Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 18, 2012

Obama Had Better Hope for a Bounce

Democrats are counting on President Obama getting some kind of a bounce in opinion polls as a result of the fact that he did better in the second presidential debate than he did in the first one. But looking at the latest round of polls of the presidential race, he had better hope so. The latest Gallup tracking poll that measures opinion over the period of October 11-17 shows the president trailing Mitt Romney by a shocking seven points at 52-45 percent.

This is the biggest Romney lead in any poll all year. That will cause Democrats to dismiss it as an outlier. But it should be remembered that liberals spent most of the spring, summer and the early fall praising Gallup as the more accurate of the two most well known national tracking polls since it had consistently produced more favorable results for Obama than Rasmussen. But right now they are praying that Rasmussen, rather than the old favorite Gallup, is the more accurate since currently it shows Romney holding only a two-point lead. The assumption is that Obama’s better debate showing will improve these numbers in the coming days. But he’s going to need a sizable bounce and sustain it by besting Romney in next week’s foreign policy debate if he’s going to be re-elected. If the bounce is less than the one that Romney got for his far more one-sided victory in the first debate, then pundits may begin to conclude that the arc of the campaign has already been decided. Nothing less than a major shift by next week will indicate that Romney has seized a lead that he may never relinquish.

Read More

Democrats are counting on President Obama getting some kind of a bounce in opinion polls as a result of the fact that he did better in the second presidential debate than he did in the first one. But looking at the latest round of polls of the presidential race, he had better hope so. The latest Gallup tracking poll that measures opinion over the period of October 11-17 shows the president trailing Mitt Romney by a shocking seven points at 52-45 percent.

This is the biggest Romney lead in any poll all year. That will cause Democrats to dismiss it as an outlier. But it should be remembered that liberals spent most of the spring, summer and the early fall praising Gallup as the more accurate of the two most well known national tracking polls since it had consistently produced more favorable results for Obama than Rasmussen. But right now they are praying that Rasmussen, rather than the old favorite Gallup, is the more accurate since currently it shows Romney holding only a two-point lead. The assumption is that Obama’s better debate showing will improve these numbers in the coming days. But he’s going to need a sizable bounce and sustain it by besting Romney in next week’s foreign policy debate if he’s going to be re-elected. If the bounce is less than the one that Romney got for his far more one-sided victory in the first debate, then pundits may begin to conclude that the arc of the campaign has already been decided. Nothing less than a major shift by next week will indicate that Romney has seized a lead that he may never relinquish.

The key point about the Gallup poll is not just the size of Romney’s lead but the fact that it puts him over 50 percent for two consecutive days (he led by 51 to 45 percent for the period of Oct. 9-16). That should alarm the Obama campaign since it demonstrates not only a widening gap between the two candidates but Romney’s ability to break through into a solid majority of the national vote. If he manages to stay at this level, it is almost certain that his heretofore-shaky poll numbers in many of the important swing states will begin to show similar improvement.

Those counting on an Obama bounce this week should be worried about the fact that their hopes for an improvement in the president’s standing in the aftermath of the debate last week between Vice President Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan were disappointed. It was assumed that Biden would, at the very least, stop the Democratic bleeding since the first Obama-Romney debate and stabilize the race. But the vice president’s supposed victory (at least in the eyes of the Democratic base that cheered his boorish behavior) did no such thing as the Republican lead has grown rather than shrunk. Unless the president has fundamentally altered the arc of the campaign with his performance on Tuesday, it’s going to be a long and depressing slog to November 6 for his followers.

Read Less

The War on Women at MSNBC

As Bethany noted earlier this afternoon, the White House’s hypocrisy about the treatment of women gives the lie to their criticisms of Mitt Romney’s “binders” comment at the presidential debate. But the administration isn’t the only liberal entity that has not been practicing what they are preaching about equal pay for equal work. During an interview broadcast today on her “Andrea Mitchell Reports” show on the MSNBC network, Mitchell admitted that men are paid more than women at the hardline liberal outlet.

While interviewing Romney advisor Barbara Comstock about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the following exchange took place:

“I mean for Lilly Ledbetter, this was not just a legal issue,” Mitchell said. “This was the fact that she was not permitted to sue for equal pay because the statute had ran out and the law said if you didn’t know the men you were working with were making more money, which many of us don’t know, we don’t have access to those confidential —

“We know here at MSNBC the guys get paid more,” Comstock jumped in, laughing. “We know that.”

“We certainly do,” Mitchell replied.

“So this is one of the places where you need to be a little bit more public with it,” Comstock said.

As, Politico reported, at the close of the interview, Comstock returned to the issue.

“You get after MSNBC here, Andrea,” Comstock said. “Make sure the women make the same here.”

“Thank you very much,” Mitchell replied.

Mitchell later issued a statement to Politico saying it was all a misunderstanding: “I was referring to the industry as a whole. This remark has been taken out of context.”

Like heck it was. This is just another illustration of how liberal concern for women is often nothing more than mere posturing. Mitchell has already compromised her integrity in this campaign by becoming just another liberal talking head, and was even outed as a shrill partisan by the Democrats when they included her misleading post-debate comment about Romney’s tax plan in an ad. But even she knows that taking potshots at Romney exposes MSNBC to criticism for its own “war on women.”

Read More

As Bethany noted earlier this afternoon, the White House’s hypocrisy about the treatment of women gives the lie to their criticisms of Mitt Romney’s “binders” comment at the presidential debate. But the administration isn’t the only liberal entity that has not been practicing what they are preaching about equal pay for equal work. During an interview broadcast today on her “Andrea Mitchell Reports” show on the MSNBC network, Mitchell admitted that men are paid more than women at the hardline liberal outlet.

While interviewing Romney advisor Barbara Comstock about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the following exchange took place:

“I mean for Lilly Ledbetter, this was not just a legal issue,” Mitchell said. “This was the fact that she was not permitted to sue for equal pay because the statute had ran out and the law said if you didn’t know the men you were working with were making more money, which many of us don’t know, we don’t have access to those confidential —

“We know here at MSNBC the guys get paid more,” Comstock jumped in, laughing. “We know that.”

“We certainly do,” Mitchell replied.

“So this is one of the places where you need to be a little bit more public with it,” Comstock said.

As, Politico reported, at the close of the interview, Comstock returned to the issue.

“You get after MSNBC here, Andrea,” Comstock said. “Make sure the women make the same here.”

“Thank you very much,” Mitchell replied.

Mitchell later issued a statement to Politico saying it was all a misunderstanding: “I was referring to the industry as a whole. This remark has been taken out of context.”

