Low Blow, Scott

Nick Baumann reports on the Massachusetts Senate race:

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) doesn't think anyone should have to see Elizabeth Warren naked. At Tuesday night's primary debate, Warren, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to challenge Brown, used a question about how she paid for tuition to take a jab at the freshman Senator. "I kept my clothes on," Warren said, referring to Brown's famed nude Cosmopolitan spread. 

Brown could have brushed off the attack, but instead, he decided on the worst possible course of action. According to Boston journalist Joe Battenfield, Brown said "Thank God," in response to Warren's jab.

A Warren campaign spokesman declined to comment, but to state the obvious: By saying "Thank God," Brown was implying that Warren is ugly. Brown's comment might seem hilarious to your average bro, but elections aren't won by bros alone. Attacking your female opponent for her looks won't necessarily play well with women voters, and Brown can't afford to lose much more ground than he already has: several polls have already shown Warren within striking distance of the incumbent.

I think that's about right. To the extent it hurts anyone, it will hurt Brown more than Warren.

With that said, I don't know how angry a Warren-supporter can be about this. Implying that someone isn't physically attractive is not very nice, and given that looks, in this society, don't mean the same thing for men as for women, borderline sexist. But the best you can say about implying that someone garnered their success by taking their top off is that it's "less mean."

It's true, as Baumann says, that Brown could have brushed off the attack, and decency should have compelled him to do that. But it's also true that he was responding to an indecent attack. The two aren't equal, but both should have gone unsaid.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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