The "Mommy Wars of 2012" are over, a mere week after they began.
If you're surprised, you're giving Mitt Romney and his manufactured controversy operation too much credit. Approximately a week is about all it takes for Mitt to trip over the coattails of his own latest advantage in
the presidential race. Mitt, you see, likes gloating so much that he inevitably blows it by simply opening his mouth again to utter unscripted speech.
revealed a 20-point gender gap between President Obama (58 percent) and
Romney (38 percent), Romney turned to his unqualified wife, Ann, who
continued to assure him that women were really concerned about the national
debt and the deficit, not in a raft of extremist Republican bills targeting
women's reproductive rights.
Feeling his oats about what he considered a successful counterattack,
Romney decided to hold a conference call between reporters and campaign
staffers. The candidate, who tends to stray off-script during "press
availabilities," was wisely not included in what was touted as a confab
about "issues of vital concern to women." But simply not putting Romney
himself on the line wasn't enough of a "stop-gaffe" measure. When Sam Stein of The Huffington Post asked whether Romney supported the Lilly Ledbetter
Fair Pay Act, the line went dead for a full six seconds, before a staffer spluttered, "Sam, we'll get back to you on that."
Fortunately for the dumbstruck Romney camp, they didn't have to wait long to seize the next opportunity for oneupsmanship that fell into their laps.
Enter minor Democratic operative turned CNN commentator Hilary Rosen, who
appeared that very night on Anderson Cooper 360 to offer the token liberal
perspective on the equal pay flap. "Guess what? His wife has actually never
worked a day in her life," Rosen said when asked about the advisability of
Romney having relied on his wife as an adviser on the economy and "women's
issues." Most reports omitted what Rosen said next: "She's never really
dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in
this country are facing."
The GOP, finding itself backed into a corner, simply changed the subject.
It wasn't a Republican war against women; it was a Democratic war against
motherhood! The mainstream media, seeking fuel for their next ratings
bonfire, followed the GOP's lead over the cliff as fast as their little
lemming-legs would carry them. Rosen struck a match, as one salivating
women's magazine editor later described it, and inadvertently ignited the
media firestorm that was hailed for an entire week as "the new Mommy Wars."
campaign, conservative pundits repeatedly called her an Obama campaign
adviser. Exasperated chief Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod told
CNN's John King, "She is actually your employee, not ours." Both the
president and the vice president got right out in front of the "issue,"
deploring Rosen's perceived slights against stay-at-home mothers.
The TV machine was abuzz with tendentious commentary from the right about
the tempest in a society lady's teapot. Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann,
without a hint of irony, advised the left to respect women's "right to
choose" how they would live their own lives. A representative of Bill
Donohoe's Catholic League tweeted: "Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen tells Ann
Romney she never worked a day in her life. Unlike Rosen, who had to adopt
kids, Ann raised 5 of her own." Sean Spicer, communications director for
the Republican National Committee, added his own nonsensical retort: "The
Catholic League should be encouraging adoption, not demeaning the parents
who are blessed to raise these children."
The whole ruse was working brilliantly at least until that perpetual
gaffe machine, Mitt Romney, screwed up once more and forfeited whatever
"moral" ascendancy over Obama had caused everyone in the known universeto
throw poor Hilary Rosen under the bus in the first place. First, Mitt
trotted out his wife to praise "all working moms" at an unlikely venue
the annual convention of the National Rifle Association. Next, an
enterprising NBC reporter captured on audiotape the overly loud remarks of
Motormouth Mitt, addressing wealthy supporters at a Florida fund-raiser
about his plans for decimating or eliminating two cabinet departments
viewed by conservatives as obstacles to the emerging plutocracy.
Far from being genuinely outraged about Hilary Rosen's criticism, Ann
Romney revealed on the same tape that she was delighted by the altercation
and considered it her "early birthday present." Finally, both Romneys,
during an interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, appeared to be measuring the
White House drapes when Mitt said Obama should "start packing" and Ann
added, revealing the couple's astonishing sense of entitlement, "I believe
it's Mitt's time," and "It's our turn now." No apparent humility for
America's would-be "First Mom."
The jury is still out over whether the phony "Mommy Wars" squabble boosted
Romney or hurt Obama with women voters. While a new Pew poll released on
April 17 revealed that Obama's lead among all women had slipped by seven
percentage points since March, subgroup data suggested a staggering gender
gap among younger women that could become truly daunting for Republicans in
the future. Among women aged 18 to 29, Obama is leading Romney by 45 points
(70 to 25 percent)! If you expand that group to include men of the same
age, Obama still leads Romney by 28 points (61 to 33 percent). As Chris
Cillizza of The Washington Post points out, "Not since 1988 has a
Republican presidential candidate won the women's vote (and George H.W.
Bush won women by only a single point)."
Our children are weathering this cultural crucible admirably, recycling
that timeworn battle cry of earlier generations: "Don't trust any
(Republicans) over 30!" (Looking back on it, that's what we really meant
all along. We were just too young to realize it.)