Like heck it was. This is just another illustration of how liberal concern for women is often nothing more than mere posturing. Mitchell has already compromised her integrity in this campaign by becoming just another liberal talking head, and was even outed as a shrill partisan by the Democrats when they included her misleading post-debate comment about Romney’s tax plan in an ad. But even she knows that taking potshots at Romney exposes MSNBC to criticism for its own “war on women.”

The much-vaunted Lilly Ledbetter Act is itself an example of this hypocritical behavior. Equal pay was already the law of the land before Obama signed it. Rather than an advance for women, the Act was a lollipop for the president’s trial lawyer bundlers. It was about making it easier for them to sue companies long after the statute of limitations had expired–meaning that it was about lawyers making money, not ordinary women seeking fair employment.

Mitt Romney is being roasted for his “binders” comment even though the anecdote in which it came up demonstrated that, unlike the president, the Republican candidate means what he says about treating all persons equally. Another point that is omitted from that discussion is that Romney didn’t need to be prodded to include women in his administration after the fact since he had already chosen a female, Kerry Healy, to be his lieutenant governor.

But don’t expect liberal talking heads on networks that don’t give equal pay to women for equal work to mention that.

Read Less

Obama’s Debate Memes Highlight His Own Failures

Just how desperate is the Obama campaign after the last two debates? One only has to look at the themes they’ve pulled from Romney’s statements to show just how low the Obama campaign’s messaging has sunk. After the first debate, the Obama campaign played up Mitt Romney’s comments on Big Bird, encouraging memes, emphasizing scare tactics on the death of a beloved children’s character at the hands of his Republican opponent. After the most recent debate, Obama is campaigning on Mitt Romney’s comments on “binders full of women,” which I defended earlier today. Today in New Hampshire, the president inserted language on the binders into his stump speech, telling the crowd: 

See, we don’t have to order up some binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women who can learn and excel in these fields right now.  (Applause.)  And when these young women graduate, I want them to receive equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)

Read More

Just how desperate is the Obama campaign after the last two debates? One only has to look at the themes they’ve pulled from Romney’s statements to show just how low the Obama campaign’s messaging has sunk. After the first debate, the Obama campaign played up Mitt Romney’s comments on Big Bird, encouraging memes, emphasizing scare tactics on the death of a beloved children’s character at the hands of his Republican opponent. After the most recent debate, Obama is campaigning on Mitt Romney’s comments on “binders full of women,” which I defended earlier today. Today in New Hampshire, the president inserted language on the binders into his stump speech, telling the crowd: 

See, we don’t have to order up some binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women who can learn and excel in these fields right now.  (Applause.)  And when these young women graduate, I want them to receive equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)

The first bill President Obama signed after he took office was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 — a bill that was supposed to guarantee women a chance to challenge pay discrimination based on gender. As with most problems (real or imagined), a liberal’s first response is to legislate and regulate. According to liberals’ own standards, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, Obama’s first crowning achievement, has failed. If liberals insist on continuing to perpetuate misleading statistics on equal pay for women, they also have to admit that this aspect of Obama’s record is a failure.

Even within Obama’s own White House, a wide pay disparity exists between male and female employees. The Washington Free Beacon reported on their findings in April of this year:

According to the 2011 annual report on White House staff, female employees earned a median annual salary of $60,000, which was about 18 percent less than the median salary for male employees ($71,000).

The Free Beacon also pointed out the myriad ways the White House has been a difficult place for women to get ahead:

The president has demonstrated a strong preference for all-male foursomes in his frequent golf outings, a bias that extends well beyond the putting green and into the Oval Office.

“Women are Obama’s base, and they don’t seem to have enough people who look like the base inside of their own inner circle,” former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers told the New York Times.

In a 2011 article titled “The White House Boys’ Club: President Obama Has a Woman Problem,” TIME magazine’s Amy Sullivan detailed the president’s fondness for male-dominated environments.

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama was criticized for paying the women on his campaign staff less than the men, and far less than GOP opponent John McCain paid his female staffers.

Last year, women in the White House were in the news with the release of a book by Ron Suskind that had some fairly unflattering comments from Obama’s own staff on the Obama White House. Anita Dunn, who now serves as an Obama debate coach, said the following: “this place would be in court for a hostile workplace. . . . Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.”

According to any measurable standard, the Obama White House has failed women–both women who work in it and American women on the whole. The number of American women living in poverty has reached a record high during Obama’s tenure and the recession, which has only worsened on Obama’s watch, has affected women as well as men.

The first theme Obama’s team pounced on after the first debate was keeping Big Bird’s paycheck signed by the U.S. Treasury. Another version of Barack Obama was the candidate who in 2008 ran on restoring fiscal responsibility to Washington. He promised to reduce the deficit by half. Instead, we’ve seen it doubled in three short years. Mitt Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, has called this Obama’s “worst broken promise.” Four years later, President Obama is running on giving away money we don’t have to a business (Sesame Workshop) that doesn’t need it.

While Big Bird and binders may make for great Tumblr posts for already committed supporters, they do little to sway undecided voters who want to hear more substantial messaging from the president of the United States. If the Romney campaign really wanted to turn the tables on Obama, they could use Big Bird and binders to highlight how these memes are actually representative of failings of the Obama White House’s record on the deficit and gender equality, respectively.

Read Less

Israeli Poll Shows Labor at a Crossroads

Earlier this month, I wrote about an Israeli news report suggesting former Kadima party leaders Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni were considering teaming up with former Israeli TV journalist Yair Lapid for the upcoming Knesset elections. One detail in that report was that Lapid had created his own party and was unwilling to leave it to join Kadima, no matter who leads the centrist opposition party. But what if he were willing to join Kadima?

That is the subject of a story in Haaretz today. The Israeli daily reports the results of a poll taken to determine how all the major parties would perform in January’s elections in three different possible scenarios. One of those scenarios had Lapid, Olmert, and Livni together in a “super-party.” And Haaretz reports that such a super-party would win the election. Sort of:

Read More

Earlier this month, I wrote about an Israeli news report suggesting former Kadima party leaders Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni were considering teaming up with former Israeli TV journalist Yair Lapid for the upcoming Knesset elections. One detail in that report was that Lapid had created his own party and was unwilling to leave it to join Kadima, no matter who leads the centrist opposition party. But what if he were willing to join Kadima?

That is the subject of a story in Haaretz today. The Israeli daily reports the results of a poll taken to determine how all the major parties would perform in January’s elections in three different possible scenarios. One of those scenarios had Lapid, Olmert, and Livni together in a “super-party.” And Haaretz reports that such a super-party would win the election. Sort of:

A new centrist party formed by Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid would win more seats in the next Knesset than the Likud, according to a new Haaretz poll. Were such a party to be formed, it would grab 25 seats, compared to Likud’s 24. However, the survey also indicates that, whatever its composition, a right-wing bloc would not lose its Knesset majority….

