Regarding Ruth Marcus’s April 8 op-ed column, “The president’s political malpractice”:

One day I held a door open for a woman. She accused me of being sexist. “I’m perfectly able to open a door myself,” she snapped. Thinking that I had been taught a lesson in current female attitudes, the next time I saw a woman approaching a door, I didn’t make a move. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you manners?” she growled.

I can sympathize with President Obama. I thought he handled the situation nicely by praising California Attorney General Kamala Harris for her terrific professional accomplishments and then paying her a personal compliment. Why do women spend so much time on their appearance if they don’t want anyone to notice? It’s a mystery to me.

It’s tough being a man in this age of political correctness. You can’t win for losing.

Paul S. Forbes, Silver Spring

As we carefully tread through the tyranny of political correctness and learn from our mistakes, I suggest we look to three criteria in evaluating comments such as the one made by the president:

1. Is the description complimentary in the same spirit as praise regarding a person’s intelligence, work ethic or educational achievement would be?

2. Was the comment made without intent to change the behavior of the subject?

3. Is the person making the comment doing this in a suggestive way because of aposition of power?

I agree with Ruth Marcus that the president made an error in judgment because of his unique position and not due to a more prurient intent. Negotiating the proper place for compliments and other social lubricants in the 21st century workplace is not a trivial pursuit. As long as these criteria are not violated in the everyday workplace, a healthy balance can be struck. If one is violated in the speaker’s intent, then it may be sexual harassment. 

F. Andrew Boyd, Arlington

How does one apologize to a woman for saying that she is good-looking? Does one say, “I didn’t mean what I said, and I’m sorry I said it”? This should make the victim feel better immediately.

Jesse Etelson, Rockville