Friday, April 13, 2012

Oh Yeah? Your Mama!

Obama hates your mom, but Ann Romney believes that “we need to respect choices that women make”, which we will assume includes decisions about her reproductive systems.  Welcome to the fall campaign.

In 1996, my wife and I made the decision that it was in the best interests of our new child (and hopefully future children) that she forfeit the income from working outside the home and stay at home to raise the kids.  In some ways, it was an easy decision.  We both believed that having one parent at home during those formative years (and by formative, I mean through high school graduation), our kids would have a better foundation for life, both intellectually, morally, and emotionally.  It was not an easy decision in that we had to make financial sacrifices in the immediate present, but also in the future.  We both knew that Cherie’s earning potential after decades at home raising a family would be diminished.  We would struggle at times, have a less secure personal safety net and a delayed retirement, but we did it anyway.  That was our choice, and I am grateful that we had the option.

Let me also say that Romney and Obama should both be on safe ground when it comes to a comparison of personal family values.  Both appear to be model husbands and fathers.  You can’t say that during every election cycle, so you would have hoped that this “Obama hates your mom” rhetoric wouldn’t get much traction.  I obviously underestimated the silliness that could result from Romney’s poor poll numbers among female voters.

Everyone knows the story by now.  I won’t defend Hilary Rosen’s poorly crafted answer to a question from Anderson Cooper that included the offending phrase that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life.”  Any husband out there knows that if you don’t include the phrase “…outside the home” after that sentiment, you are sleeping on the sofa.  It should be noted, however, that the second part of Rosen’s answer, the part that doesn’t fit in the headlines, is more to her point:  Ann Romney has “never really dealt with the kind of economic issues that a majority of women in the country are facing.”

Sorry, but that is factual.  The Romney family income is estimated at $56,000 per day.  Obama may be a lettuce snob, but I’m pretty sure Mrs. Romney is unfamiliar with Ramen noodles.

Not sure how many denunciations of Rosen’s remarks need to be made by the Obama campaign and Democrats in general before someone realizes that, hey – no one hates your mom or any mom that stays at home.  To claim that a political party hates mothers is unfair.

To show my bipartisanship, I will go as far as to say that Republicans don’t hate women who cannot conceive biological children.  I say that in order to defend the GOP from this conservative group’s tweet yesterday: 

“Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen tells Ann Romney she never worked a day in her life,” the Catholic League For Religious and Civil Rights, a conservative group, tweeted.  “Unlike Rosen, who had to adopt kids, Ann raised 5 of her own.”

Less than 24 hours after the leadership of the Democratic Party had to disavow the comments of a person not at all involved in their presidential campaign, the Republican Party had to do the exact same thing.  All’s fair, as a friend told me yesterday, so I guess this is the proof.

In a classic Rovian reversal of the issue, I would argue that the Dems aren’t anti stay-at-home mom; the GOP is anti-working mothers, and I can point to a variety of GOP policy positions that make life more difficult on working mothers.  Their opposition to the Family Medical Leave Act would be first on my list.  Protections for breast feeding mothers and pregnant women in the workplace – just let the market handle that, right?

Discrimination in the workplace is a private matter that independent business owners (the job creators) should be able to manage without government interference; reminding viewers that Ann Romney did not have to consider the workplace or financial implications of staying at home with her kids, well that’s discrimination.  The GOP has become the victim again!

Hilary Rosen’s point was simply that Ann Romney did not have to struggle with the negative financial impact of choosing to stay at home and raise her kids.  Yes, she would be sacrificing a potential career perhaps, but the decision to remain at home would not delay retirement for the Romneys; it would not force an uncomfortable choice between a vacation to Six Flags or food on the table; it would not cause financial hardship, one of the major causes of stress in most American’s mother’s lives.  In this sense, it is true that Ann Romney never worked in order to survive economically.  That is far different than most moms out there.

The connection of Rosen’s comments to the Obama campaign reminds me of the dubious path that some grade school children have taken to connect Ray Charles to God (Love is blind, Ray Charles is blind, God is love, therefore Ray Charles is God).  This is not much of a stretch.  The most common argument connecting Rosen to Obama is that she’s been to the White House 35 times during his administration.  Romney has appeared on the Rush Limbaugh program.  Does that mean Mitt agrees with Rush that women seeking contraception are sluts?  Of course not.

For those of you who still believe that this firestorm is about anything except pure political gamespersonship, read the actual fundraising email that I received yesterday from the Romney campaign (wasting no time getting this out):


If you're a stay-at-home mom, the Democrats have a message for you: you've never worked a day in your life.

That's exactly what Obama adviser Hilary Rosen said about Ann Romney last night.

Ann Romney represents the best of what happens inside the American home every day. Family. Something to be cherished, not mocked.

Her choice was to stay at home and raise her five sons. That is no easy task for any mother -- especially a woman who battled through breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.

As a mother and a former Chief of Staff to Governor Romney, I can say first-hand that raising my kids was the toughest job I've ever had. 

We stand with Mitt and Ann in saying that all women play an important role in our country. America deserves a president who will bring us together -- not pit us against each other.

Donate $6 to get your Moms Drive the Economy bumper sticker and send a message to President Obama today.

First of all, the Democrats do not have a message for me, since I am not a stay-at-home mom, but thanks for asking.  Secondly, does anyone else find it a bit unseemly that the Romney campaign is fundraising by highlighting Ann Romney’s MS and cancer?  I find it particularly offensive because should Romney win in November and repeal the Affordable Care Act (as he has vowed to do), Ann Romney would become uninsurable because of her pre-existing conditions.  I know that Mitt could afford to pay for her care out of pocket, but methinks he would be the exception.  Thirdly, how in the world does the last sentence pivot this to an example of Obama pitting “us against each other”?  That line is a bridge to nowhere.

Here is where the Romney attack will flounder.  Romney has no specific plans to improve the lives of women in this country.  None.  Obama of course can point to the first law he signed as President, the Lily Ledbetter Act.  When Romney’s team had a campaign call with reporters and was asked if Mitt supported the Ledbetter Law, there was a 6 second pause before a voice came over the phone and said, “We’ll get back to you.”  Way to be prepared for a call your campaign initiated about women’s issues.

Later in the day, the campaign did release a statement in support of equal pay for women in the workplace, the kind of vague, meaningless platitude that allow limitless wiggle room.  And Romney will need that wiggle room once conservatives explain to him that Ledbetter created undue hardship on American business through its burdensome recordkeeping requirements, and it practically eliminated any statute of limitations on gender based pay discrimination claims, a boon for trial lawyers.  Someday, he’ll need to come out against Ledbetter and explain why this new position is not a flip flop and why his new position is actually pro-women.  Oh my.

Let’s understand this brouhaha for what it is.  Romney has a gender gap in the national polls that is fatal to his election chances.  He is down in some polls by 19% with women voters.  He has got to close that gap to have a chance in November.  So he took a page from the Rove playbook and is attempting to project his greatest negative onto his competitor, Obama. 
The most inflammatory schoolyard taunt is against someone’s mother.  Rosen voluntarily stepped in it.  GOP overreached in response to change the discussion.  Mission accomplished. 
Beware, women out there – the Romney campaign will next accuse Obama of hating apple pie, and it will be as true as this current accusation about motherhood.

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