Our Stupid Discourse, Cat Fight Edition

Oh sure, we all laughed when a week and a half ago Politico declared Ann Romney Mitt’s “secret weapon” and “the Romney Democrats fear most.” That was immediately followed by her astonishing “unzip Mitt” remarks, causing much hilarity in the blogosphere.

But the media establishment’s prophecy was fulfilled yesterday, wasn’t it? The attempt to turn Ann Romney into some kind of relatable Everywoman reached its fruition with the ginned-up Hilary Rosen flap; suddenly Rosen’s clumsy comment was manipulated into an attack on stay at home moms and the rabid right pounced.

Democrats are trying to unring this bell, but it ain’t happening. We’ll be hearing about this all weekend because the Republicans got their first win in the message wars in months, and they won’t be dropping it. Not when every poll shows Romney tanking with women voters. Finally, Republicans had an opportunity to steer the conversation away from the War On Women which, despite 135 actual laws passed in 2011 affecting women’s reproductive lives, the GOP could only lamely call “fake.” Now it’s been twisted into a “war on families” and “war on moms” (there’s now a #WarOnMoms hashtag on Twitter), dovetailing neatly with the GOPs framing of Democrats as anti-family, ready with the forceps to yank the fetus from every pregnant, white Christian woman they see.

This thing played out in predictable fashion: the right wing is reacting to something that was never said, just what they were told was said by those with an interest in stretching the truth. The media has thus far failed to distinguish between what was actually said and what the Republican Party wants them to think was said, because, Look! Shiny-sparkly horse-racey thingie over there! Stop me if you’ve seen this movie before.

The left is a little shocked at how readily the national punditry co-opted the Republican messaging here, but they shouldn’t be. The Republicans always have the Wingnut Wurlitzer ready to exploit the smallest slight. It just goes to show, the right-wing still rules the discourse. What Rosen actually said is that Mitt Romney is using his wife to inform him on women’s issues, when her life is no more typical of the average American woman’s than is his. That was completely distorted and manipulated into a non-existent attack on stay at home moms, something she never said. And we’re off to the races.

As fauxtroversies go, this one is playing out in all the predictable ways. Rosen apologized in less than 24 hours, President Obama and Joe Biden have both thrown Rosen under the bus, and the Wingnut Wurlitzer is continuing to push the story because, let’s face it, it’s the first lucky break the Romney campaign has had.

But it’s been fun to watch the right wingers milk this for all its worth, in sometimes astonishing ways. The Catholic League’s Twitter feed has been a predictable source of amusement. First we have the gay-bashing of lesbian mom Hilary Rosen:

Wait, what? We thought you guys loved adoption! After getting smacked for that one, the following Tweet struck me as odd:

Um … Simone de Beauvoir? The French intellectual who died nearly 30 years ago? This is relevant here how? Pretty sure most Americans think Simone de Beauvoir is either a brand of perfume or a former judge on American Idol.

Watching all of this play out yesterday I wondered how long before the Romney camp exploited this fauxtroversy for donations. The answer is, not long at all:

Wow, you just couldn’t have planned it any better than that. Personally, I don’t think this Everyman/Everywoman schtick is going to stick. I’m already seeing big push-back, because there was an underlying truth to Rosen’s comment that no Frank Luntz-approved messaging can disguise: the economic reality is that millions of women don’t have the choice to stay at home and raise their kids the way Ann Romney did.

Or, as Erin Gloria Ryan so succinctly put it:

I’ll celebrate the choice of the wife of a millionaire to stay at home and raise the kids like I’ll celebrate the winner of a yacht race or a polo match.

Ain’t that the truth.


Filed under 2012 presidential election, feminism

11 responses to “Our Stupid Discourse, Cat Fight Edition

  1. lawmom03

    My adopted child is my OWN child. Catholic Charities HELPED ME ADOPT HER. My head is spinning I’m so angry.

  2. Min

    This will be an issue, precisely as long as it take for Romney to release his tax records Then the attention will turn to all the live-in help that Ann had doing her “job” raising the kids.

  3. deep

    I still fail to see how this “outrage” is going to appeal to anyone outside the 27%.

  4. I just want to know if you saw that Jezebel quote before I posted it on FB.

  5. Mark Rogers


    I totally agree that this is a really minor distraction from the real issues of the campaign. And you are also aware that the Obama campaign has created similar tempests in teapots too. This is hardly a new tactic. Think etch-a-skecth.

    But this Rosen business has traction because there is a strong belief among many Americans, including some women, that there is an element in feminism that does look down on women who choose to work in the home. I remember the conflicts over the writings of feminist thinkers like Andrea Dworkin and Susan Brownmiller and the recognition that there was a huge gulf between more radical Second Wave feminists and women who rejected all or some of their ideologies.

    In 2008 the often bitter fights between feminists who supported Senator Obama and feminists who supported Senator Clinton seemed in part to come from a divide between older women who regarded women who supported Obama as traitors to the goals of feminism and younger women who thought that view was oppressive of their right to decide for themselves.

    I loved your comment about Simone de Beauvoir. There should be a time limit on some comments and discussions of their relevance to the present.

    • “Think etch-a-skecth.” Oh good lord. Yes, let’s.

      Etch-A-Sketch was said by a ROMNEY campaign staffer about ROMNEY. Not, ya know, the opposition. Ooops.

      Also, it spoke to the deep concern conservatives had about flippy-floppy Romney, that he’d say anything to get the nomination and then would just hit the re-set button for the general election. That wasn’t Obama saying that. That was fellow conservatives. And that Etch-A-Sketch comment was milked, not by Obama, but Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. Trust me, we would have loved loved LOVED to have Santorum or Gingrich as the nominee. I didn’t think it would happen but Obama’s favorables were much higher compared to those two.

      So no. No comparison whatsoever.

      I’m soooo tired of these false equivalencies coming from your side, Mark. Conservatives might be stupid enough to buy it but I’m not.

      • Mark Rogers

        Ms. Rosen is a close friend, ally and apologist for the President. Further she was speaking in support of the Obama Campaign, almost as a surrogate, given her relationship with the President.

        No one is saying that the Etch-a-sketch was a meaningless comment, just not a Gerald Ford on Poland moment. The same is true of the Rosen comment especially in the context of the belief of many Americans of both genders that many feminists do look down on women who work in the home. I would say it is more newsworthy than Hilary Clinton’s ‘baking cookies’ comment from 1992.

      • Ms. Rosen is a close friend, ally and apologist for the President.

        Hardly! She was Hillary Clinton’s spokesperson in the 2008 race, and before that she was a lobbyist for the RIAA. That’s how I know her. It’s quite a stretch to portray her as some kind of close buddy and ally to Obama. She works for a company that does the DNC’s communications work. She’s not an Obama aide and doesn’t work for the campaign. Eric Fehrnstrom is actually employed by the Romney campaign as a communications staffer. It’s beyond laughable to call her a surrogate to the president. She was booked on CNN the same way they book any partisan mouthpiece: to give the Democratic Party perspective. If Obama wanted to have a surrogate speak to the issue, David Axelrod would have been dispatched.

  6. I’d take Simone de Beauvoir over Gerald Ford in a debate any day. She’d win before time was called.

  7. “And you are also aware that the Obama campaign has created similar tempests in teapots too. This is hardly a new tactic. Think etch-a-skecth.”

    Shorter reply than Ms. Southern Beale’s–and just as accurate–bullshit.