Hilary Rosen, a frequent CNN talking head, went on Anderson Cooper 360 last night to talk about Mitt Romney's pathetic attempts to connect to women on economic matters—which, at the point, basically involves him invoking the name of his wife, Ann Romney, and repeating what she's told him that women care about. Rosen has a problem with this approach—as a lot of us do—but the way she chose to phrase her beef has ignited a fight fierce enough that it drove Ann Romney to finally join Twitter for the sole purpose of defending herself. Egads.
Here's what Rosen said, exactly, about Mitt's reliance on Ann's "expertise":
Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing.
She's referring, of course, to the fact that Ann was a stay-at-home mom, raising five sons (six, if you count Mitt), instead of pursuing a career outside the home. Rosen's choice of words was particularly unfortunate, because it's raised from the dead the age-old argument about whether being a stay-at-home mom is the same things as having a job—instead of allowing us to focus on the real problem which is Mitt doesn't know jack shit about real women's economic lives.
The reaction to Rosen's inflammatory comments was almost instant. First of all, Rosen got hammered by critics on Twitter, and Ann Romney herself started a Twitter account to tweet this response:
I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.
Oh, boy, Ann. Nobody is doubting that, but does being the wealthy mom of five boys necessarily qualify you to speak on behalf of all women's work experiences? No, it does not. Rosen's choice of words was definitely poor, but you know what else is pretty poor? The decision of Romney spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom to tweet this:
Obama adviser Hilary Rosen goes on #CNN to debut their new "kill Ann" strategy, and in the process insults hard-working moms.
No, sir, you did not. First of all, Hilary Rosen does not work for Obama. She's a CNN pundit and she works in PR, period. Full stop. So don't pull that shit. And nobody is trying to kill Ann, metaphorically or otherwise, or to suggest that moms don't work hard. But way to throw a cheap tweet in the mix to distract from the fact that your candidate is so bad on women's issues that he's pretty much dead in the water already with women voters.
Sensing an approaching shitstorm, people from the Obama campaign also immediately moved to distance themselves from Rosen's perspective—not that it was necessary because she does not work for them. Campaign manager Jim Messina tweeted this, a sentiment that was echoed by other members of the campaign:
I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly. Her comments were wrong and family should be off limits. She should apologize.
It's more than a little sad that he's just given Ann Romney carte blanche to say whatever she wants and remain off limits from criticism. Here's the thing: disagree all you want with the way Rosen phrased her comments, but this isn't a case where family is off limits. It's not like Rosen is picking on one of Mitt's grandkids. After all, it was Mitt himself who chose to give Ann a central role in his campaign to win the delicate hearts of women. If he's going to rely on her for economic advice, then we should be allowed to examine her qualifications on that issue—which is what Rosen was trying to do, albeit in a bit of hackneyed way. Grrrr.
After facing a torrent of hate coming her way, Rosen tweeted, "I've nothing against @AnnRomney. I just don't want Mitt using her as an expert on women struggling $ to support their family. She isn't." And she also spoke at Ann directly, "@AnnDRomney Please know, I admire you. But your husband shouldn't say you are his expert on women and the economy." Ann, of course, did not reply, but to be fair, maybe she's still figuring out how to use Twitter.
Rosen also wrote a piece for the Huffington Post to clarify her position. On the topic of why Ann's work experience is even an issue, she said this:
Why does this even matter? It matters purely because Mitt Romney put the issue of his wife's views squarely on the table. So it begs the question, is Ann Romney Mitt's touchstone for women who are struggling economically or not? Nothing in Ann Romney's history as we have heard it — hardworking mom she may have been — leads me to believe that Mitt has chosen the right expert to get feedback on this problem he professes to be so concerned about.
That's the ticket, and that's the conversation we should all be having right now.