Appearances Matter -- At Least for Female Nominees

Wonkette conducted a poll to determine whom Harriet Miers looks like. The winner? Strangers With Candy's Jerri Blank.

Apparently the write-in favorite was Emperor Palaptine.

The Palpatine resemblance is a bit unnerving, but I'd probably have to go with Florence Henderson -- it's uncanny. And O.K., the smile does have a sort of The Joker thing going on. But I'll leave it entirely to scathing fashion critic Robin Givhan to critique the eye makeup. All that said, it figures that we'd immediately judge the woman candidate on her appearance, while discussion of Roberts's looks pretty much ended with "clean cut." (Robin Givhan's assessment, focusing more on Roberts's children, is something of an exception.)

Note that Wonkette isn't the only blog writing about Miers's looks ....

*On the Detroit News Web site, blogger Bonnie Bucqueroux says the black eyeliner "makes her look like a raccoon in heat."

*A reader of commented that Miers is "a fashion train wreck."

*The Swanshadow blog equates facility with makeup application with the ability to comprehend complex legal arguments. (Excuse me? Justice Scalia has bushy eyebrows, but the fact that he's not a master with tweezers doesn't mean he's not qualified to be on the Supreme Court.)

*Even my old Debate buddy Julian Sanchez jumped on the bandwagon with what he admits is a "cheap visual joke." (Note to Julian: Of course I know you didn't mean anything by it. But how about balancing it out with a cheap visual joke about Roberts?)

Really, I have no problem with the physical appearance of public figures being noticed or even ridiculed, and if I did have a problem with it, I still wouldn't expect it to stop. It's just awfully tiresome that these superficial judgments are applied to female politicians (and journalists, ahem) so much more frequently than to their male counterparts.

I say if Wonkette and others are going to offer up the female Supreme Court nominee for criticism based solely on her looks, in the interest of equal opportunity, we should do the same for the man who preceded her in the process:

The new Chief reminds me of Darren #1 from "Bewitched" or (if I'm in a charitable mood) a slightly askew version of Christopher Reeve circa "Rear Window" ... or perhaps Liev Schreiber. The few comparisons I've seen have noted Roberts's resemblance to a robot, to Gumby, and to both Larry Hagman and Bill Daily from I Dream of Jeannie. I believe Wonkette at one point mentioned he looks like Pat Sajak.

We'll defer judgment on Roberts's sense of fashion, but feel compelled to point out that he has a long way to go before he measures up to his predecessor who, after all, designed his own judicial robes.

Any likenesses I've missed? Cast your vote for one of the above-mentioned look-alikes, or another of your own choosing, in the comments section below.

Found an opinion you think I should highlight in an upcoming post? E-mail me at

By Emily Messner |  October 6, 2005; 3:05 PM ET  | Category:  Misc.
Previous: This Week's Debate: The Harriet Miers Nomination | Next: Harriet Miers: The Recusal Question


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Yes, yes, but how about the fact that Judith Miller is actually Frasier's evil agent, Bebe Glazer?

Posted by: KCinDC | October 6, 2005 03:34 PM

I'm convinced that the reason we tend to focus on women's looks, all of us and not just men, is because we tend to see our mommies first and most frequently when we are learning how to see. And we want to see a strong, healthy, approachable mommy, so there we go.

Will we ever grow up?

Posted by: Devorah | October 6, 2005 03:36 PM

Bill Pullman cast in the remake of a 50s sitcom.

Posted by: MJF | October 6, 2005 03:41 PM

Damn...Miers DOES look like Emperor Palpatine!

I'd point out that females aren't the only people who get comments on their looks. For example, the whole "Is Kerry on Botox" news cycle during the 2004 election. (I'm SURE that can't have been the most important story that the press could have chosen to focus on.) There was also the "Is Bush dying his gray hair?" storyline.

