I’ve been avoiding this topic just because the arc of the debate is so predictable. First comes the outrage from the left, eager to help Warren get a sympathy bump in the polls by casting her as the victim of sneering frat boy Scott Brown. Then comes the pushback from the right, intent on recovering any inch of lost ground by reminding the left that she took the first shot in sneering at Brown’s appearance years ago in Cosmo. Then the left has a fainting spell at the idea that the right would defend this horrible, horrible woman-hater, and then the right tells them to suck it up and learn to take a joke because politics ain’t beanbag. And so here we are.

INTERVIEWER: Have you officially responded to Elizabeth Warren’s comment about how she didn’t take her clothes off?

SCOTT BROWN: [LAUGHTER] Thank God.

INTERVIEWER: [LAUGHTER] That’s what I said! I said, “Look, can you blame a good-looking guy for wanting to, you know…”

SCOTT BROWN: You know what, listen: Bottom line is, you know, I didn’t go to Harvard. You know, I went to the school of hard knocks. And I did whatever I had to do to pay for school. And for people who know me, and know what I’ve been through, mom and dad married and divorced four times each. You know, some real challenges growing up. You know, whatever. You know, let them throw stones. I did what I had to do. But not for having that opportunity, I never would have been able to pay for school, and never would have gone to school, and I wouldn’t probably be talking to you. So, whatever.

Follow the link up top for reaction from the Massachusetts Democratic Party, which is exactly what you’d expect it to be, replete with the surreal assertion that Brown’s voted “in lockstep with Tea Party Republicans.” (Try telling that to tea partiers.) I think Philip Klein’s right when he says, “If a leading Democrat said something similar about a prominent Republican female, conservatives would be decrying the comment as sexist.” It’s not sexist in the abstract — how many “Chris Christie’s so fat that…” goofs have we endured over the past two weeks? — but because women are judged on their looks more than men are, a cutting comment like this can draw serious political blood. (It can draw blood from Brown too; note Klein’s point about likeability and electability.) I doubt he’ll repeat it, especially since it was said spontaneously in self-defense, but he deserves the wrist slap for a cheap shot. Let’s be careful out there.