Shrill for the Women’s Vote: Ann Romney and Hilary Rosen Go to War

BUZZFEED: This is what a Twitter firestorm looks like.

WASHINGTON – The graphic above is from Buzzfeed, a favorite daily stop of mine. It says a lot, especially how Hilary Rosen’s comment turned Ann Romney into the Romney campaign’s reluctant heroine at a time when the candidate himself is sucking wind on women. That the cultural collision ignited by Rosen brought back a favorite Republican talking point, to which I’ve never related, about feminists and liberals paved the way for the trend shown above.

Hilary Rosen stepped out on a ledge this week and discovered she was all alone.

My Twitter feed was on fire after an appearance last night on CNN’s AC360, where I said that I thought it was wrong for Mitt Romney to be using his wife as his guide to women’s economic struggles when she “had never worked a day in her life.” – Hilary Rosen

It was seen at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as a May Day alert, Obama reelect jumping into damage control by sending in their strongest weapon First Lady Michelle Obama.

It moved Ann D. Romney to join Twitter and respond for the first time.

I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.

I chose not to have children, not because of the hard work, but because of the type of hard work children require. So, I’m not going to doubt Ann Romney. I’ve seen it in friends and in my own family. Motherhood is a full time job.

Rosen also used her CNN talking head perch to declare there was no war on women, simply because the bluntness makes Obama reelect nervous. This is your Democratic Party, always parsing.

Partisanship doesn’t help women, but neither Ann Romney nor Hilary Rosen care. They’re out for their side, which is why women still don’t have full employment equality and are on their own, because it’s all about political parties and not you. Both Rosen and Romney miss the larger issue.

It’s about what women need today in the 21st century, which revolves around reality that goes well beyond Ann Romney and Hilary Rosen’s 20th century partisan talking points.

From The Shriver Report, back in 2009:

As women move into the labor force, their earnings are increasingly important to families and women more and more become the major breadwinner—even though women continue to be paid 23 cents less than men for every dollar earned in our economy. Nearly 4 in 10 mothers (39.3 percent) are primary breadwinners, bringing home the majority of the family’s earnings, and nearly two-thirds (62.8 percent) are breadwinners or co-breadwinners, bringing home at least a quarter of the family’s earnings. What’s more, women are now much more likely to head families on their own.

Does Ann Romney know what this statistic means to women? More importantly, does her husband, which is the whole argument for 2012?

Hilary Rosen chose to serve up Ann Romney instead of her husband, which set the trap she walked into herself. It was an amateur partisan mistake that has in the short term resounded to Romney’s benefit.

I could care less as long as women come out on top. But we all know you won’t. Not in this food fight.

This is not the fight Obama reelect wants to have, because Mrs. Romney has framed it beautifully for the ideologues, using the age old argument of stay at home mom working for her family vs. working mom outside the home trying to make ends meet.

“Women are not only the CFO in the household, but they’re the chief purchasing officer.” – Lisa Caputo, former aide to Hillary Clinton

When my dad died, my mother had to figure out how to make a living with an ambitious 11 year-old daughter with gigantic dreams. But first she had to find the checkbook, because she’d never seen it before. She went to work at a retail outlet called Famous Barr for an hourly wage. The only raises she would ever receive were a nickle every few months. We’d celebrate every time, but we couldn’t have made it without the help of my siblings.

Does Ann Romney know what it’s like to not be paid the same as a man doing the same job? Does she know the struggles of women like my mom? Does she know the struggle of a single mom? Not in practical terms, though Ann Romney is absolutely capable of feeling a working mother’s pain and struggle, because she’s wealthy and knows the daunting task of motherhood, so she certainly can appreciate a mother with no help has it worse.

This is a no brainer, unless you want to play ideological one-upsmanship that pits stay at home moms vs. working moms vs. single moms vs. gay moms vs. BLAH-BLAH-BLAH-BLAH-BLAH.

Just stick a laced sock in it, ladies.

If this is what women are going to do with this debate, get the hook and book the men.

Both David Axelrod and Jim Messina chimed in via Twitter, Messina saying Rosen should apologize. (She eventually did.)

“I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly. Her comments were wrong and family should be off limits. She should apologize,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in a tweet.

Top Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod also tweeted his disapproval: “Also Disappointed in Hilary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney. They were inappropriate and offensive.”