All people in the public spotlight get their looks commented on at some point. Ross Perot had his ears. Bill Clinton was rightly called a tubby bastard at times. Tom DeLay has the whole "Is he or is he not a vampire?" thing going for him. (You have to admit, he DOES sort of LOOK like a vampire.)

So I guess in summary I'd disagree that only females get these sorts of discussions about them.

Oh, and I still think from that picture of you that YOU'RE pretty hot Emily. The whole glasses with a sweet smile thing you have going definitely fits you. ;)

Posted by: Jimbo | October 6, 2005 03:47 PM

I think it's worth noting that people *did* make comments about Roberts, even if just to note the Stepford Wives look of perfection.

Considering she doesn't have much substantive background to discuss other than the Texas lottery commission (please!) and being a lapdog for big corp. interests like Microsoft and Disney it isn't all that surprising that people focus on, well, what they can focus on. And it didn't help that the 2003 photo they put out made her look like a large French poodle than a "pit-bull in size 6 shoes".

Let's face it, that along with the statement that Mr. Bush is the most brilliant man she ever met, and I'm guessing it all adds up to some pretty poor "judgement".

Posted by: bob | October 6, 2005 03:58 PM

I'd reserve such commentary for Annie "Oakley-but-I-have-no-six-iron" Coulter (who's a man in drag). :D

If folks start criticizing Mier for her looks, they just need to look at Ginsberg some more (even Reno was a hotter pick!).


They're scholars of high, dry and brain numbing treatises of Law, not beauty queens from Law and Order! Crap, this is as entertaining as wondering how Bush would look in biker's shorts.


[But point taken, Emily, on how folks judge a woman by her beauty first, instead of her intellectual abilities. A clear double standard between the genders]


Posted by: SandyK | October 6, 2005 03:59 PM

while i will hold my tongue when it comes to the appearance of ms. miers

i am saddened that because we have no real information in which to actually debate because of her lack of judicial experience and the republican's already pushing to keep her white house documents private, that the topic of discussion has shifted to her looks. while there may have been some discussion about roberts looks it would have never reached the level it might with miers because men have never had to worry about their societal value coming from their facial features, where as women have been for so long judged and graded by their looks and continue to be so judged even in this day and age.

its a sad state of affairs for society as well as another questionable nomination from bush.

Posted by: kelly | October 6, 2005 04:17 PM

I told a friend a month or two ago I thought Roberts looked like a sleazy robot - if that's possible.

Posted by: Thom | October 6, 2005 04:47 PM

I'd just like to point out that Wonkette, among others, spent quite a lot of time focussed on JR's looks, and if you look back at past presidential campaigns (remember Al Gore's suits?) the guy's dress and grooming is always an issue. So, this is a non-issue created to give the debate something to do on a rainy Thursday. Go figure.

Posted by: Necromancer | October 6, 2005 05:05 PM

after reading a few other comments, I must agree, Emily *is* hot.

Posted by: Necromancer | October 6, 2005 05:07 PM

Good grief. If we can survive all those years of pictures of Madeleine Albright
ascending the stairs to her plance, then we can handle Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court (which is just a collection of apple head dolls anyway). Maybe age hasn't been kind (and I expect I'll look like hell when I'm 60), but Ms. Miers looked pretty good in her youth from what I've seen.

Posted by: Don | October 6, 2005 06:20 PM

I thought Roberts had an uncanny resemblance to Tom Hanks. No one else ever mentioned it, but I still see it. Especially when he does that closed lips smile.

Posted by: debaser | October 6, 2005 07:40 PM

I couldn't figure out why I instinctively disliked John Roberts until he stood up for his swearing-in on the Senate floor- the man looks like Frank Burns from MASH. Nothing like a Chief Justice that could borrow the nickname "ferret-face."

Posted by: potato | October 6, 2005 08:01 PM

Now we know the real reason Dubya wants her on the court. If any of the other justices get out of line, she can let loose with the lightning. Or maybe she'll sic Vader on 'em.

