Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen recently triggered a right-wing media firestorm when she brought into question Ann Romney’s – Mitt Romney’s wife – ability to understand and deal with economic issues facing women because she’s “never worked a day in her life.” Romney, a mother of five, was quick to fire back by appearing on cable news to remind Rosen of the challenges associated with being a stay-at-home mom vis-a-vis a women who choose to enter the workforce. Republicans have all but eagerly attacked Rosen as Democrats have quickly distanced themselves from her.
My take on the whole thing…
First, I can’t help but wonder if I missed my calling as a strategist. I mean, even the most novice political commentator can see where Rosen shot herself in the foot. By suggesting that Mrs. Romney “never worked a day in her life”, Rosen implicitly attacked unemployed women, diminished their role in economic affairs, and only furthered the GOP’s claims that Democrats (and Obama, by association) are waging a so-called “War on Women.” Even if that wasn’t her intention (and I don’t believe it was), that’s how it came across. In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, that’s all that matters. Honestly though, I can’t say I’m shocked by this. After all, Rosen was a Hillary surrogate during the 2008 Democratic Presidential race. We all know how that went.
Secondly…and directly to the point of Rosen and her comments, a smarter strategist would’ve said “Ann Romney doesn’t face the same problems as most American woman”, making the clear distinction between Mrs. Romney (the multi-millionaire who could have easily afforded a team of maids, nannies, and servants to be at her disposal) and the average single mother struggling to make ends meet. While it’s true that Mrs. Romney may have other motherhood issues she faces right alongside many other Americans, financial hardships ain’t it. That’s all Rosen needed to say. But in her zealous effort to discount Mrs. Romney’s ability to related to American women, Rosen’s comments – innocuous as she may have intended for them to be – have given Republicans a much needed breath of fresh air headed into November. Which is funny…because she ain’t even working on the Obama campaign.
Thirdly (and speaking of Obama) the President demonstrated a great deal of class when he stood up for Mrs. Romney and rejected Rosen’s comments. Ever since he was a candidate himself back in 2008, he has made it a point to leave family out of the political mudslinging. Even when Sarah Palin’s knocked up daughter, Todd Palin’s bizarre political affiliations or Cindy McCain’s wealth could have been fodder for Obama, he refrained from going after them. Even if/when some of his surrogates got out of control, he never did. He has once again demonstrated class in an arena mostly devoid of class. This is particularly noteworthy given the number of Republicans (or lack thereof) who have come to the defense of the First Lady as she has been mercilessly attacked by those on the right.
Finally, as I’ve stated before, I hope this election and indeed our criticism of the candidates rests on policy and NOT on superfluous stuff like their bank accounts. Yes, it can be said with some sense of certainty that wealth tends to translate into a certain disconnection to people. But Mitt is not the first wealthy person vying for public office. Nor will he be the last. Also, wealth is not the sole province of our friends on the right. I’d like to think that a person’s wealth and affluence won’t trump (or dictate) their positions, but I’m not holding my breath here.
All told, Rosen had a point to be made. But her time as a consultant clearly didn’t prep her for this one. So, as a public service announcement for Ms. Rosen, I’d like to offer the following advice:
Find a corner. Sit down. Be quiet. And leave the politics up to the smart people.