Political Animal


April 13, 2012 1:01 PM Did “Hilaryrosengate” End the “War on Women?”

By Ed Kilgore

I’m a big fan of Slate’s political reporter/blogger Dave Weigel, and not only because the guy somehow manages to publish about eighty Tweets a day without letting it interfere with his day job. But his column providing a time-line of the Democratic “war on women” meme and declaring its demise in the flames of Hilaryrosengate, while useful, is just a bit too pat.

In Weigel’s accounting, the “war on women” was born back in early 2011 in the Beltway furor over a House bill cutting off funding for abortion providers; gained traction through its regular usage by DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz; hit its stride thanks to occasional GOP outrages like the Mississippi Personhood Amendment; made its bones by serving as a counter-punch to the conservative “war on religion” meme surrounding the contraception coverage mandate; and then expired when Hilary Rosen’s infelicitous words allowed the GOP to create its own “war on moms.”

Game over, says Weigel.

But as DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse told him in comments he published today, we’re dealing with something a bit bigger than a talking point:

The truth of the matter is that Republicans want to use a discussion about whether the language is appropriate to hide from a discussion of the issues,” said Woodhouse. “There’s a reason they’re 18-23 points down with women. It’s the issues…. When the dust settles on these dust-ups, they’re stuck with the policies.”

It’s not like any of the raw material Democrats used in talking about a “war on women” has been trashed; new examples are popping up almost daily. Arizona just became the seventh state to enact an abortion ban directly challenging Roe v. Wade, and Georgia will soon become the eighth. The Catholic Bishops just announced a summer campaign to make its attacks on the contraception coverage mandate a matter of existential importance. Mitt Romney is going to have to very conspicuously bend his knee to the Christian Right, with its anti-choice and anti-feminist preoccupations, in choosing a running-mate. The present and perhaps imminent behavior of the Supreme Court could make judicial appointments—and the tenuous nature of reproductive rights—a bigger issue than it’s ever been in a presidential election. And suffusing it all is the inescapable reality that today’s GOP embraces a worldview on culture, economics and the role of government that has traditionally left a sizable majority of women very cold.

So maybe a “Cold War Against Women” is a more accurate term. But beating up on Hilary Rosen is hardly going to obliterate Mitt Romney’s or his party’s problems with women.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ron Byers on April 13, 2012 1:17 PM:

    Republicans are hoping and praying their war on women goes back into the shawdows, but I don't think so.

  • howard on April 13, 2012 1:22 PM:

    honest to goodness, i cannot believe this phony non-issue is going to make the slightest bit of difference other than those to whom the campaigns consist of a series of daily battles, with winners.

    i noted this yesterday with respect to jewish voters and the gop: i pointed out that jews, blacks, and latinos all recognize that the core of the republican party does not consist of their friends.

    well, the same is true for non-conservative women, which means a vast majority of women, and the idea that the struggles of ann romney are going to have an appeal whatsoever to a median income household stay-at-home mom with 2 kids, limited interest in politics, and moderate views? ridiculous.

  • David on April 13, 2012 1:27 PM:

    Weigel has to study up on the difference between a war versus a battle. Sorry, Weigel, but Hilaryrosengate wasn't even a battle, more of a skirmish, plain and simple, with the GOP returning artillery fire -- Ann Romney is a multi-millionaire's stay-at-home wife and as such, waaay out of touch with the 99%.

    The Democrats are still winning the war.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on April 13, 2012 1:33 PM:

    Sounds to me like Dave Weigal thinks women are just plain old f#*king stupid. At the very least, he needs a break from his hectic schedule of tweeting in the village of Grandoise Delusional Chatter and spend a day or two in the 3-dimensional world where national-wide policy pushing and those policies subsequent consequences carry more weight than one flippant remark by one obscure figure taken out of context.

  • what_up on April 13, 2012 1:34 PM:

    You're absolutely right, Ed.

    Wiegel's comments are a pure example of Beltway Thinking. He's too hunkered down in the tactical swamp of insider squabbles to realize that whether you call it the War on Women or a Cheese Omelette, the GOP policies are anti-women, women know it, and they will vote accordingly.

  • kitsune on April 13, 2012 1:39 PM:

    I know the GOP thinks women are dumb, but that doesn't make it so. Women know a stay-at-home mom from a rich family married to a multi-millionaire has a 1%-ers life. Most women have to balance raising a family and working a job, something the Romney's have never done.

    Frankly, I'm surprised Romney didn't say how tough it is for Ann because she's really been more like a hotel chain manager, overseeing their five houses.

    Amazing too that it's taboo to point out Ann Romney's never worked a day in life, but it's Ok for Mitt to joke about being unemployed.