Posted by: | October 6, 2005 08:02 PM

I couldn't figure out why I instinctively disliked John Roberts until he stood up for his swearing-in on the Senate floor- the man looks like Frank Burns from MASH. Nothing like a Chief Justice that could borrow the nickname "ferret-face."

Posted by: potato | October 6, 2005 08:14 PM

Jerri Blank isn't an actress, she's a character played by Amy Sedaris.

Posted by: stranger with candy | October 6, 2005 08:15 PM

I think what we're seeing here is that a lot of people had personal reservations abotu John Roberts looks, but no one was comfortable sharing them publically. Obviously, the contrast with the free and open criticism of Ms. Miers makes one thing clear: we long to shallowly critique nominees of all genders. When will this country learn that we can marginalize men based on superficial judgments just as well as we can women?

Personally, I think Roberts looks like one of those minor characters from the old Star Trek. One of the ones in the red shirts. Y'know, that gets eaten by a monster or turned into a statue or something?

P.S. Emily is way hot. Do you think she'd be interested in a lifetime appointment?

P.P.S. Sorry this reasonable, intelligent (despite me) blog is not getting as much attention as the hackery over at The Fix. Emily should accuse someone of "popping off."

Posted by: basbas | October 6, 2005 09:05 PM

Roberts looks like the evil terminator in "Terminator II."

When I saw the family photo, I felt as though I had stumbled through a time warp into 1960. What a wicked thing to do to your children. They will have the dubious opportunity to view themselves as Kennedy wanna be children for the rest of their lives. And yes, I do have to wonder about a man who has the means and the inclination to convey his view of perfection to the public, even to the point of using his children as props. The sense of privilege is almost nauseating. I am supposed to believe, based upon the accolades of other men of privilege, that this performance is that of a humble man?

Posted by: MDB | October 6, 2005 11:20 PM

who cares?

Posted by: hips like cinderella | October 6, 2005 11:41 PM

Of course, we could all angle and spin this into a discussion about how if Miers had had any public career or achievements owrth mentioning, there might actually be something other than her looks to talk about. Legislation she drafted, controversial cases or rulings... but that would just be too low, wouldn't it?

Posted by: K, tUC | October 7, 2005 02:06 AM

Nice, I totally was thinking Evil Terminator as well, until I thought of Pullman. But generic-Star-Trek-character-about-to-be-offed isn't bad either.

Posted by: MJF | October 7, 2005 01:57 PM

Have Judge Judy and Harriet Miers ever been seen together???

Posted by: uhururon | October 7, 2005 02:13 PM

The problem with Miers's appearance (and the thing people are commenting on most) is her dated, unflattering, gawdawful makeup. It's the equivalent of a male nominee sporting an obvious comb-over: a style choice that makes one look ridiculous. If she lost the racoon eyes, there wouldn't be much to talk about.

Posted by: Debaser | October 7, 2005 02:21 PM

Necromancer wrote:
after reading a few other comments, I must agree, Emily *is* hot.

I just like to know where is her stash of the Fountain of Youth. If she remembers the "All in the Family" sitcom as it aired in the 70's she has to be close or over 40 now. Her pic shows her looking like she just graduated from college at 22!


Posted by: SandyK | October 8, 2005 01:30 AM

Chief Justice Roberts looks like Frank "Ferret-face" Burns from M*A*S*H. Something I find highly amusing.

Posted by: CapeCodner | October 9, 2005 05:50 PM

When John Roberts was nominated, I thought, "Here is a real life Ken of the Ken and Barby Dolls." The Senate hearings did nothing to change that reaction.
With Ms. Miers my immediate response to her appearance was that she looked like someone with a life-threatening ailment-given her facial expression, the lines and pained eyes. She looks to me like Hubert Humphrey in drag during his last days.
Is it appropriate to question a Court nominee on their physical health?

Posted by: PAnline1 | October 13, 2005 04:02 PM

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