Clothes and the Man

I suppose there has been a dumber Washington Post article, but offhand I can't think of one.

The Senate is considering John Bolton's fitness for office, an issue that has implications for our policy towards North Korea in the past and present, and the world in the future, and the Post Style section runs a critique of the man's hair, mustache and shirt?!?

Bolton's Hair: No Brush With Greatness. John Bolton, President Bush's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, desperately needs a haircut. It does not have to be a $600 Sally Hershberger cut. Bolton simply needs the basics. Tidy the curling, unruly locks at the nape of his neck, tame the volume at the crown, reel in the wings flapping above his ears, and broker a compromise between his sand-colored mop and his snow-colored mustache.

He needs to do this, not because he should be minding the recommendations of men's fashion magazines or grooming experts but because when he settled in before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week to answer questions about his record, his philosophy and his intentions at the U.N., he looked as though he did not even have enough respect for the proceedings to bother combing his hair — or, for that matter, straightening his tie, or wearing a shirt that did not put his neck in a chokehold. Bolton was one wrinkled suit away from being an insolent mess.

Bolton sat before the committee with his tie askew. Not slightly crooked or just a hint off-center but looking like it had been knotted in the dark. The tie itself was an uninspired dark red with bright yellow stripes. It was looped tightly under the button-down collar of his pale-blue shirt — a shirt that encircled his neck in a menacing way.

A Hollywood costumer could not have ordered a more perfectly stern Washington insider. Bolton embraces with a flourish all of the cliches that afflict so many men in Washington. During this testimony, his hand was constantly reaching up to adjust his no-frills glasses. His attire was not merely bland but careless. His hair was so poorly cut, it bordered on rude. Bolton might well argue that appearance has nothing to do with capabilities. But it certainly can be a measure of one's respect for the job.

It was always the case that DC was a bastion of lousy dressing. Power was your job, not your clothes. Clothes was a New York thing. (And in Miami it's too hot during the day for power clothes (or in some cases any clothes); I gather that dressing up is primarily a post-midnight phenomenon.)

Apparently, modern life in the Sultan's court that is 21st century Washington DC is one in which the clothes make the man.

(Of course, living as I do so far outside the beltway, I may be missing some catty subtext based on personal relationships. This may just be an ordinary case of kicking someone when they are down. But that doesn't mean the Post had to print it.)

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4 Responses to Clothes and the Man

  1. On The Importance of Biting Satire

    So Michael Froomkin is upset about Robin Givhan’s biting commentary on John Bolton – Bolton’s Hair: No Brush With Greatness.

    Fair enough, the clothes don’t make the man; everyone knows that. There is almost a sense of disdain that the Style section of the Post will deign to weigh in on political matters instead of the Ivory Tower of law professors. And the reasoned discourse of Froomkin and various others is vital part of my daily reading. Indeed the ruminations of these sedate, professorial types are the first things that Bloglines presents to me when I fire up my conversational browser engine.

    But here, I think he understates the importance of satire in social commentary. Saying “The Emperor has no clothes” as this piece almost literally does is a very valuable thing in human affairs. And Bolton is far from being down and out. It is only a truism to say is that his appointment and imposition by a Party and administration that controls the 3 branches of the US government is a very literal slap in the face of the UN as an institution and that amorphous mass we call “The International Community”.

    Unlike say handing Robert MacNamara the job at the World Bank, this, and Paul Wolfowitz’s recent ascension to that same institution (I should be careful since some of my relatives are now under his thumb), are cases in point about the mindset of these very serious neocons. This is in line with all the appointments of this current administration. I’ll only mention Gale Norton at Interior and the various memos, tweaks of rules and regulations written in backrooms by churchgoing wonky policy types that Froomkin daily decries.



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