In a Wall Street Journal op-ed pieceon Thursday, the veteran conservative journalist Fred Barnes offered Mitt Romney some advice for improving his campaign, including the sensible (and one might also say humane) suggestion that on immigration, the presumptive nominee “would be wise to move away from his harsh position in the primaries.”
Then Barnes included this fascinating sentence: “According to a Romney adviser, his private view of immigration isn’t as anti-immigrant as he often sounded.”
What exactly does that mean? Does it mean Romney said things that he doesn’t really believe? What are we supposed to make of a candidate who takes certain public positions to court one group of voters — and then tries to reassure an entirely different group of voters by leaking the fact that he doesn’t really believe what he said to win votes from the first group? How many other “private” positions does Romney hold that we don’t know about?
This is an important question because I think the Romney campaign will be engaged in a series of two-steps between now and Election Day. On the one hand, he needs to keep reassuring conservatives that he is really with them on a whole series of issues. But the whole premise that he was the most “electable” Republican rested on the unstated — was this “private,” too? — premise that he was the most “moderate” candidate in the field and could thus appeal beyond the conservative hard core. Romney wants the GOP base to think he’s a staunch conservative and swing voters to believe he’s a closet moderate. That’s why I suspect we’ll hear more hints about Romney’s “private” views on a lot of other matters.
Romney is not the first candidate to try to be all things to all people. But he has a special problem because he has taken a great many contradictory public positions over the years, depending upon whether he was trying to appeal to a general-election electorate in Massachusetts or a Republican primary electorate nationwide. Keep an eye out for more hints about Romney’s “private” views. At some point, he will have to reconcile what he says with what his aides hint at. And he will have to do this publicly.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 13, 2012
At his speech to the National Rifle Association convention this afternoon, Mitt Romney brought up the alleged infringement on religious freedom by the Obama administration:
Now, the Obama administration has decided that it has the power to mandate what Catholic charities, schools, and hospitals must cover in their insurance plans. It’s easy to forget how often President Obama assured us that under Obamacare, nothing in our insurance plans would have to change. Remember that one? Well, here we are, just getting started with Obamacare, and the federal government is already dictating to religious groups on matters of doctrine and conscience.
In all of America, there is no larger private provider of healthcare for women and their babies than the Catholic Church. But that’s not enough for the Obamacare bureaucrats. No, they want Catholics to fall in line and violate the tenets of their faith.
As President, I will follow a very different path than President Obama. I will be a staunch defender of religious freedom. The Obamacare regulation is not a threat and insult to only one religious group – it is a threat and insult to every religious group. As President, I will abolish it.
Of course when he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney made no effort to shield religious institutions from a very similar rule. According to the Boston Globe, there was a substantially similar requirement in Massachusetts, and when proposing his own overhaul of the state’s health insurance system, he made no effort to change it based on the religious objections of Catholic institutions.
As I noted yesterday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and their allies are ramping up the “religious freedom” wars for the campaign season. Romney has taken up their cause before, but never in such an unlikely venue. He somehow wrapped the Bishops’ “religious freedom” complaints in the same packaging as gun rights. (And, for good measure, his wife Ann made a special appearance to assure one of the most powerful special interest groups in Washington that women are “special” but not a “special interest.” Ba-dum-bum.) Funny how owning a gun is now a more important right than health care and how the “culture of life” rationale of the Bishops’ opposition to birth control gets play at a convention celebrating guns.
By: Sarah Posner, Religion Dispatches, April 13, 2012
Hilary Rosen made a legitimate point the wrong way.
Rosen — a Democratic activist, CNN commentator and, full disclosure, friend of Ruth — was talking about Mitt Romney’s move to deploy his wife as official ambassador to the land of women.
“Guess what?” Rosen said. “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.”
Awoogah. Awoogah. Repeat after me: The acceptable formulation is “work outside the home.”
As Rosen, mother of two, well knows — and was reminded with Twitter speed Wednesday night — staying at home with the kids is the very definition of hard work. A day at the office, with no sticky little hands tugging at you, can feel like a vacation.
And Ann Romney, as she reminded us in the campaign video that touched off Rosen’s comments, stayed home with five boys. Six, she said, if you count Mitt. “Believe me, it was hard work,” Ann retorted in her first ever tweet.
But Rosen’s fundamental point — that Ann Romney’s experience is far from typical, that she has not grappled with the economic and family issues that face many women today — remains true.
You don’t have to be a combatant on either side of the Mommy Wars to recognize that Ann Romney’s privileged life experience is not typical. She’s never had to worry about the price of a gallon of gas as she filled up the Cadillacs. She is at the tail end of a generation that did not agonize over the choice of whether to stay home with the kids and from an economic platform that gave her the luxury of making that choice.
As Rosen wrote later on the Huffington Post, “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.”
In some ways, the most interesting aspect of Rosen’s comments was the swiftness with which the Obama campaign moved to criticize them — this after Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom quickly posted video of Rosen’s remarks and incorrectly describing her as an “Obama adviser.”
Actual Obama adviser David Axelrod pronounced himself “disappointed” in Rosen and termed the remarks “inappropriate and offensive.” Actual Obama campaign manager Jim Messina out-tweeted him: “I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly.” Really? I can think of a lot of things that I’d disagree with more strongly. “Her comments were wrong and family should be off-limits.”
