After 90 minutes of nationally televised discussion on energy policy, tax reform, and competing philosophies of governance, there is only one memorable takeaway. Mitt Romney has flipped through binders filled with women. We are truly an exceptional nation. The rest of us need a reliable Internet connection and a quiet room, but Romney’s got 3 ring binders for his viewing pleasure. Must be a generational thing.
Thanks to the MSRP exclusive connection to WikiLeaks, I have access to the unedited transcripts of the Romney debate rehearsal that took place the day before last night’s 2nd Presidential Debate at Hofstra University. In the transcripts from his practice sessions, we can see how Romney’s reference to “binders full of women” was not a spontaneous gaffe, but a well vetted potential response to any question on women’s issues:
(Romney Campaign Manager) Matt Rhoades: OK, Governor, we’ve practiced dropping the word ‘failure’ into all of your standard responses. Now let’s prep for a specific issue. There’s a good chance you’ll get a question related to women’s issues, and we need to close that gender gap. Your answer needs to be strong and sensitive. You need to fire up the base without alienating independents. You need to be non-specific but excessively wordy. Ready to give it a go?
Romney: No problem, Matt. Watch me bitch slap ol’ Barack with this answer. Hey, is that cellphone recording this?
Rhoades: (using a falsetto voice) Governor Romney, what will you do as President to improve the lives of women in this country?
Romney: (clears his throat) Unlike this President, I respect women and their ability to drive this economy. You know, in Biblical times, the women did the heavy lifting. They often walked around the village with big jugs, sometimes balanced on their heads. These women and their jugs are an inspiration for me and thinking about those jugs reminds me just how capable the gentler sex can be in making our economy work, which President Obama hasn’t.
Rhoades: Well, Governor, I think the reference to the Bible could play well to the base, but the image of jugs may not resonate the way you intend. Can you get something in there for the undecided voters?
Romney: OK, I can try another tack. (clears his throat) Unlike this President, when I was Governor in Massachusetts, I strongly supported gender based set aside on our hiring procedures, particularly for members of those groups who suffered systemic discrimination and have been historically underrepresented in the workforce. Therefore, I insisted that qualified women applicants for positions in my cabinet be placed ahead of similarly qualified men.
Rhoades: Um, that might be a bit too ‘technical’ and the main stream media might twist that into support for affirmative action.
Romney: That’s malarkey.
Rhoades: Yes, sir, I agree, but let’s try to craft an answer that shows more of your human side, your soft, metrosexual side. We need those soccer moms on November 6th.
Romney: OK, how’s this? (clears his throat) I am glad you asked about my support for women in our society. Unlike this President, I love women. I married one in Massachusetts, and as you know, I have the choice in that state to marry otherwise, and I’ve supported her for over 40 years. My father before that supported his wife, and my grandfather before that supported his 5 wives, so my track record of support is clear.
Rhoades: Well, that does humanize you some, but I think you still need to reach those who feel like victims, those who won’t take personal responsibility for their lives. If we can just win a few of their votes, we can win this whole thing.
Romney: I try not to worry about those people, but I can try. (clears his throat) Despite all of our progress in gender equality over the years, we all know that women have unique obstacles to overcome when trying to reach the American Dream. Beyond their regular monthly God-given struggles, too often men have looked beyond a woman’s qualifications and focused solely on their appearance. Candy, I know that must have been difficult for you. But your success at CNN among vastly better looking competition proves that with the right attitude and the help of a sensitive, caring entrepreneur who knows how to create jobs because he’s done it, women can achieve great things. (pause) I think I nailed it that time.
Rhoades: Well, I still think we can simplify that answer and provide a more specific story about your experience in helping women directly. How about talking about the women in your cabinet when you were Governor? You could say something like “I went to a number of women's groups and said, "Can you help us find folks," and they brought us whole binders full of women." Nothing says business leader like the image of qualified women in binders.
Romney: How about I change ‘binders’ to ‘hard drives’? That’s more modern sounding.
Rhoades: Too sexual. Don’t be ridiculous. Binders. That’s the ticket.
Romney: Binders. OK, I’ll go with your choice.
Rhoades: That reminds me – don’t use the word ‘choice’ during the debate. Say ‘freedom’. We need the white male demographic, too.
Yes, America, in a Romney administration, nothing says equality like being just another page in his binder. That’s gender justice, 8 ½ by 11 style.