According to the poll, even if former Prime Minister Olmert and former Kadima leader Livni join forces, or if Livni instead links up with Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich, they would face a right-wing bloc, a bloc of “natural partners,” that would retain its majority – meaning that Benjamin Netanyahu would remain prime minister after the January 22 elections. In a worst-case scenario from his perspective, he would just have to sweat a little more before reaching the finish line.

The third scenario would be if the current party composition remains unchanged. In that case, the poll projects a 65-seat governing coalition for the rightist bloc led by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu, and the Orthodox Shas party.

That first scenario, which projects a one-vote win for the centrist supergroup but a failure to form a coalition, leading Netanyahu’s Likud to put his coalition back together, is an almost exact replay of what actually happened the last time Livni led a party that challenged Netanyahu. In 2009, Livni’s Kadima garnered one more Knesset seat than Netanyahu’s Likud, but was unable to form a coalition. (The Kadima win was less than it seemed; voters wanted a rightist coalition, and they got one.)

But there is a fascinating side story to compliment this one, also on Haaretz’s website. The paper reports that the Labor party, now led by Shelly Yachimovich, is working hard to recruit young talent, leaders from Israel’s social protest movement, and popular military and media figures to run in this winter’s election on the Labor slate. This is fascinating in part because it stands in such contrast not only to the first story, but also to conventional wisdom. As the first Haaretz story shows, in Israel the electoral success of a political party is overwhelmingly dependent on the popularity of its leader. (Just for fun, ask a Western media personality who rails against the Orthodox and Russian immigrant parties to name anyone besides the leader of those parties. They probably can’t.)

And in fact, a Livni-Olmert-Lapid party is considered a supergroup despite the fact that poll respondents were given only three names. Who else is on the ticket? Who cares? Yet the Labor party, which until recently was led by Ehud Barak, is rebuilding from the ground up. It cannot trade on Yachimovich’s name or fame. And the strategy represents an honest grappling with the Israeli left’s freefall. Yachimovich is saying, in effect, this isn’t your father’s Labor party.

It is also, however, risky. The Israeli left has had its clock cleaned in Knesset elections over the past decade because the electorate has moved to the right–at least on the peace process. Yachimovich is branding Labor as being further to the left than it has been under the hawkish Barak. It she is successful, it will be a big victory for a rejuvenated left. If not, it will have been a massive missed opportunity to grab what’s left of the political center before someone else does.

Read Less

Even Moderate Mitt Should Talk About Religious Freedom

In the aftermath of the second presidential debate, Democrats are attempting to reboot the “war on women” theme that was the keynote for President Obama’s re-election campaign during the spring and summer. That’s being driven in large part by Mitt Romney’s “binders of women” comment, but it was also the product of the exchange at Hofstra between the two about insurance coverage of contraception. The president slammed Romney for opposing universal coverage of contraception under his ObamaCare bill, while the Republican claimed he wanted to ensure full access to it for all women.

Democrats are claiming this is another example of the new “Moderate Mitt” that has replaced the “severely conservative” candidate that campaigned in Republican primaries, and to some extent they are right. Romney was telling the truth in that he clearly does not oppose denying access to contraception to anyone, nor does he think that “employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not.” But he passed on the chance to explain to voters how the ObamaCare mandate infringes on the religious freedom of religious institutions and individuals, since it forces them to pay for services that violate their consciences and their faith. This was just one of a number of flubbed opportunities to hit the president on issues where he is vulnerable on Tuesday, but it reinforced the impression that in his desire not to offend moderates and especially women voters, he is willing to abandon the principles he campaigned on up to this point. Given the stakes that might be understandable, but the Romney campaign ought not to confuse the need to portray the candidate as a reasonable person that women can trust with a less laudable desire to fudge the differences with Obama on important issues. Romney should be speaking more about religious freedom, not abandoning the issue to the president.

Read More

In the aftermath of the second presidential debate, Democrats are attempting to reboot the “war on women” theme that was the keynote for President Obama’s re-election campaign during the spring and summer. That’s being driven in large part by Mitt Romney’s “binders of women” comment, but it was also the product of the exchange at Hofstra between the two about insurance coverage of contraception. The president slammed Romney for opposing universal coverage of contraception under his ObamaCare bill, while the Republican claimed he wanted to ensure full access to it for all women.

Democrats are claiming this is another example of the new “Moderate Mitt” that has replaced the “severely conservative” candidate that campaigned in Republican primaries, and to some extent they are right. Romney was telling the truth in that he clearly does not oppose denying access to contraception to anyone, nor does he think that “employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not.” But he passed on the chance to explain to voters how the ObamaCare mandate infringes on the religious freedom of religious institutions and individuals, since it forces them to pay for services that violate their consciences and their faith. This was just one of a number of flubbed opportunities to hit the president on issues where he is vulnerable on Tuesday, but it reinforced the impression that in his desire not to offend moderates and especially women voters, he is willing to abandon the principles he campaigned on up to this point. Given the stakes that might be understandable, but the Romney campaign ought not to confuse the need to portray the candidate as a reasonable person that women can trust with a less laudable desire to fudge the differences with Obama on important issues. Romney should be speaking more about religious freedom, not abandoning the issue to the president.

Far from a minor point, ObamaCare remains one of the key points at stake in this election. If the president is re-elected, the legislation will be fully implemented. Opponents of the bill, among whom Romney presumably numbers himself, believe that the president’s efforts to impose this mandate unconstitutionally infringes on our first freedom — religious liberty — and must be stopped. If it is implemented it will mark a turning point in which liberals will be able to redefine religious freedom in such a way as to restrict to it the home and the church, but to rout it out of the public square.

It is vital that Romney show himself not to be the monster that is shown in Democratic attack ads. The first debate was important because it was the first opportunity for many American women to take a good look at the Republican alongside the president. The boost in Romney’s popularity among women was far more the result of their favorable opinion of him than the president’s lackluster performance.

Maintaining that momentum among female voters doesn’t require Romney to backtrack on ObamaCare or religious freedom. To the contrary, these are issues that are as important to women as to men. The idea that free contraception is the issue on which the female vote will turn is a liberal myth. Women won’t be threatened by a discussion that centers on the rights of believers so long as he makes it plain that he isn’t interested in stopping anyone from doing what they want in their personal lives. Romney’s failure to explain his differences with the president on the issue won’t help him win the women’s vote, or anybody else’s for that matter.