Again, really? When you enlist your wife for video testimonials, when you repeatedly punt to her on questions about What Women Want, it seems to me that she is decidedly on-limits.
Rosen erred in her seemingly dismissive phraseology, not in talking about the candidate’s wife. Romney opened the door to that.
By: Ruth Marcus, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 12, 2012
Mitt Romney thought he had found the right wedge to drive between President Obama and women: unemployment. On Wednesday morning Romney started the day off with a speech in Hartford, Connecticut, blaming Obama for job losses among women since he took office. Said Romney:
I was disappointed in listening to the President as he’s saying ‘Republicans are waging a war on women.’ The real war on women is being waged by the President’s failed economic policies.… These are just some statistics which show just how severe the war on women has been by virtue of the President’s failed policies. The number of jobs … this is an amazing statistic…the percentage of jobs lost by women in the President’s three years, three and a half years, 92.3 percent of all the jobs lost during the Obama years have been lost by women. 92.3 percent!
This is merely a variation on the same intellectually dishonest nonsense that Republicans have been slinging at Obama for years. There is a lag between when a president takes office and when his policies are imposed, then take effect, and then have measurable results. The job losses during Obama’s first year in office are the result of the economic collapse that began before he was elected. Since then, the private sector has been slowly adding jobs. The public sector, meanwhile, has been shedding jobs because there is also a lag between an economic downturn and the compressed government budgets that force layoffs of civil servants. Also the president cannot pass everything he wants by fiat. Obama and other Democrats have pushed for stimulus measures such as aid to states that would reduce the number of teachers, police officers and so forth getting laid off. That would benefit both citizens who depend on their services and the economy as a whole. Republicans have refused to vote for these bills on the grounds that we cannot afford to add to the national debt to pay for them, and then turned around hypocritically lambasted Obama for the job numbers that are the direct result of Republican policies.
And that is just what Romney is doing on the subject of women’s employment. As Slate’s Matthew Yglesias explains:
Recessions hit male-dominated highly cyclical sectors like construction and manufacturing first. Women tend to disproportionately work in sectors like health care and education that show slow and steady job growth. But those male-dominated cyclical sectors also bounce back relatively quickly. So since the recession started more than a year before Obama’s inauguration, male job losses were close to bottoming out by the time Obama took office and he’s presided over a lot of rebound growth in male employment. Women, by contrast, have been devastated by cascading waves of teacher layoffs.
No wonder New York Times reporters Ashley Parker and Trip Gabriel labeled Romney’s claim “misleading for several reasons.”
Mere intellectual dishonesty is a daily operation for Romney, and it would hardly have caused a mainstream media kerfuffle. But on a conference call Wednesday Romney’s advisers were dumbstruck when asked whether he supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act that Obama signed into law in 2009. Romney can’t credibly present himself as an advocate of women in the workplace if he doesn’t support legislation that would protect them from discrimination. (The law makes it possible for women to sue for being paid less than male colleagues within 180 days of the last, rather than first, paycheck. The Romney campaign later said he would not repeal the law.)
But Republican women seem to think they can do just that. Romney’s campaign spent Wednesday flooding reporters with statements from female Republican politicians attacking Obama’s record on women in the economy. Here’s a sample from a conference all they pulled together on Thursday:
“Women have faced massive job losses under this administration and the policies of this president have failed women voters.” —Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
“Since President Obama and the Democrats can’t run on the record, which includes the longest streak of high unemployment since the Great Depression, a record increase in the national debt, and near-record gas prices they’re working desperately to change the subject. And that’s why they’ve created this whole ‘war on women’ campaign. It’s really designed to distract women from the real issues…. There’s no ‘war on women’ by the Republicans.” —Representative Cathie McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA)
“The Obama policies have failed. In fact, they’ve made the economy worse, and they’ve made it worse particularly for women.” —Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
Something is funny about all these Republican women rushing to Romney’s defense. None of them support women’s rights. Ayotte co-sponsored the Blunt-Rubio amendment that would allow employers to refuse to cover any medication, including birth control, which they object to on moral or religious grounds. McMorris-Rodgers and Lummis voted against the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, as did Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-FL), who issued a statement attacking on Romney’s behalf saying, “Women in the Obama economy are facing hardships of historical proportions.” All three congresswomen voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would take other steps to make it easier for women to fight for equal pay, such as prohibiting retaliation by companies against workers who raise wage-parity issues. Just because these politicians are women does not mean they have women’s interests at heart. If they oppose women’s rights to be protected from discrimination in the workplace, then they are hardly credible as critics of the effects of Obama’s policies on women’s economic standing.
And it’s not just at work where Romney’s female surrogates oppose women’s rights. Virginia Delegate Barbara Comstock, who also participated in the Thursday conference call, voted to require women to have an ultrasound prior to an abortion.
The Romney campaign seems to think that merely being a woman makes one qualified to represent all women. As Jessica Valenti notes, this patronizing belief manifests especially in their use of Mitt’s wife Ann as his supposed ambassador to women. But this is only slightly less ludicrous to claim that because a Republican politician with typical anti-women Republican policies happens to have two X chromosomes that she is somehow a spokesperson for women’s political interests.
By: Ben Adler, The Nation, April 13, 2012