This is how a turn-around can begin.

The White House went into damage control and eventually Pres. Obama spoke on record, too, that’s how bad they deem the potential damage.

Romney’s website said that women account for 92.3 percent of jobs lost under Obama. … There is a small amount of truth to the claim, but it ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False. – Politifact

Mitt Romney’s problem with women makes Ann Romney’s role more important, the need to have her up front critical to his candidacy. The sacrifice to her health and longevity for over-extending will be an issue she and Mitt Romney struggle with throughout the 2012 campaign. It’s another job she’s taken on for which she’ll only get grief.


Taylor Marsh is the author of The Hillary Effect, which is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, where it was 1 of only 4 books in their NOOK Featured Authors Selection launch. Marsh is a veteran political analyst and commentator. She has written for The Hill, U.S. News & World Report, Zocalo Public Square, among others, and has been profiled in the Washington Post, The New Republic, and seen on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English and Al Jazeera Arabic, as well as on radio across the dial and on satellite, including the BBC. Marsh lives in the Washington, D.C. area. This column is cross posted from her new media blog.

25 Comments

  1. So they are throwing Rosen to the lions. How apt.

    What see here is as TM says, a food fight.
    Now that Romney is the candidate, in most eyes, the long knives are out. When we had a Dem candidate race in 2008, there were equal opportunity for gaffes on both sides. This time all the Dems needed to do was shut upm and let the Rep candidates stick their feet in there mouths. Party over, and now we will get gaffes from both sides, hopefully more substantive than this nonsense.

  2. Where does this fit in, “better not stay at home, department”: Figures show that women aged between 22 and 29 in employment are now earning more on average per hour than men of the same age.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/n.....64675.html

  3. They should throw Rosen to the lions. Never ever ever ever go after a candidates family. There is no place for it and Rosen should be ashamed.

    This is one of those things that I think separates extremists from the rest of us. Your average American is upset when politicians go after family members of the opposition…extremists think they are fair game.

  4. Heya dduck. Rosen didn’t protect herself very well on this one. She should know that no one would have her back. Because the can of worms on the feminist vs. stay at home mom she opened, one of the right’s favorite attack points, however non-existent, is a subject no one wants to re-litigate.

    ShannonLeee says:
    April 13, 2012 at 10:42 am

    I obviously think Rosen was wrong, as I write in the column above.

    But you’re absolutely wrong about Ann Romney being beyond *fair* critique, though team Romney is clearly hoping people will buy what you’re suggesting.

    Mrs. Romney is being made the chief economic surrogate to women for Mitt Romney. She’s out on the trail making political statements on policy as well. Her assertions are not above challenge.

    There is a way to take on Ann Romney’s arguments that can work, though Rosen didn’t do it.

    You can’t have it both ways and it’s not extreme to make Ann Romney accountable for what she’s saying on behalf of her husband, because he’s been found not able to make the case to women himself.

  5. What’s missing from this highly intellectual debate are the “worked for a day or two” ladies. What about Jackie, did she whisper advice about the price of copper futures? We will never know, how a hard-working (more than two days) mother like Laura Bush influenced the first TARP. Roslyn probably told Jimmy when to sell peanuts.

  6. It was a stupid comment. Yes, Romney did put his wife in play by saying what he said, just like Clinton put Hillary in play when he said we’d be electing two presidents. But Rosen’s comments about a stay at home mother “never working a day in her life” were just stupid. That is a dismissive and disrepectful thing you say about someone when you are judging them. She should have said that Ann Romney is a stay at home mother, married, and quite wealthy. An admirable situation but not necessarily representative of those who are having trouble with insurance, contraception, and money. Basically those directly involved in the outcome of several political battles currently going on.

  7. As previously mentioned, Ann Romney is fair game because she and the Romney campaign are putting her out there. Rosen’s comments were not particularly smart, but there was enough truth to them to understand where they were coming from. Dr. Estes has addressed this quite well in a couple of her recent posts. Ann Romney was born into privilege and has always benefited from privilege. She has never wanted for anything, never had to struggle to keep a job and raise kids at that same time, never had to worry about paying bills while keeping food on the table and a roof over the head, never had to worry about how to clothe her kids, ferry them around, has always had easy access to domestic help. She has always had the best medical care for herself and for her family, has never had to worry about where to find health insurance money or wonder about whether or not they would cough up the coverage. Therein lies the huge difference between Ann Romney and the vast majority of women out there. Her ability to function as any sort of spokesperson for women certainly isn’t based on the commonality of experience that informs a good basis for advocacy of womens rights and needs. This spat between Rosen and Romney is almost over. I suppose it gave the political right something to lunge at, the tempest will soon pass.