Read Less

Pew Poll Finds Foreign Policy Problems for Obama

This Pew Research Center poll was conducted the weekend after the first debate, but the overview was just released today. It found that Mitt Romney has significantly cut into President Obama’s 15-point lead on foreign policy, and now trails by just four points:

The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 4-7, 2012 among 1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters, finds that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney run about even on most foreign policy issues. On the question of who can do a better job making wise decisions about foreign policy, 47% of voters favor Obama and 43% Romney. This represents a substantial gain for Romney, who trailed Obama by 15 points on foreign policy issues in September.

Some of Obama’s slide may have to do with the Benghazi attack. While respondents were split how the administration handled the attack, a plurality of independents disapproved. The more closely respondents followed the news, the more likely they were to disagree with the administration’s response:

Read More

This Pew Research Center poll was conducted the weekend after the first debate, but the overview was just released today. It found that Mitt Romney has significantly cut into President Obama’s 15-point lead on foreign policy, and now trails by just four points:

The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 4-7, 2012 among 1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters, finds that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney run about even on most foreign policy issues. On the question of who can do a better job making wise decisions about foreign policy, 47% of voters favor Obama and 43% Romney. This represents a substantial gain for Romney, who trailed Obama by 15 points on foreign policy issues in September.

Some of Obama’s slide may have to do with the Benghazi attack. While respondents were split how the administration handled the attack, a plurality of independents disapproved. The more closely respondents followed the news, the more likely they were to disagree with the administration’s response:

The administration gets lower ratings from those who followed news about investigations into the embassy attack very or fairly closely. Among this group, 36% approve of the administration’s handling of the situation and 52% disapprove.

More Republicans (67%) followed news about the Libya investigations than did Democrats (53%) or independents (55%). However, looking only at independents, those who followed news about the Libya investigations disapprove of the administration’s handling of the situation by two-to-one (59% disapprove vs. 29% approve).

Keep in mind, this was a poll of the general public, not registered or likely voters. Unless Obama’s argument about Benghazi in Tuesday’s debate resonated with voters, his numbers could be even lower with the actual electorate.

A growing majority of Americans also say it’s more important to take a firm stand against a nuclear Iran than to avoid a military conflict. In January, the “stand against” option led by nine points. In the latest poll, it leads by 21 points:

The public has long favored tough measures to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and 56% now say it is more important to take a firm stand against Iran’s nuclear program, while 35% say it is more important to avoid a military conflict. In January, 50% favored taking a firm stand against Iran and 41% said it was more important to avoid a confrontation.

The Republican Party also continued to dominate the Democratic Party on the pro-Israel issue. A plurality of Republicans, 46 percent, say that the U.S. is not supportive enough of Israel, while only 9 percent of Democrats agree. One-quarter of Democrats say that the U.S. is actually too supportive of Israel.

Read Less

Does Biden Speak for the Administration on Iran?

Obviously Jeffrey Goldberg is no rosy-eyed optimist when it comes to the threat of a nuclear Iran, but he’s also spent the last few years trying to assure everyone that President Obama is dead serious about preventing the bomb. Which is why it’s surprising to see this relatively tough criticism of the administration in his latest column:

Romney was handed an additional gift last week by Vice President Joe Biden. Over the past three years, I’ve been impressed with Obama’s seriousness on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, the urgency with which he treats the subject, and the measures he has taken to keep the regime from crossing the atomic threshold. But last week, in the vice-presidential debate, Biden attempted to portray Representative Paul Ryan as a hysteric on the subject, even though Ryan’s seriousness on Iran matches the president’s.

In so doing, Biden downplayed the importance of confronting Iran. Biden said that when Ryan “talks about fissile material, they have to take this highly enriched uranium, get it from 20 percent up. Then they have to be able to have something to put it in. There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point. Both the Israelis and we know — we’ll know if they start the process of building a weapon. So all this bluster I keep hearing, all this loose talk — what are they talking about?”

Read More

Obviously Jeffrey Goldberg is no rosy-eyed optimist when it comes to the threat of a nuclear Iran, but he’s also spent the last few years trying to assure everyone that President Obama is dead serious about preventing the bomb. Which is why it’s surprising to see this relatively tough criticism of the administration in his latest column:

Romney was handed an additional gift last week by Vice President Joe Biden. Over the past three years, I’ve been impressed with Obama’s seriousness on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, the urgency with which he treats the subject, and the measures he has taken to keep the regime from crossing the atomic threshold. But last week, in the vice-presidential debate, Biden attempted to portray Representative Paul Ryan as a hysteric on the subject, even though Ryan’s seriousness on Iran matches the president’s.

In so doing, Biden downplayed the importance of confronting Iran. Biden said that when Ryan “talks about fissile material, they have to take this highly enriched uranium, get it from 20 percent up. Then they have to be able to have something to put it in. There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point. Both the Israelis and we know — we’ll know if they start the process of building a weapon. So all this bluster I keep hearing, all this loose talk — what are they talking about?”

Goldberg writes that Biden “downplayed the importance of confronting Iran,” and calls this a “dramatic, deviation from the administration’s line on Iran.” He notes that Biden was wrong in both substance (an Iranian bomb isn’t that far off when you look at the work they’ve done so far) and tone (yes, it actually is a big deal).

It’s definitely unsettling to hear the vice president dismiss concern over a nuclear Iran as “bluster” and “loose talk,” the same terms used by people like Stephen Walt to smear journalists like Goldberg as warmongers. But was Biden off-message, or just clumsily parroting the administration’s internal sentiment? Keep in mind that “bluster” and “loose talk” were the same two words used by President Obama to dismiss Republican critics of his Iran policy at AIPAC last spring. Kind of a coincidence, no? Recently, Obama also referred to Israeli concern over the nuclear program as “noise.” The difference may just be that Obama phrased his administration’s line a bit more carefully, which wouldn’t be a surprise considering, well … Biden.

Read Less

Timing Is Everything, Except When It’s Not

Over at The Millions this morning, Bill Morris gives some examples of the “iron fact” that “[i]n book publishing . . . timing is everything.” Joe Posnanski’s biography of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, for one, was drowned in revelations about child rape by Jerry Sandusky, Paterno’s onetime assistant. The Bonfire of the Vanities, for another, got a lucky boost from the “Bloody Monday stock market crash in the fall of 1987,” which made Tom Wolfe’s novel seem like an “almost magical bottling of the ’80s zeitgeist.”

