Anyone who pays attention to American politics has by now heard of the comment made by Hilary Rosen about Ann Romney never working a day in her life. Of course this erupted into a controversy given Rosen’s status as a Democratic pundit and strategist. Judging from the reactions, especially from the Right who are downright giddy over the whole thing, there is a need for some contextual perspective and maybe even a few facts.
First, the conservative blogosphere and Fox News were, and still are, abuzz with Miss Rosen’s statement but what none seem to make note of is the entire comment made on Anderson Cooper’s CNN broadcast. Cooper asked Rosen what she thought about the Romney campaign reaching out to women on economic and employment issues. Her response in context was;
“With respect to economic issues, I think actually that Mitt Romney is right, that ultimately, women care more about the economic well-being of their families and the like.
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 kinds 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 how do we — why we worry about their future.“
Now, the controversy causing portion of this response is the final paragraph where she states Mrs. Romney, “has actually never worked a day in her life.” but it’s the following portions that put this comment into the context of the point she was making.
“She’s never really dealt with the kinds 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…”
This is more than likely an apt appraisal of the life in the Romney household. The Romneys are extremely wealthy. Mitt was born into a very wealthy family as a result of his father’s achievements in the auto industry and political career. His wife was daughter of a wealthy Michigan industrialist. It is highly doubtful Mrs Romney ever had to choose between food and clothes for her kids’ new school year. It’s doubtful she had to work a second job to keep a roof over her children’s heads or choose between eating or taking her child to the doctor. She worried about how to send her kids to college.
Rosen’s remarks were intended to demonstrate how out-of-touch the Romney’s are with the middle and poor classes simply because it is highly doubtful they have had to contend with any of the day to day concerns most of the country has. Now this is not a defense of her statements or her focus on Miss Romney as a mother. Her apparent criticism of Miss Romeny’s choice of career was inappropriate but it’s also worth noting the context in which it was made.
In addition to the controversial remarks those on the Right have gone out of their way to connect Miss Rosen to the President, his campaign and to turn the claims of a Republican War on Women around onto the Democrats. The basis for the assertions that Rosen is an Obama campaign adviser rests on the number of visits she made to the White House, 35, between March 2009 and December 2011. Romney’s campaign reasoned, if Rosen visited the White House so many times she must be a presidential adviser. But when pressed on this claim during an April 12th media conference call with the campaign representatives, the subject was quickly changed to women and the economy. The conclusion reached, however, negates to account for all the other members of the media who have also visited the White House for press conferences and various interviews with administration personnel. Given the same logic, all these people would also be campaign advisers. One report offered as evidence of Rosen’s advisory role stated she served as consultant for health care reform messaging during congressional debates. Upon further inspection, the source indicated Rosen was only one of 18 others that took part in a meeting with David Axelrod. Others who have visited the White House numerous times include;
- Joel Benenson a democratic pollster visited 72 times
- Simon Rosenberg a founder of the centrist New Democrat Network visited 44 times
- Mark Agrast, a lobbyist for the Center for American Progress Action Fund visited 75 times
- Antonio Perez, the CEO of Eastman Kodak visited 20 times
- Jennifer Palmieri of the liberal Center for American Progress visited 41 times
- Alissa Fox, a lobbyist with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association visited 30 times
Many of these visits circulated around the health care reform debate. These people met with numerous people who do happen to work in the White House but does it mean they were direct, regular advisers to the administration or the Obama presidential campaign? In all, since Obama was sworn in, the White House has been privy to 2.2 million visitors. Puts those 35 Hilary Rosen visits into perspective doesn’t it?
It is also worth noting that since Miss Rosen is a paid contributor to CNN, she cannot be associated with a political campaign. In the same manner as Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee would have been required to give up their lucrative Fox News jobs if they entered the presidential race, Miss Rosen would too have to leave CNN. Some may say there are ways around this just as James Carville may lend his name to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) emails. Could it happen? Yes. Just because it could happen, does it actually mean it did happen? No. It is also worth asking, does Hilary Rosen have the level of experienced and expertise as a media consultant that would make her such a valued asset that the Obama campaign would take the risk of being caught receiving services illegally? If Miss Rosen is, indeed, such an indispensable communications expert is it not conceivable that the campaign would simply offer an enticing enough salary to woo her away from CNN for the duration of the election cycle? Which would make more sense?
Lastly, the conservative media’s elation over the belief this one comment, by someone with no substantial link to the Obama campaign, will effectively kill the claims of a GOP War on Women illustrates the abject incomprehension of the issue’s breadth. Even out of context, it is inconceivable this sole comment could stand in contention against legislation that;
- cuts funding for domestic violence programs,
- eliminates family planning resources,
- curtails contraception use,
- institutes invasive transvaginal probe requirements and other limiting conditions for women seeking abortions,
- infringes upon women’s access to basic health care services through defunding of Planned Parenthood and allows employer insurance coverage discrimination,
- repeals gender wage discrimination laws, and
- characterizes single-motherhood as a contributor to child abuse.
This entire controversy is yet another example of overblown speculation, unsubstantiated claims and a distraction from the substantive issues of which this country is contending. It illustrates the desperation within the Republican Party and its presidential campaign to detract from their propriety of this issue, the apparent War on Women. Unfortunately for them, one sentence, uttered by one commentator, during one talk show, on one 24 hour cable news network will not be enough to overcome all which has been wrought before.