Respecting the Office: Obama Honors the Constitution, Not a Dress Code

One respects the Oval Office by honoring the president's place in a constitutional system, not by wearing a suit.
Last week, Andrew Card, the former Bush White House chief of staff, began complaining publicly about President Barack Obama failing to always wear a jacket in the Oval Office. It wasn't just a passing remark; Card can't seem to stop talking about this.

At least one prominent former Bush official has the following message for President Obama: I don't care if it's warm enough to grow orchids in the Oval Office. Put your suit jacket on.

In an interview scheduled to run Wednesday night, Andrew H. Card Jr. told the syndicated news show "Inside Edition" that "there should be a dress code of respect" in the White House and that he wished Obama "would wear a suit coat and tie." [...]

"The Oval Office symbolizes the Constitution, the hopes and dreams, and I'm going to say democracy. And when you have a dress code in the Supreme Court and a dress code on the floor of the Senate, floor of the House, I think it's appropriate to have an expectation that there will be a dress code that respects the office of the president."

Mr. Card went on to add that, while he would not criticize Mr. Obama for his appearance, "I do expect him to send the message that people who are going to be in the Oval Office should treat the office with the respect that it has earned over history."

Let's unpack this a bit. The truth is, this president is not overly concerned about the formality of one's clothing. Obama was photographed at his desk wearing a shirt and tie, and some of the political establishment gasped because he was seen sans jacket. In the Oval Office, suits are common on weekdays, but the president issued an informal edict for "business casual" on weekends. That, apparently, means slacks and a buttoned-down shirt. This, Card believes, is insufficiently "respectful."

Steve Benen is "blogger in chief" of the popular Washington Monthly online blog, Political Animal. His background includes publishing the Carpetbagger Report and writing for a variety of publications, including Talking Points Memo, the American Prospect, the Huffington Post and the Guardian. He has also appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation," MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," Air America Radio's "Sam Seder Show" and XM Radio's "POTUS '08."
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