But Morris’s “iron fact” is badly rusted by his own self-contradictory evidence. Depending on how you tilt your head, the Islamist terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, either doomed a book to failure (Alex Shakar’s The Savage Girl, published within days of the attacks, included light-hearted references to terrorism) or insured its success (Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, published a little over two weeks before the attacks, suddenly seemed “prescient to just about everyone”). Why was one a failure and the other a success, if “timing” influenced the fortunes of both, is left unexplained. For that matter, Morris might have considered an even more tiresome refutation. Anne Patchett’s novel Bel Canto, which romanticizes terrorists, was published in June 2001, and instead of being discredited by events, went on to secure the PEN/Faulkner and Orange literary prizes.

Whatever interest his essay may have is undercut by Morris’s opening sentence, in which the “literary life” is equated, sans irony, sans qualification, with “book publishing.” Here is the sentence in full: “There are few iron facts in the crapshoot of the literary life, but here’s one: In book publishing — no less than in music, war, and sex — timing is everything.” Offhand I can’t think of a better case study of the bacterial infection that has confined literary criticism to a convalescent ward. The confusion of literature with publishing reclassifies literary critics into adjuncts of the book promotion department.

Small wonder Morris is so fascinated with the sub-literary question of “timing.” As John Barth says somewhere, being up-to-date is the least important qualification for a great artist. Moby-Dick, first published on this date in 1851, was so “timely” that it had to wait seven decades, till Raymond M. Weaver’s biography of Melville and Carl Van Doren’s study of The American Novel (both published in 1921), to find more than a handful of readers. Morris’s inclination to equate literary success with publishing success, in fact, is what the bacterium looks like under the microscope.

You might think that a literary critic would feel some obligation to resist book promotion and nose out the good books that are being under-promoted. Criticism might even regain its health if it took a Moneyball approach to contemporary literature. Like batting average among baseball oldtimers who can’t seem to shake themselves out of their game’s folk psychology, timeliness is the measure of how a book is overvalued in literary culture. Fifty years ago this week two different novels about the timely question of the “nuclear threat,” Allen Drury’s A Shade of Difference and Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II, hovered near the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Who remembers them today? A solicitude for “timing” shifts the question to the book’s subject. “What is it about?” becomes the decisive thing to ask about it. An important subject makes an important (and a timely) book, regardless what is being predicated about it.

In literature, however, almost exactly the reverse is true. The marriage plot, as Jeffrey Eugenides had fun reminding everyone last year, is the repetitive subject of a great many novels. Nothing very timely in that (or at least not in the way Morris conceives of time). “Aboutness,” as I like to call the question of the subject, circles around and around what is central to a novel: how it handles its subject. To coin a literary slogan: treatment is everything.

How might a Billy Beane among critics turn around the moribund franchise of “literary” fiction? “If we look closely at our reactions to most great novels,” Wayne Booth wrote in The Rhetoric of Fiction (also published fifty years ago this fall), “we discover that we feel a strong concern for the characters as people; we care about their good and bad fortune.” This caring has little or nothing to do with timing: we don’t love or hate based on the luck of external events.

The source of our feeling lies elsewhere: “[W]e cannot avoid judging the characters we know as morally admirable or contemptible,” Booth goes on. Moral judgment is as basic to reading a novel as a foundation inspection is to the purchase of a new home. It is, however, undervalued in literary culture today. Perhaps the main reason American fiction is in decline is that its moral component is neglected — both by writers and critics. It is never discussed in the creative writing workshops, which consequently limits their effectiveness as “feeders” of contemporary fiction. It is ignored in book promotion for business reasons. (No one ever bought a book, the publicists seem to believe, because its characters were admirable or contemptible.)

In the neglect of its moral component, we may get “timely” fiction or “literary” fiction, but not fiction that invites its readers to a judgment. Success is measured in splashy coverage from critics with little genuine interest in literature, and the real value of fiction is disdained — along with its readers.

Over at The Millions this morning, Bill Morris gives some examples of the “iron fact” that “[i]n book publishing . . . timing is everything.” Joe Posnanski’s biography of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, for one, was drowned in revelations about child rape by Jerry Sandusky, Paterno’s onetime assistant. The Bonfire of the Vanities, for another, got a lucky boost from the “Bloody Monday stock market crash in the fall of 1987,” which made Tom Wolfe’s novel seem like an “almost magical bottling of the ’80s zeitgeist.”

But Morris’s “iron fact” is badly rusted by his own self-contradictory evidence. Depending on how you tilt your head, the Islamist terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, either doomed a book to failure (Alex Shakar’s The Savage Girl, published within days of the attacks, included light-hearted references to terrorism) or insured its success (Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, published a little over two weeks before the attacks, suddenly seemed “prescient to just about everyone”). Why was one a failure and the other a success, if “timing” influenced the fortunes of both, is left unexplained. For that matter, Morris might have considered an even more tiresome refutation. Anne Patchett’s novel Bel Canto, which romanticizes terrorists, was published in June 2001, and instead of being discredited by events, went on to secure the PEN/Faulkner and Orange literary prizes.

Whatever interest his essay may have is undercut by Morris’s opening sentence, in which the “literary life” is equated, sans irony, sans qualification, with “book publishing.” Here is the sentence in full: “There are few iron facts in the crapshoot of the literary life, but here’s one: In book publishing — no less than in music, war, and sex — timing is everything.” Offhand I can’t think of a better case study of the bacterial infection that has confined literary criticism to a convalescent ward. The confusion of literature with publishing reclassifies literary critics into adjuncts of the book promotion department.

Small wonder Morris is so fascinated with the sub-literary question of “timing.” As John Barth says somewhere, being up-to-date is the least important qualification for a great artist. Moby-Dick, first published on this date in 1851, was so “timely” that it had to wait seven decades, till Raymond M. Weaver’s biography of Melville and Carl Van Doren’s study of The American Novel (both published in 1921), to find more than a handful of readers. Morris’s inclination to equate literary success with publishing success, in fact, is what the bacterium looks like under the microscope.

You might think that a literary critic would feel some obligation to resist book promotion and nose out the good books that are being under-promoted. Criticism might even regain its health if it took a Moneyball approach to contemporary literature. Like batting average among baseball oldtimers who can’t seem to shake themselves out of their game’s folk psychology, timeliness is the measure of how a book is overvalued in literary culture. Fifty years ago this week two different novels about the timely question of the “nuclear threat,” Allen Drury’s A Shade of Difference and Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II, hovered near the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Who remembers them today? A solicitude for “timing” shifts the question to the book’s subject. “What is it about?” becomes the decisive thing to ask about it. An important subject makes an important (and a timely) book, regardless what is being predicated about it.

