Hilary Gets This One Right
It was inadvertent, unintentional, and even now Hilary Rosen probably doesn't understand what she did. Following the infamous remarks the Democratic strategist and CNN pundit made about Ann Romney, President Obama maintained
There’s no tougher job than being a mom. When I think about what Michelle had to do, when I think about my own mom, a single mom who raised me and my sister — that’s work. Anyone who would argue otherwise probably needs to rethink their statement. More broadly, I don’t have a lot of patience for commentary about spouses of political candidates.
On Thursday, however, Rosen was asked by Wolf Blitzer "But why bring Ann Romney into this conversation? Why did you have to bring – you hated it when conservatives, right-wingers, used to go after Michelle Obama, or a spouse or a wife of any of these Democratic candidates. Why bring her into this conversation?" She responded
Wolf, I should not have chosen words that seemed to attack Ann Romney's choice in life. And I apologize for that. But Ann Romney and Mitt Romney brought themselves into this conversation. When he goes on the campaign trail and says she is his economic surrogate, when she goes out there and makes these points – I'm not bringing them into this. Come on, that's a little – that's a little too much.
Clearly so. Unlike David Axelrod, who by twitter merely cited Rosen's contention that Ann Romney has "never worked a day in her life" as "inappropriate and offensive," Obama admitted to little "patience for commentary about spouses of political candidates." Rosen, though, noted when the candidate "goes on the campaign trail and says she is his economic surrogate.... I'm not bringing them into this."
And she did not, any more than Barack Obama introduced race into the killing in Sanford, Florida. Newt Gingrich asserted that President Obama's statement "if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon" (Martin) amounted to "trying to turn it into a racial issue." But Obama did not turn the incident into a racial issue; it already had an obvious racial component. Though the President was implying (in failing to indicate why a son of his would look like Martin) that "they all look alike," he was not injecting race where it was absent. Similarly, Rosen did not "bring (Ann Romney) into this conversation." She was already there, placed there by the candidate, her husband, who now has exposed her and her views to the same analysis that any surrogate of either candidate should face.
Hilary Rosen's ideas about women's work (warning: cliche ahead) ignited a firestorm. But Rosen, who noted Mrs. Romney "doesn't have to answer to me. Her husband is the one running for President" nailed it. Ann Romney's views as a candidate's wife may be irrelevant, but those she expresses as a surrogate are not. She has entered the political arena by accepting a role as a surrogate, whose advocacy and arguments should be examined in roughly the same manner as any other surrogate.
When Hillary Clinton ran for president, her spouse aggressively advocated her cause and his remarks were, appropriately, closely scrutinized. Obviously, there is a difference between Mr. Clinton and Mrs. Romney- their titles. Taking a hands off attitude by treating Mrs. Romney different than Mr. Clinton is condescending and smacks of a double standard, one prompted in part by gender. Notwithstanding President Obama's claim, the statements of Ann Romney should not be ignored, nor patronized by holding the speaker to a lower standard than that of male spouses of candidates. Barack Obama should know better- which, of course, he does.