Our colleagues at "Up With Chris Hayes" released a 43-second scoop yesterday that have quite a few in the media pouring one out today for the dearly departed so-called "War on Moms," that "inane microscandal" made up of manufactured outrage, political opportunism, and the lack of proper articulation on the part of a CNN pundit, Hilary Rosen, this past Wednesday.
But as "Up" reported, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney said something that in light of last week's alarmism, could offend stay-at-home moms even more than Rosen did:
“I wanted to increase the work requirement,” Romney said. “I said, for instance, that even if you have a child two years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, ‘Well that's heartless,' and I said ‘No, no, I'm willing to spend more giving daycare to allow those parents to go back to work. It'll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’”
Romney's campaign responded today with an indignant statement, cherry-picking one stat about employment, zero about reproductive rights (natch), and using that one stat to declare President Obama's economic policies "devastating to women and families." Earlier, in an interview Thursday night with a Michigan ABC affiliate, President Obama actually came to Ann Romney's defense, responding to Rosen's comment by indicating everyone should leave the spouses out of it. Saying that he doesn't "have a lot of patience for commentary about the spouses of political candidates," adding:
"I don’t know if she necessarily volunteered for this job so, you know, we don’t need to be directing comments at them," he said. "I think me and Governor Romney are going to have more than enough to argue about during the course of this campaign.”
Thing is, the President's protestations came well after it had become quite evident that conservatives really wanted to keep talking about Ann Romney. Rosen did apologize for the remarks, but the meme was very much out of the bag.
Her husband squeezed in some meme-friendly language about his spouse into his address to the National Rifle Association on Friday, saying, "I happen to believe that all moms are working moms, and if you have five sons, your work is never over." Uglier remarks came from folks at the Catholic League, who took to Twitter to assail Rosen for being a single lesbian parent. And Romney campaign spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom had earlier tried to have some fun with the truth on Twitter, not only alleging that Rosen is affiliated with the Obama campaign (she isn't, nor has she ever been), but applying a rather violent description to what was at best an admonishment:
"It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mother, and that was really a defining moment, and I loved it," Mrs. Romney said.
Romney last night also called it a "gift," and there's the rub, folks. As Melissa remarked yesterday, the role of the political spouse -- specifically, the First Lady -- was forever changed by one Hillary Rodham Clinton. And Michelle Obama proved during the 2008 campaign how valuable political spouses can be in a presidential campaign as not only rhetorical touchstones, but as campaign operatives themselves.
The candidate's January words which "Up" revealed yesterday likely ended this "microscandal" for now, and may have even defused it as a future talking point for the Romney campaign. But considering how much Romney himself said he relies upon his wife to inform him about women's issues, they got what they wanted out of this.
Ann Romney, for all her visibility to this point, needed a "defining moment," as she said. Though neither she nor Rosen merits any of the personal abuse coming her way, Rosen's comment inadvertently handed one to her, right as her husband became the presumptive Republican nominee for President.
What’s being lost in this conversation is the incredibly facile and insulting notion that just because a woman made the decision to marry Romney and occasionally talk to him about other women, that he is somehow well-informed on women’s issues. Ann Romney is not an expert on women’s issues just because she happens to be one. And she’s not an expert in what mothers need just because she has children. Believing otherwise is infantilizing and reduces women’s very important and complex concerns to beauty parlor chitchat. If Romney cares about motherhood he should show us some policies that prove it.
Having the #WarOnMoms rhetoric invalidated by only 43 seconds of that damning Romney policy wasn't the best way to start.
Postscript: Melissa expanded the conversation well beyond the rhetoric with a discussion that led off Saturday's show. See it after the jump.