  8. While I agree that Rosen had a right to say what she said,and I understand her point, it was a stupid thing to say–especially in an election year. She is well aware that the Democrats are counting on the advantage they hold in women voters and that Romney et al would seize on her comment and blow it out of proportion in order to try to eliminate that advantage.

    Obama had no choice but to disown the comment- or it would be said that he looked down on stay-at-home moms and didn’t think raising kids qualified as real work. Rosen is not working for his campaign, but that is not stopping the GOP from claiming that she IS-even though it is pretty obvious that her paycheck is written by CNN

  9. Since when is calling a spade a spade the utter sin of American politics, and lying like rabid weasel to be congratulated?

    This is topsy-turvy land, indeed, and I’ll have none of it. Let the buffalo chips fall where they may. Hilary Rosen spoke the literal truth, and the Rovian serpents of the Romney campaign exploited the slightest bit of confusion over “work” and “work” dropping the entire notion of compensated labor outside the home.

    Or perhaps Mrs. Two Cadillacs would like to show us her W-2 from Mittbot Enterprises for clone rearing?

  10. Hey here is a clue, the Romneys were not born rich and they were not rich when they had their first kid. As I mentioned before and people just ignore because it doesn’t fit their narrative the Romney’s had their first kid when they were undergrads at BYU and living in a $75 basement apartment. 15 years later Mitt started to hit it big. Sure I doubt they ever went hungry but is that required? Sounds like it was a pretty stereotypical story, which has gotten more and more rare, but it’s not like they lived in mansions with servants and nannies.

  11. Unless you count the Governors mansion in Michigan. Mitt Romney came from a family most Americans would call rich and powerful.

  12. Unless you count the Governors mansion in Michigan. Mitt Romney came from a family most Americans would call rich and powerful.

    Romney’s father was 50′s rich and indeed was politically connected. In 10 ears working for AMC he made 3 million, alot of money but never stinking rich. Some are trying to pretend he grew up Rockefeller rich and that continued when he left home. It didn’t. Their family was mainstream and made mainstream choices. 15 years later they started to get “rich” and yes they have more than enough money that know they can live totally isolated from the “mainstream”. I don’t know that they do but they surely could. Heck what about the dog story that everyone was bashing Mitt over. Not touching the issue with the dog but does that really sound like a family that was stinking rich and out of touch with the middle class?

  13. Whatsa matter with that Mitt, doesn’t he know politicians are supposed to make their money IN office (check the freezer space)and after giving speeches, writing books, etc. Going in with money before, makes you an elitist 1%er and probably a secret Satanist.

    Oh, Mitt, they should have warned you about class warfare (I know it doesn’t exist) then you could have read more Mike Hammer and less Great Gatsby.

    Never mention Cadillacs (say you have a ’59 Chevy repatriated from Cuba) and god forbid a polo or dressage pony. Lose the French words, speak of how hard it was in that basement apartment and how big the rats were.
    Forget what your tutors told you and drop your gs on the campaign trail (the rubes love it). Acquiring a taste for beer will help when you role up your sleeves and have a meet with those reporters. Most importantly, get some political advisers from Chicago, cause you are in the dirt now.

  14. Since when is calling a spade a spade the utter sin of American politics, and lying like rabid weasel to be congratulated?

    “This is topsy-turvy land, indeed, and I’ll have none of it. Let the buffalo chips fall where they may. Hilary Rosen spoke the literal truth, and the Rovian serpents of the Romney campaign exploited the slightest bit of confusion over “work” and “work” dropping the entire notion of compensated labor outside the home.” – Hart

    Bingo.