  • schtick on April 13, 2012 1:40 PM:

    I was reading some blogs about it and almost all the people had no problem with the context of what she said. They understood the intent of her remarks and most agreed that Ann Romney never had to work even if she was a "stay at home" mom. I mean, convince me she ever did housework, or dishes, or laundry, or mopped a floor.
    I'm not that familiar with the Mormon religion, but are women allowed to work outside the home if they have children? I ask this because there are a few Morman businesses in my area and the few women that work there are not Mormons.

  • Percysowner on April 13, 2012 1:41 PM:

    I find it amusing and annoying that a male columnist decides that he can declare when a War on Women is over, considering it isn't an issue that affects him.

  • SecularAnimist on April 13, 2012 1:42 PM:

    Ed Kilgore quoted Brad Woodhouse: "The truth of the matter is that Republicans want to use a discussion about whether the language is appropriate to hide from a discussion of the issues"

    The truth of the matter is that the Republicans are fortunate to have the half-dozen giant corporations that own and control virtually all of the mass media in America to help them do just that.

  • T2 on April 13, 2012 2:08 PM:

    state after state is cutting funding to agencies that primarily support women's health care issues, Planned Parenthood being the most prominent. I mean, state after state with Republican Governors and legislatures....Texas is a prime example. This "war on women" is a very local, state issue and touches women across the nation, young and old. They know whats happening. And they know who's doing it to them and who's prepared to continue hammering on them. If they vote them out, good. If they don't...it's their own fault. They hold the votes to take charge of their lives.....even though I realize that women thought they'd already done so. Apparently the crazies just don't give up, do they.

  • jjm on April 13, 2012 2:10 PM:

    Weigel is actually what the Brits call 'thick': and because his original instincts are to give conservatives the benefit of the doubt, he ends up convincing himself, and no one else, that his judgment is correct.

  • ckelly on April 13, 2012 2:14 PM:

    This is all just more Republican outrageously false equivalence bullshit - oooh, looky the Dems are the REAL women haters Crapola. Republicans continually battling tooth and nail to implement policies destroying women's rights and health is NOT EQUAL TO some no name Dem operative choosing her words poorly to criticize Ann Romney. Come on!

  • sue on April 13, 2012 2:18 PM:

    because the disrespect for women and the policy positions that harm us go on FOREVER in this patriarchal nation, neither the "war" nor the cowardly backlash to any woman fighting back will end

  • ckelly on April 13, 2012 2:21 PM:

    How any human being lacking a Y chromosome could possibly vote for any Republican for any elected office, including dogcatcher, is a complete mystery to me.

  • Casa de R&R on April 13, 2012 2:37 PM:

    The shame in Hillary Rosen's comment was a simple 2 word ommision. If she would have just added tha Ann Romney never worked a day in her life in the "PRIVATE SECTOR" this would all be much ado about nothing!!!

  • T2 on April 13, 2012 2:40 PM:

    casa.....it IS much ado about nothing. That's what the GOP/Rove specialize in. The only time they make much ado about something is when it involves raising taxes on rich people.

  • SadOldVet on April 13, 2012 2:47 PM:

    Am I missing something???

    Whose payroll is Hillary Rosen on besides that of CNN (stellar example of the problems with the Corporately Owned Media)?

    Two points to make...

    1) The continuous saga of 'false equivalencies' from the Corporately Owned Media has long ago lost its charm.

    2) The whole Rosen episode points out that part of The Obomination that I dispise. As far as I know, Rosen is not part of the Obama Administration nor part of his reelection campaign nor employed by the DNC. His 'rebuttal' of Rosen smacks me like that of his firing of the Ag Dept assistant for 'quotes' taken out of context by the repuknican smear and faux outrage machine.

  • FlipYrWhig on April 13, 2012 2:50 PM:

    @Casa : or, even more simply, if Rosen had said that Romney has never _had to_ work a day in her life. Because Rosen's point was really that Romney has a warped view of what everyday women care about. The only reason "moms" got dragged into it was because of previous dust-ups about what counts as "work" for women. Rosen's real diss on Romney was that she's rich and out of touch. Let's not forget that the whole reason Ann Romney was the subject of discussion at all was that the Republican rejoinder to the War on Women was that women didn't really care about contraception and abortion, they care about the lousy economy, and Mitt cited Ann as proof of the truth of that contention.

  • gus on April 13, 2012 2:51 PM:

    Iím not going to read Weigelís writings on this, for time reasons alone.

    But, while the GOP wants this Hillary Rosen situation to tamp down the issue, the ISSUES are larger than that and there is no way the Democrats can be labelled as anti-women.

    It is that absurd.

