Commentary Magazine


Topic: Hilary Rosen

Dems Retrench in the “War on Women”?

From the staggering statistic released by the Republican National Committee that found women have lost 92.3 percent of all jobs lost since Obama took office, to yesterday’s scathing story on the gender pay gap in the Obama White House by the Washington Free Beacon, the GOP has started throwing the “war on women” rhetoric back into the faces of the Democrats who coined it.

And that was before the Hilary Rosen controversy erupted last night. Rosen has since apologized, and her statement appears to be more of a plea for a truce than a mea culpa:

“Let’s put the faux ‘war against stay at home moms’ to rest once and for all. As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen. In response to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail referring to his wife as a better person to answer questions about women than he is, I was discussing his poor record on the plight of women’s financial struggles. Here is my more fulsome view of the issues. As a partner in a firm full of women who work outside of the home as well as stay at home mothers, all with plenty of children, gender equality is not a talking point for me. It is an issue I live every day. I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended. Let’s declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance.”

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From the staggering statistic released by the Republican National Committee that found women have lost 92.3 percent of all jobs lost since Obama took office, to yesterday’s scathing story on the gender pay gap in the Obama White House by the Washington Free Beacon, the GOP has started throwing the “war on women” rhetoric back into the faces of the Democrats who coined it.

And that was before the Hilary Rosen controversy erupted last night. Rosen has since apologized, and her statement appears to be more of a plea for a truce than a mea culpa:

“Let’s put the faux ‘war against stay at home moms’ to rest once and for all. As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen. In response to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail referring to his wife as a better person to answer questions about women than he is, I was discussing his poor record on the plight of women’s financial struggles. Here is my more fulsome view of the issues. As a partner in a firm full of women who work outside of the home as well as stay at home mothers, all with plenty of children, gender equality is not a talking point for me. It is an issue I live every day. I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended. Let’s declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance.”

Many have noticed that Rosen is apologizing to anyone she offended as opposed to apologizing for the substance of her comments. They’re right about that, although I’m willing to give Rosen the benefit of the doubt. But Rosen’s choice of words at the end is interesting – she calls the controversy a “phony war,” which is basically what Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus was attacked for saying about the “war on women” last week. Any of the high-profile Democrats who have expressed outrage at Rosen’s initial comments – Debbie Wasserman Schultz and First Lady Michelle Obama to name just two – want to come out and take another swing at her for “belittling” legitimate concerns of stay-at-home moms?

This won’t be the last we’ll hear about the “war on women,” but it sounds like Democrats are at least ready to retrench for awhile after a rough week. As Priebus has indicated, the GOP also seems ready to put this narrative to rest.

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Was Rosen Speaking for Obama Campaign?

The firestorm over Hilary Rosen’s Ann Romney comments spilled over into a conference call with Republican congresswomen this morning, as they shot back at the Democratic strategist and claimed the Obama campaign bears some responsibility for her remarks.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February Rosen was brought on as a consultant for Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. According to Romney-backer Rep. Cynthia Lummis, Rosen gave no indication that she was “freelancing” when she attacked Ann Romney’s work record on “Anderson Cooper 360″ last night.

“Clearly [the Obama campaign is] using surrogate women, including Hilary Rosen who is a paid spokesperson, to deliver messages about Republicans that the president does not want to deliver himself for fear of the backlash,” she said.

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The firestorm over Hilary Rosen’s Ann Romney comments spilled over into a conference call with Republican congresswomen this morning, as they shot back at the Democratic strategist and claimed the Obama campaign bears some responsibility for her remarks.

The Wall Street Journal reported in February Rosen was brought on as a consultant for Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. According to Romney-backer Rep. Cynthia Lummis, Rosen gave no indication that she was “freelancing” when she attacked Ann Romney’s work record on “Anderson Cooper 360″ last night.

“Clearly [the Obama campaign is] using surrogate women, including Hilary Rosen who is a paid spokesperson, to deliver messages about Republicans that the president does not want to deliver himself for fear of the backlash,” she said.

The DNC denied the two-month-old Wall Street Journal report today, saying it had no relationship with Rosen. Spokesperson Bob Woodhouse told the Miami Herald that the DNC’s contract “is exclusively with Anita Dunn.” Rosen works at Dunn’s firm, SKDKnickerbocker, so that elucidation doesn’t really mean much (fun fact: SKDKnickerbocker is also the firm that represents Sandra Fluke).