  15. Imagine an edit to quote everything but “Bingo” – which was the extent of my contribution. (sincere as it was)

  16. you call 3M not rich? We live in different worlds of perception

  17. Mitt’s dad was Governor, Mitt was hardly poor, in fact came from a wealthy family. Our neck of the woods: saw it with own eyes. You say he paid $75 a month rent when in college? the same year, we could barely afford a dive at $30 a month… $75 in not 2012 numbers is pretty posh, and depending on how BYU ‘made arrangements’ for a governor’s son and wife. Mitt was raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, THE rich people’s suburb, THE RICH people’s special place including country clubs that did not admit certain others. I dont begrudge people their hard earned money, but there’s no way Mitt can play poor-pants, not as a kid, not as an adult, not in his now being 65 years old. He seems honest about his privileged background, tho some of his supporters seem not to be. They do not help him by muddying the waters. Just my .02

  18. you call 3M not rich? We live in different worlds of perception

    What that in 10 years of being chief exec of an american auto company he made 3 mill? I would say that’s 50′s rich and not Rockefeller rich. Mind you in that same time the stock for AMC went from under $20 to $120 and in bad years his father even gave back some of his salary. So no while I think Mitts family was well off I also believe that they were never “rich” as some on here are trying to portray.

  19. I dont begrudge people their hard earned money, but there’s no way Mitt can play poor-pants, not as a kid, not as an adult, not in his now being 65 years old. He seems honest about his privileged background, tho some of his supporters seem not to be. They do not help him by muddying the waters. Just my .02

    I’m not trying to pretend Mitt was poor, but the fantasy world that has his family always having servants and mansions just isn’t a fact. $75 a lot? well I don’t know. In 68 my dad was finishing his masters at UofA and was paying $125 for a small house. He was going to school on the GI bill and was married to my homemaker mother after having my oldest sister. My point being not that Mitt was ever poor, but that his life was not out of the mainstream until years later. Look at what I wrote

    Their family was mainstream

    does that really sound like a family that was stinking rich

    alot of money but never stinking rich

    Sure I doubt they ever went hungry but is that required? Sounds like it was a pretty stereotypical story, which has gotten more and more rare, but it’s not like they lived in mansions with servants and nannies.

    Nowhere do I see that I was trying to claim poverty for Mitt and his family, rather that they were, well, mainstream

  20. EEllis, as I said I was there. My father was one of theGovernor’s tailors. We used the back door entrance only, and the help let us in. I know you see it differently. They werent mainstream. They were incredibly rich compared to most others. Understand the auto industry execs lived like kings, and they had literally millions of workers who did not. Just for starters in terms of no parity possible.

  21. WOW you mean the Gov mansion has actual people that work there? What door would you expect to go in? It’s the State owned Gov mansion not a private house? Please don’t take this the wrong way but yes outside of being the Gov he wasn’t that rich. Now compared to someone who is poor the difference can appear astronomical but there are numbers and facts regardless of what you remember. I really don’t want to get snippy but when we currently talk about rich, that wasn’t it and that money doesn’t automatically go to the kids. Sure being the Gov gets you the big house with lots of people working there,but it doesn’t make you rich, the people are there even if you are broke. Mitt and his wife lived a middle class life until he struck it rich. Upper middle class but middle class.

  22. All of which is beyond the point. It seems to me that Rosen was saying that since Ann didn’t work outside the home she isn’t competent to comment on what real women have to go thru. Ignoring the fact that many women do make the choice to stay home, that still seems like a questionable statement. It wasn’t Ann’s to rich it was that Ann did’t work.

  23. EEllis you are correct. Rosen was not saying Ann Romney is so rich she’s out of touch, she was saying Ann Romney never worked a day in her life and therefore was unqualified to speak on women’s issues. Ironically the comment itself was elitist, a trait Rosen apparently feels Ann Romney possesses.

    Rosen has apologized and most Democratic political types seem to want this to go away. It looks like there are plenty of liberals at the grassroots level that want to keep this going though. I can’t see it as a winning strategy after Rosen poisoned the well.

  24. Rich, very rich, filthy rich. That’s rich, we are quibbling about a little money and privilege and the authority to speak or not speak on a subject depending on the degree of richness, perceived or real, by others. Good thing Ghandi was broke or no one would have listened to him.

    How about the intelligence of the wife, nah, that don’t count.

    Message to Mitt: Don’t try to be funny.

  25. We’ve had rich candidates before but there is something about Mitt’s personality or background that does not allow him to transcend his wealth and connect with ordinary people. He’s a technocrat and I’m sure he has talent in that area. But he doesn’t have the ability of the natural pols whose charisma allows them to mix with all kinds of people.

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