    This is sort of like how in 2002-2004, the GOP party machine successfully labelled the Democrats as weak when it mattered and would flip flop on a dime. Many of the most egregious examples of that could have been leveled at Bush/Cheney at various points in that administration. But, by nullifying the issue, they were always able to make their weaknesses seem to voters/supporters as rock-solid, longterm strengths.

    Even now, there are many self-declared conservatives and republican voters who think the health care mandate is wholly an invention of Obama and Democrats. They donít know the Brookings Institute and other cons. people have been calling for it for years.

    The ONLY way this pushback works by Romney, and others in their manufactured War on Women is by convincing stupid people that they really understand ďthe issue.Ē
    It certainly doesnít address the Problems facing women or what the GOP has not done, wonít do and has worked at doing to make it less easy for women.

    It is just nullifying the issue by banking on republican voters being so stupid to accept the BS they are dishing out. Just like those closed off TownHall meetings Bush had in 2004, or the ones McCain did in 2008.

    Pushing this issue is going to back fire for the GOP. In small part because Obama has a positive record to run on and the Democrats have a great record to run on that women , in general, can appreciate. Not all women are going to vote Democratic but even Republican women canít all be happy with their partyís record on womens issues or excited about Romney catering to social conservatives.

  • Davis X. Machina on April 13, 2012 2:52 PM:

    Weigel is almost certainly wrong, because he's Weigel.

    He works for Slate, so he is almost certainly wrong.

    Do those add, like negative numbers? Which makes Weigel really, really wrong. Or do they multiply, like negative numbers? Which makes Weigel right.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on April 13, 2012 2:52 PM:

    Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney were slanderous and deserve widespread condemnation.

    Ann Romney deserves full credit for being a 'stay at home' mom. She probably worked very hard to select the proper nannies and house keepers for her children. Plus, her experience at 'managing' those nannies and housekeepers is just a real as someone who is a peon-class 'wage slave'!

  • Anonymous on April 13, 2012 2:57 PM:

    Someone needs to find Romney's rare MS copy of the Constitution, because it appears, unique among other early examples of the same text, to begin with a variant reading from the textus receptus.

    There is no other independent witness for the reading "We, the Help of the United States of America..."

  • gus on April 13, 2012 2:59 PM:

    So, you are saying that Ann Romney as a stay-at-home mom was a job creator?

    Thatís fair. And, hilarious, thanksverymuch!

  • RP on April 13, 2012 3:02 PM:

    This is the perfect example of the media bubble. The right question is obviously whether this issue going to change the minds of many (or any) women voters. Thatís not clear at this point, but I see no reason to think it will. But Weigel ignores the obvious, fact-based analysis in favor of a made up media narrative.

  • Cha on April 13, 2012 3:13 PM:

    Ann stay at Which home mom? As David Axelrod said to John King about Hilary Rosen.."she doesn't work for us..she works for you."

    This is the second Dave Weigle problem we've had on this site. The other was when you brought up his defending poor limbaugh about Sandra Fluke. Like the poster said..he's "thick" and I will add OBTUSE.

  • gus on April 13, 2012 3:14 PM:

    RP, Yes, youíre right. However....

    Thereís one thing which could be said and said with certainty:

    Things like the Weigel piece help reinforce the delusion which exists in the mind of Herman Cain.

    What that nincompoop said about how men donít like Obama for his policies while other people like Obama for his family is a perfect example of the standard stupidity of republican low-information voting males.

    Iím sure the Daily Show and Colbert have laid out how idiotic those who make decisions for women which work against the betterment of women wouldnít apply the same standards to men.

  • Tree-Huggin' Femi-Nazi on April 13, 2012 4:24 PM:

    Blue Girl summed up my feelings on this. Nothing more need be said.

  • becca on April 13, 2012 6:42 PM:

    Awful nice of Dave to make this call for all us womenfolk.

    Regardless, thnx but no thnx, Dave. Don't worry your little head about it.

    We've got this.

  • Doug on April 13, 2012 8:18 PM:

    Beltway Bubble, this is Dave Weigel.
    Dave Weigel, meet Beltway Bubble.
    Play nice, now...

  • Anonymous on April 14, 2012 12:18 AM:

    Unfortunately there are too many "thick" people out there who are are outraged by Rosen's comment. Stay at home moms who are insulted, those who call Rosen names (lesbo, etc.), who don't understand why Ann Romney is different, that they are being used by the right wing. They can't even try to discern any nuance here because their brains are unable to think outside the box they're trapped in. They trot out all of the right wing talking points and you can't get through with factual arguments because their stubborn brains won't even consider anything that's outside their preconceived notions. What a stupid bunch of people we have in this country!