It might only be because the GOP vomits uncontrollably all over itself like one of those flu victims in The Stand (I'm reading The Stand as we speak) whenever one of its itinerant preachers tries to talk about women that we haven't noticed Democratic miscues in ladyspeak. Take, for instance, President Obama's painful stand-up routine at yesterday's White House Forum on Women and the Economy, which was filled with more zingers than a porcupine has quills, or a cat has fur, or some other simile denoting commensurate plentitude.
According to ABC News, the Barack Obama, President of the Americas, jokes, and an adorable Portugeuse sea otter named Bo, warmed up the crowd with a little crack about how long women take to get ready:
I was going to head over here earlier and they said, no, no, this place is full of women and they're still settling down. What do you mean, settling down? What are they doing over there? Just creating havoc.
Waka waka! Take my wife, for instance — no, seriously, take her. After all those ladies had settled down a bit, the President got down to brass tacks...or those brass tacks he'd used to pin his jokes up to his Oval Office joke board while he was rehearsing for the engagement.
Women are over half this country and its workforce, not to mention 80 percent of my household, if you count my mother-in-law. I always count my mother-in-law.
I haven't heard a really good mother-in-law joke since the nightmare-inducing sitcom Dinosaurs went off the air — or extinct, as it were — in 1994, and though President Obama usually demonstrates an uncanny adroitness in his rhetorical performances, yesterday was one of those rare opportunities for the viewing public to peer behind the curtain and see a politician's election cycle machinery hard at work, churning out hopeful crowd-pleasers in an effort to capitalize on the opposing party's seemingly endless ineptitude. When the Prez finally did get down to business, he hollowly emphasized that women are not some homogeneous voting bloc that politicians should try to appease. They're, like, nuanced and shit:
There's been a lot of talk about women and women's issues lately, as there should be. But I do think that the conversation has been oversimplified. Women are not some monolithic bloc. Women are not an interest group. You shouldn't be treated that way.
That's a fine thing to say except that, to a politician — a campaigning politician, no less — every person of voting age is part of a demographic. Women ages 18-34; men ages 18-34; dogs cleverly impersonating people who don't feel like going to the polls themselves; pranksters who write in "Elmer Fudd" every year; sincere people who really think Harrison Ford has the presidential potential of his Air Force One character; and civic-minded children like that nerd Stuart Minkus from Boy Meets World who put on stilts and a fake mustache just so that they can flaunt their precocity to all of us non-voting schlubs who refuse to leave the couch on election day. A politician should have a pitch for everyone, which is pretty much how the President operates. He doesn't speak directly to those of the extremely, ahem, conservative persuasion, but his rhetoric is inclusive and progressive, in a hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work we go sort of way. That Republicans seem to be chronically unable to have a rational dialogue with anyone but those citizens who put on their crazy pants every morning before indulging in a big bowl of fortifying oatmeal, well, is just bad politics.
It's probably unfair to criticize a politician for politicizing, but it's not at all unfair to criticize him for doing a bad job of disguising it. The President's flat jokes probably won't attract that much criticism because, unlike the jokes that fearless patriarch Mitt Romney makes about the ladies, Obama's jokes are at worst proof that he is, after all, a campaigner that sometimes finds it hard to overcome our culture's pervasive penisness. Romney's jokes, however, aren't just bad — they contain an undercurrent of actual, unrepentant misogyny, and the threat of harmful legislation.