Thursday, April 12, 2012

Rosen's trip-up: when a simple apology will suffice

I can't believe folks are actually trying to defend Hilary Rosen's comment about Ann Romney. This is what Rosen said:

With respect to economic issues, I think, actually that Mitt Romney’s right that ultimately women care more about the economic well-being of their family and the like. But he doesn’t connect on that issue, either. What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country, saying, ‘Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and when I listen to my wife, that’s what I’m hearing.’ Guess what? 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, in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future.

 And this is what Jonathan Capehart and others have to say in response to the criticisms that have been directed at Rosen:

If you bother to read Rosen’s comments you’d see that her point is that wealthy Ann Romney has been blessed to never have to work outside the home to bring the household additional income to help make ends meet. Rosen wasn’t making a commentary on whether stay-at-home mothers had real jobs. Of course, they do. What Rosen highlighted was that Ann Romney has never faced the financial strain of holding things together while her paycheck shrinks or she loses her job or the kids need braces and there’s no money in their meager budget to pay for it. How, then, can Ann Romney advise her out-of-touch husband on the specific problems American women face?
I think Rosen, Capehart and others are missing the point about what Mitt Romney said. Mitt Romney did not say that Ann was giving him her opinion as a career woman. Nor did he say that Ann was an economist giving him her expert advice. What he did say was that female voters have been coming up to Ann and telling her about their experiences of hardship in these harsh economic times. So all that Ann is doing is telling her husband what American women she has met on the campaign trail have said to her. I think Rosen missed this basic point, and I think that everybody who is defending her missed it too.

Ann Romney does not have to be a career woman in order to relay women voters' words to her husband. She does not have to be poor in order to relay women voters words about their economic hardship to their husband. Even if, in some parallel universe, it turned out that Ann Romney was advising her husband as the expert on all things woman-related, Hilary Rosen's criticism would have been a non-starter because the message that Ann transmitted to her husband was right: women nationwide are concerned about the economy. The only thing worth criticizing in Mitt Romney's description of his conversation with his wife is the implication that he cannot speak to women voters directly and has to go through his wife to hear what they're saying. That is what Hilary Rosen should have focused on.

I think Michael Steele was right. I also think some folks on the left are going overboard on this issue. Considering that she seems to have misunderstood what Mitt Romney said about his wife, Rosen made a mistake in targeting Ann for her criticism. She should have said a simple apology and shifted to criticizing Mitt Romney's statements about his values and policies. Trying to salvage her original statement is a  bad idea.

It's this kind of thing that makes me think that many commentators on social and political issues are "sore losers." I wish they had the capacity to say simple apologies when they stumbled or misspoke: If only they didn't try to salvage the arguments they were trying to make. That's the one thing I admire in a public figure- the capacity to admit to being wrong and to apologize properly- but it seems to be such a rare trait.

As for some of the folks on the right, they've gone overboard too. Contrary to their claims, Rosen is not an Obama adviser or a DNC adviser. And as offensive as Rosen's words were, there is no reason to demonize her. She did apologize (even though it was a qualified apology) and she did indicate that stay-at-home moms worked just as hard as career women.

I really am tired of all the rhetoric. The politicos need to return to talking about policy.

This work is licensed to Rose Kahendi under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

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