In literature, however, almost exactly the reverse is true. The marriage plot, as Jeffrey Eugenides had fun reminding everyone last year, is the repetitive subject of a great many novels. Nothing very timely in that (or at least not in the way Morris conceives of time). “Aboutness,” as I like to call the question of the subject, circles around and around what is central to a novel: how it handles its subject. To coin a literary slogan: treatment is everything.

How might a Billy Beane among critics turn around the moribund franchise of “literary” fiction? “If we look closely at our reactions to most great novels,” Wayne Booth wrote in The Rhetoric of Fiction (also published fifty years ago this fall), “we discover that we feel a strong concern for the characters as people; we care about their good and bad fortune.” This caring has little or nothing to do with timing: we don’t love or hate based on the luck of external events.

The source of our feeling lies elsewhere: “[W]e cannot avoid judging the characters we know as morally admirable or contemptible,” Booth goes on. Moral judgment is as basic to reading a novel as a foundation inspection is to the purchase of a new home. It is, however, undervalued in literary culture today. Perhaps the main reason American fiction is in decline is that its moral component is neglected — both by writers and critics. It is never discussed in the creative writing workshops, which consequently limits their effectiveness as “feeders” of contemporary fiction. It is ignored in book promotion for business reasons. (No one ever bought a book, the publicists seem to believe, because its characters were admirable or contemptible.)

In the neglect of its moral component, we may get “timely” fiction or “literary” fiction, but not fiction that invites its readers to a judgment. Success is measured in splashy coverage from critics with little genuine interest in literature, and the real value of fiction is disdained — along with its readers.

Read Less

Presidential Race Will Determine Senate

Outlets like Politico continue to write about the race to control the Senate as one in which the Republicans have blown their chance to win an easy victory. It’s true that sure GOP wins have been lost. The Todd Akin fiasco will probably cost them a once-sure pickup of a seat in Missouri and Olympia Snowe’s decision to retire will likely mean a pickup for the Democrats. But a look at Real Clear Politics’ Senate map shows that there’s still plenty of doubt as to whether it will be Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell sitting in the majority leader’s chair next January. With 12 races rated as a tossups and with a Florida seat now called as a likely Democratic win, though still competitive, this is no time for either side to be making assumptions about the outcome on Election Day. Each race needs to be judged on its own merits and the particular circumstances in that state, but the impact of the presidential race will be crucial.

The odds are there will be no partisan sweep like the midterm victories of the Republicans in 1994 and 2010 or the Democrats in 2006. Nor does is seem likely that either presidential candidate will have the kind of coattails that will create a landslide that will radically affect the composition of Congress. But that doesn’t mean the fates of President Obama and Mitt Romney won’t materially impact the various Senate races. With so many Senate races too close to call, the ability of either candidate to create any kind of a groundswell down the ticket will probably be the difference. Though there are too many variables to be sure of anything this year, the party that wins the White House is likely to be the one that controls the Senate as well.

Read More

Outlets like Politico continue to write about the race to control the Senate as one in which the Republicans have blown their chance to win an easy victory. It’s true that sure GOP wins have been lost. The Todd Akin fiasco will probably cost them a once-sure pickup of a seat in Missouri and Olympia Snowe’s decision to retire will likely mean a pickup for the Democrats. But a look at Real Clear Politics’ Senate map shows that there’s still plenty of doubt as to whether it will be Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell sitting in the majority leader’s chair next January. With 12 races rated as a tossups and with a Florida seat now called as a likely Democratic win, though still competitive, this is no time for either side to be making assumptions about the outcome on Election Day. Each race needs to be judged on its own merits and the particular circumstances in that state, but the impact of the presidential race will be crucial.

The odds are there will be no partisan sweep like the midterm victories of the Republicans in 1994 and 2010 or the Democrats in 2006. Nor does is seem likely that either presidential candidate will have the kind of coattails that will create a landslide that will radically affect the composition of Congress. But that doesn’t mean the fates of President Obama and Mitt Romney won’t materially impact the various Senate races. With so many Senate races too close to call, the ability of either candidate to create any kind of a groundswell down the ticket will probably be the difference. Though there are too many variables to be sure of anything this year, the party that wins the White House is likely to be the one that controls the Senate as well.

The fact there are an almost unprecedented number of competitive Senate races this year is a function of the Democrats’ big win in 2006 when they seized control of the upper house for the first time since 1994. That set up 2012 as a year in which they would have to defend far more seats than the Republicans, including some in states like Virginia, Montana, and Missouri where they would be underdogs. Thanks to George Allen’s problems in recapturing his old mojo in Virginia and Todd Akin’s unfortunate discussion of pregnancy and rape, things aren’t lining up quite so easily for the Republicans.

However, this campaign may turn out to have as many pleasant surprises for the Republicans as it has disappointments.

Joe Lieberman’s old seat in Connecticut was thought to be a layup for the Democrats, but thanks to Linda McMahon’s unexpected strength and a weak Democrat like Chris Murphy, it may turn out to be a GOP pickup.

In Ohio, Democrat Sherrod Brown looked to be a shoe-in against young Josh Mandel, but the Republican’s staying power in the polls is scaring Democrats.

Even in blue Pennsylvania, the Democrats have their Senate worries. Bob Casey beat Rick Santorum by a whopping 18 percentage points in 2006, but now polls show him with a slim lead over largely unknown Tea Partier Tom Smith. The Republican may not be able to close that gap, but if Romney, who is also trailing by only a few points, gains more ground in the coming weeks, Smith may be dragged along with him.

All three of these states may wind up staying in the Democratic column, but a strong showing for Romney in all of these states is likely to give a boost to all those Republican candidates. Even though he won’t win Connecticut, if he makes it close, that could be enough to also make the difference for McMahon, who is running ahead of the top of the ticket right now. The same is true elsewhere. If Romney’s surge isn’t derailed by the last debate, it will be interesting to see whether he is able to create a tide that will lift all GOP boats. All 12 of those tossups and even the Florida seat that Bill Nelson looks to be holding onto right now are as much in play as the presidency itself. Which means there is a good chance that the next president, no matter whether his name is Obama or Romney, will be able to count on a slim majority in the Senate next year.

Read Less

Reality Fact-Checks Obama

Although the Obama campaign is happy to report the recent drop in the unemployment survey, the Republican critique that the drop is due in part to those leaving the labor force and giving up on finding work is more than mere spin. That’s because of a simple truth, and one that has hurt the Obama campaign’s narrative of recovery: it is quite a challenge to convince an unemployed person that they have a job. At the beginning of the year, the Obama campaign tried selling the economy as being on the upswing, and voters pushed back.

In February, Democracy Corps released polling on the most recent State of the Union address, and here is what they wrote:

One of the President’s weakest operative frameworks highlights recent progress on job creation. This message is potentially dangerous for Democrats. During the State of the Union, we watched the dial lines go flat, with even Democrats peaking below 70 when the President highlighted recent jobs numbers.

