote a poisonous piece ridiculing the way his two young children were dressed. 

   I got a taste of her brand of vitriol when she spoke at the 2007 conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists in Philadelphia. 

   Perhaps the Senate will ignore Givhan’s ravings. If a Supreme Court nominee has the qualifications, experience and judicial temperament to sit on the bench, why should race, color, religion or sense of fashion really matter?  

   Under those long black robes, the men could wear Speedos and the women polka dot bloomers and nobody would know the difference.

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