Sunday, April 15, 2012

Message Obscured

On Wednesday, Democratic Strategist and DNC adviser Hilary Rosen set off an uproar with a comment about Mitt Romney's wife Anne. In an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, talking about the GOP's recent issues with women voters, Rosen was quoted as saying, "Guess what, his wife has actually never worked a day in her life.” This prompted Anne Romney herself to dive onto Twitter to respond, “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work." This was followed by the automatic and predictable avalanche of tweets, comments and press releases, with conservatives using the gaff to claim Democrats don't respect Mothers and liberals falling all over each other in an attempt to distance themselves from Rosen.

There is no doubt that the sentence, taken in isolation, came off as insulting to stay at home moms, but let's just pause for a moment and take a deep, cleansing breath. Before we pile on, perhaps it would be prudent to review the entire relevant section of that interview. Rosen was speaking about Mitt Romney and what she sees as his disconnect with women:

"What you have is, Mitt Romney running around the country saying, “Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues. And when I listen to my wife, that’s what I’m hearing."

Guess what: his wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kind of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future."

There are still some questionable wording choices, but taken in context I think her point comes across clearly. This is very much a case of the message being obscured by the wording. Yes, it came off as rather insulting, but the substance was entirely valid. Rosen was speaking in direct response to some of Romney's recent comments, such as this: "My wife has the occasion, as you know, to campaign on her own and also with me, and she reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy." Ruth Marcus, at the Washington Post put it well in an online article on Tuesday when she commented on this quote, "Note to candidate: Women aren’t a foreign country. You don’t need an interpreter to talk to them. Even if you’re not fluent in their language, they might appreciate if you gave it a try." Rosen was obviously following a similar path with her comments. The problem was that she was sloppy in how she put it and should have been more careful in choosing her words. After all, she does this for a living. But we shouldn't let that obscure the valid argument that she was making. And, make no mistake, it is valid.

Now I have nothing but respect for any parent, not to mention one who raises five kids, but this hardly makes her the avatar for the America woman!  It's not easy to forget that while Anne may have had to deal with a lot of the same parenting issues as average Americans, that was about the only thing she has in common with them.  In March, during a Fox News interview, Anne said, “We can be poor in spirit, and I don’t even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing, it can be here today and gone tomorrow.” In fact it is "an interesting thing" since Mitt Romney's net worth is estimated to be in the $200 million range. That's wealthy by anyone's yard stick! To put that kind of number into some context, Romney makes more in a day than the average American makes all year. This isn't to say that being rich, even this level of rich, is wrong or something to be ashamed of, but both Romneys should at least be aware how much distance this puts between them and at least 99.5% of American voters. Romney's comments, making his wife his prime source on women's issues, just seems to show once again how removed from everyone else’s reality this family is.

Look, the Romneys are very wealthy and there is nothing wrong with that. But Mitt Romney is running for President of the entire United States, not just the top tier. And while nobody should expect him to have first hand experience with living paycheck to paycheck, we should expect him to make an effort to pay some attention. Yet just about every time he opens his mouth, out comes another line that illustrates a man who seemingly has no awareness of what most of the country is actually going through. Comments holding Anne Romney up as his window into the souls of women is more of the same. It shows once again a complete disconnect from the life most American's live. Rosen's error was in how she phrased it, but her underlying sentiment was dead on.  Anne Romney is about as in touch with the concerns of a single Mom in Arkansas as Mitt Romney is with an unemployed construction worker in Baton Rouge. And what's worse, they don't really seem to care.

1 comment:

  1. i am a democrat through and through. i am not a mother, but as a woman and a democrat, i found Rosen's comment simply ridiculous and on its own, very insulting. my goodness, she is in the strategy business. she knows that things are going to extricated from context and she should have been a lot wiser about how she phrased her sentiment. no, none of us can be 100% verbally self monitoring but it is her business.

    all the being said, i agree with you. the romneys have had the experience of being wealthy people. the kind of people who HAVE a choice about whether they want to work outside the house or not. they never had to TRY to find a daycare that was good, that they could afford and also didn't cost more than they would make at the job they were leaving their kids for.

    hey, given the choice, i choose the rich road. let me try to deal with the problems. but the truth is that most of america is dealing with the 'can we afford that now?' choice.

    so while they say they understand that people (yes, even that strange breed called woman) are concerned about the economy, they don't understand the financial existence of most americans.


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