In post-speech focus groups, respondents explained why this part of the speech did not resonate for them: first, and most importantly, they have not seen these jobs or felt the effects of job creation. But they are also deeply concerned that these jobs are not permanent, that these new jobs belie much deeper structural problems in the economy, and that the new jobs that have been created are far inferior to the more stable, full-time, well-paying middle class jobs that have been lost over the last decade.

Of course, this was almost a year ago, and in that time economic data has improved, so it’s possible the message would be better received today. But the point is, the Obama campaign had to drop certain overly optimistic language from the president’s campaign speeches because the public wasn’t buying it. Something similar may be happening with regard to the president’s message that al-Qaeda is on its heels.

Read More

Although the Obama campaign is happy to report the recent drop in the unemployment survey, the Republican critique that the drop is due in part to those leaving the labor force and giving up on finding work is more than mere spin. That’s because of a simple truth, and one that has hurt the Obama campaign’s narrative of recovery: it is quite a challenge to convince an unemployed person that they have a job. At the beginning of the year, the Obama campaign tried selling the economy as being on the upswing, and voters pushed back.

In February, Democracy Corps released polling on the most recent State of the Union address, and here is what they wrote:

One of the President’s weakest operative frameworks highlights recent progress on job creation. This message is potentially dangerous for Democrats. During the State of the Union, we watched the dial lines go flat, with even Democrats peaking below 70 when the President highlighted recent jobs numbers.

In post-speech focus groups, respondents explained why this part of the speech did not resonate for them: first, and most importantly, they have not seen these jobs or felt the effects of job creation. But they are also deeply concerned that these jobs are not permanent, that these new jobs belie much deeper structural problems in the economy, and that the new jobs that have been created are far inferior to the more stable, full-time, well-paying middle class jobs that have been lost over the last decade.

Of course, this was almost a year ago, and in that time economic data has improved, so it’s possible the message would be better received today. But the point is, the Obama campaign had to drop certain overly optimistic language from the president’s campaign speeches because the public wasn’t buying it. Something similar may be happening with regard to the president’s message that al-Qaeda is on its heels.

Yesterday, Josh Rogin wrote that that the White House was bombastic about “decimating” the terror group’s leadership, but when evidence of al-Qaeda’s possible role in the Benghazi attack emerged, the White House began narrowing its claim territorially:

“Well, what we have said all along, what the president has said all along, is that … progress has been made in decimating the senior ranks of al Qaeda and in decimating al Qaeda central in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region,” adding that al Qaeda “remains our No. 1 foe.”

Carney repeated his qualification that al Qaeda is hurting in Southwest Asia, but not necessarily in North Africa, two days later.

And yesterday Fox reported that Obama had been saying that al-Qaeda is “on the run,” a phrase which seems to have been dropped as well: “But at the debate Tuesday and on the campaign trail Wednesday, the Al Qaeda reference appeared to have been walked back.”

The two claims about the economic recovery and decimating al-Qaeda are closely related, since they are the dual pitch of the Obama campaign’s accomplishments over the last four years. It also tells you why they haven’t retired the phrase “bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.” Both the economic argument (the auto bailout) and the national security argument (bin Laden’s death) are more closely targeted, narrow pitches. The auto bailout has always been pretty unpopular nationally, but less so in the Rust Belt. And the nation celebrated the demise of bin Laden, but isn’t ready to believe that terrorism is no longer much of a threat.

And both elements of the bin Laden/GM slogan line up with reality, whereas overstating the economic recovery and the victories over al-Qaeda are so self-evidently contradicted by the facts that they undermine the president’s credibility on these two important issues.

Read Less

American Crossroads Hits Obama on “Acts of Terror” Claim

If President Obama’s position from the beginning has been that the Benghazi assault was a terrorist attack, why did his administration appear to claim otherwise for two weeks? American Crossroads asks the question, in an ad that tries to spin Romney’s biggest second debate blunder into a strength (h/t RightScoop):

Read More

If President Obama’s position from the beginning has been that the Benghazi assault was a terrorist attack, why did his administration appear to claim otherwise for two weeks? American Crossroads asks the question, in an ad that tries to spin Romney’s biggest second debate blunder into a strength (h/t RightScoop):

Both sides concede that the Benghazi exchange was one of the worst moments of the debate for Romney and one of the best for Obama, so it’s interesting that the Romney campaign has spent the last two days talking about Benghazi while the Obama campaign has tried to change the subject to “binders full of women.” It shows you how vulnerable the Obama campaign is on the issue. Normally, you’d expect them to promote Romney’s stumble non-stop, but it’s risky to bring any gratuitous attention to Obama’s Benghazi response, even if it’s at Romney’s expense.

The next debate is on foreign policy, and Romney will have a second chance to confront Obama with the same contradictions raised by the American Crossroads video. The difference is, Romney will likely be more prepared than he was last time, and Obama won’t have Candy Crowley to play defense.

Read Less

CNN Internal Email Contradicts Crowley’s “Fact-Check”

TMZ obtained an internal CNN “talking points” email sent by Managing Editor Mark Whitaker, defending Candy Crowley amid criticism of her performance at Tuesday’s debate. But not only does Whitaker misrepresent Crowley’s “fact-check” to make it sound more accurate, he also acknowledges that there is disagreement over whether President Obama referred to Benghazi as an “act of terror” in his Rose Garden speech (h/t Powerline):

“Let’s start with a big round of applause for Candy Crowley for a superb job under the most difficult circumstances imaginable. She and her team had to select and sequence questions in a matter of hours, and then she had to deal with the tricky format, the nervous questioners, the aggressive debaters, all while shutting out the pre-debate attempts to spin and intimidate her. She pulled it off masterfully. 

The reviews on Candy’s performance have been overwhelmingly positive but Romney supporters are going after her on two points, no doubt because their man did not have as good a night as he had in Denver. On the legitimacy of Candy fact-checking Romney on Obama’s Rose Garden statement, it should be stressed that she was just stating a point of fact: Obama did talk about an act (or acts) of terror, no matter what you think he meant by that at the time. On why Obama got more time to speak, it should be noted that Candy and her commission producers tried to keep it even but that Obama went on longer largely because he speaks more slowly. We’re going to do a word count to see whether, as in Denver, Romney actually got more words in even if he talked for a shorter period of time.