This is a critical moment for the Obama campaign as it attempts to publicly define Mitt Romney as uncaring, out-of-touch, weird, awkward, and far right-wing. Ann Romney helps counter all of that. She’s widely liked, charming, and down-to-earth, and she’s been playing a major role in softening her husband’s image and reaching out to women voters. In other words, she’s a threat to Obama’s reelection chances. While the Obama campaign can’t chip away at her image directly, it can have ostensible outsiders do it for them. Whether that’s what happened in this case is yet to be determined, but judging from DWS’s apologetic tweet today, the DNC is trying to untangle itself from this damaging controversy as quickly as possible.

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DNC Adviser Blasts Ann Romney

On “Anderson Cooper 360″ last night, Hilary Rosen slammed Ann Romney for “never actually work[ing] a day in her life.” Within two hours, both David Axelrod and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina were scrambling to distance themselves from Rosen’s comments on Twitter.

Why is the Obama campaign so concerned? Apparently Rosen was enlisted in February to advise Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on public relations (h/t Jim Geraghty’s invaluable Morning Jolt). The Wall Street Journal reported on Feb. 16 that Rosen was brought on to “tone down” DWS’s image:

Obama advisers have occasionally told [Wasserman Schultz] to “tone it down” and “back off a smidgen,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz says. She agreed with them to enlist two seasoned Democratic female pros, Anita Dunn and Hilary Rosen, to begin giving her occasional political advice and media training, advisers say. “I’m glad to get constructive criticism,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz says.

The media pros prepped her for an important Jan. 13 appearance on the “Bill Maher Show”—from her tone to her clothes (they know better than to suggest she blow out her curly hair, advisers say). Ms. Wasserman Schultz had lots of “don’t” instructions: Don’t make news, don’t try to be funny, don’t laugh at the comedian’s jokes, don’t use your hands (although she balled her fists at one point and did “karate chops” when making her points). Her biggest “do:” Attack Mitt Romney, which she managed to do despite the topic of discussion: Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.

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On “Anderson Cooper 360″ last night, Hilary Rosen slammed Ann Romney for “never actually work[ing] a day in her life.” Within two hours, both David Axelrod and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina were scrambling to distance themselves from Rosen’s comments on Twitter.

Why is the Obama campaign so concerned? Apparently Rosen was enlisted in February to advise Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz on public relations (h/t Jim Geraghty’s invaluable Morning Jolt). The Wall Street Journal reported on Feb. 16 that Rosen was brought on to “tone down” DWS’s image:

Obama advisers have occasionally told [Wasserman Schultz] to “tone it down” and “back off a smidgen,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz says. She agreed with them to enlist two seasoned Democratic female pros, Anita Dunn and Hilary Rosen, to begin giving her occasional political advice and media training, advisers say. “I’m glad to get constructive criticism,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz says.

The media pros prepped her for an important Jan. 13 appearance on the “Bill Maher Show”—from her tone to her clothes (they know better than to suggest she blow out her curly hair, advisers say). Ms. Wasserman Schultz had lots of “don’t” instructions: Don’t make news, don’t try to be funny, don’t laugh at the comedian’s jokes, don’t use your hands (although she balled her fists at one point and did “karate chops” when making her points). Her biggest “do:” Attack Mitt Romney, which she managed to do despite the topic of discussion: Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.

Despite the backlash from conservatives and the repudiation from the Obama campaign, Rosen stood behind her comments in a lengthy post on Anderson Cooper’s blog:

“My wife has the occasion, as you know, to campaign on her own and also with me,” Romney told newspaper editors, “and she reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy.”

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.

I have nothing against Ann Romney. She seems like a nice lady who has raised nice boys, struggled with illness and handles its long-term effects with grace and dignity. I admire her grit in talking about her illness publicly.

What is more important to me and 57 percent of current women voters is her husband saying he supports women’s economic issues because they are the only issues that matter to us and then he fails on even those.

Rosen certainly helped “tone down” and “soften” Wasserman Schultz’s image last night, if only because she was the one making the inflammatory charges, not DWS. The question now is whether Messina and Axelrod will stand behind their own criticism of Rosen — that her comments were “offensive” and “inappropriate” and merit an apology. Will Wasserman Schultz and the DNC cut off Rosen’s advisory role? Or is the Obama campaign content to use Rosen as an attack dog and private consultant, while outwardly shunning her attacks on their opponent’s wife?

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