Nobody disputes that Obama “talk[ed] about an act (or acts) of terror” in the Rose Garden speech. But that’s not what Candy Crowley alleged during her impromptu “fact-check.” She claimed Obama specifically called Benghazi an act of terror, which is not clear from the speech. Here’s the exchange from the debate:

Read More

TMZ obtained an internal CNN “talking points” email sent by Managing Editor Mark Whitaker, defending Candy Crowley amid criticism of her performance at Tuesday’s debate. But not only does Whitaker misrepresent Crowley’s “fact-check” to make it sound more accurate, he also acknowledges that there is disagreement over whether President Obama referred to Benghazi as an “act of terror” in his Rose Garden speech (h/t Powerline):

“Let’s start with a big round of applause for Candy Crowley for a superb job under the most difficult circumstances imaginable. She and her team had to select and sequence questions in a matter of hours, and then she had to deal with the tricky format, the nervous questioners, the aggressive debaters, all while shutting out the pre-debate attempts to spin and intimidate her. She pulled it off masterfully. 

The reviews on Candy’s performance have been overwhelmingly positive but Romney supporters are going after her on two points, no doubt because their man did not have as good a night as he had in Denver. On the legitimacy of Candy fact-checking Romney on Obama’s Rose Garden statement, it should be stressed that she was just stating a point of fact: Obama did talk about an act (or acts) of terror, no matter what you think he meant by that at the time. On why Obama got more time to speak, it should be noted that Candy and her commission producers tried to keep it even but that Obama went on longer largely because he speaks more slowly. We’re going to do a word count to see whether, as in Denver, Romney actually got more words in even if he talked for a shorter period of time.

Nobody disputes that Obama “talk[ed] about an act (or acts) of terror” in the Rose Garden speech. But that’s not what Candy Crowley alleged during her impromptu “fact-check.” She claimed Obama specifically called Benghazi an act of terror, which is not clear from the speech. Here’s the exchange from the debate:

Romney: You said in the Rose Garden, the day after the attack, it was an act of terror? It was not a spontaneous demonstration? Is that what you’re saying?

Obama: Please proceed, Governor.

Romney: I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

Obama: Get the transcript.

Crowley: He did indeed, sir, call it an act of terror. [Applause from audience].

Obama: Can you say that a little louder Candy?

Crowley: [Laughing] He did call it an act of terror.

Whitaker also adds, “no matter what you think he meant by that at the time.” In other words, the meaning of the president’s speech was not cut-and-dried at the time, as Crowley claimed.

If she had interrupted to say that Obama had used the general term “act of terror” in the speech, as Whitaker implies she did in the email, nobody would have had a problem with it. But instead, she made a factual judgment on a point that was up for debate. Contrary to Whitaker’s email, it’s not only Romney supporters who thought she was out of line.

Read Less

Newsflash: “Binders Full of Women” is a Good Thing

After the first presidential debate, liberals clung to Mitt Romney’s off-the-cuff comments on Big Bird. Immediately, the statement was mocked and meme-ified. Romney’s larger point about wasteful government spending was lost to those who saw nothing worth praising in President Obama’s performance, and thus wanted to bring Romney’s down by any means necessary, no matter how trivial.

Tuesday night’s debate was no different, and the meme of the night quickly became “Binders Full of Women.” A Tumblr page was instantly created and a Facebook group had over 300,000 members by 2 p.m. Wednesday. Liberals scoffed at Romney’s phraseology while, again, missing his overall message. Romney’s actual statement was this:

We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, can you help us find folks? And I brought us whole binders full of — of women. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.

Read More

After the first presidential debate, liberals clung to Mitt Romney’s off-the-cuff comments on Big Bird. Immediately, the statement was mocked and meme-ified. Romney’s larger point about wasteful government spending was lost to those who saw nothing worth praising in President Obama’s performance, and thus wanted to bring Romney’s down by any means necessary, no matter how trivial.

Tuesday night’s debate was no different, and the meme of the night quickly became “Binders Full of Women.” A Tumblr page was instantly created and a Facebook group had over 300,000 members by 2 p.m. Wednesday. Liberals scoffed at Romney’s phraseology while, again, missing his overall message. Romney’s actual statement was this:

We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, can you help us find folks? And I brought us whole binders full of — of women. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.

These liberals ruthlessly mocking Romney have missed two crucial points: “Binders full of women” actually exist across the economic, political and journalistic worlds, and they are a good thing for feminism. Some liberals, to their credit, understood this. In New York Magazine Ann Friedman wrote,

Boston journalist David Bernstein reports that while Romney did indeed find himself with a binder full of women’s names, it wasn’t something he requested. The binder was put together by MassGAP, a bipartisan group of women who joined forces in 2002 to push Romney’s incoming administration to hire more women. Did you catch that? The binder of women was assembled by women and pushed onto Romney’s desk, unsolicited. When we mock Romney’s reliance on it, we’re actually mocking a concerted strategy by an accomplished group of women to diversify their state government. Oops.

The binder-full-of-names approach is a time-honored way of getting people (mostly men, sure, but also women) in positions of power to do more than pay lip service to the idea of diversity. In my own industry, I got so sick of hearing male editors say over and over that they didn’t know or couldn’t find any great women journalists, so I created an online compendium of recent work by women. A digital binder full of women journalists, if you will. I have no idea if editors have turned to it when they’re looking to assign articles, but I do know that its very existence disproves a classic excuse for lack of gender balance in magazine bylines. It answers a very stupid but persistent question: Where are the women writers? Right here, in this binder that I can show to you.

A New York Daily News opinions editor, Josh Greenman, is familiar with “binders full of women” that help diversify gender imbalances on op-ed pages. Hiring managers in businesses and law firms also use informational binders, called “recruitment binders,” full of resumes to help staff their offices with diverse hires. “Binders full of women” are nothing new in the professional world, and while there may be a better way to phrase what the binders are, it does not detract from their existence.

These binders are assembled to help recruit talented and qualified women for positions that they might not otherwise be considered for. Often women’s careers are sidetracked, halted or put on pause during their childbearing years, as attention shifts from work to family. Romney’s efforts to expand his cabinet to include more women also kept in mind the needs of working mothers in order to make it possible for his staff to have a balanced work and family life. Romney made every effort not only to recruit talented females, but also to keep them on his staff.

What could so-called feminists possibly find so funny about Romney valuing female contributions to political life? While many young, single Tumblr users may find Romney’s descriptions of the difficulties of recruiting and retaining working mothers comical, it’s likely that working mothers (and fathers) across America appreciated that Romney made every effort to be as flexible as possible in order to include female voices that would not have otherwise been present. Romney’s polling numbers were on a quick upward trajectory before the debate among women and in general. My guess is, after liberals have spent the better part of a week doing nothing but calling attention to Romney’s statements, he won’t be any worse for the wear with women.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.