I had mixed feelings as I was watching everyone from the head of the Democratic National Committee to Michelle Obama pick up their toys and run in the direction opposite from Hillary Rosen, the lobbyist and pundit who committed an amateurish gaffe on CNN when she appeared to suggest that stay-at-home moms don’t really work for a living.
What Rosen said on-air April 11 was, “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.”
We’ll get back to that comment later, which makes excellent points—with the exception of the part about Anne Romney never having worked a day in her life.
My mixed feelings come into play because Rosen, a longtime fixture on the LGBT scene, has come to represent the worst of that peculiar and annoying segment of the pundit-lobbyist class for whom you can’t really understand why they’ve attained the high position they have in that milieu.
After all, Rosen was a catastrophe at the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the lobbying group for the nation’s largest record companies. As head of that group from 1987-2003, it was under her watch that the recording industry began its disastrous policy of taking file sharers to court—also known as suing the pants off your future customers.
She and the rest of the RIAA stubbornly held to their outdated model whereby record companies screwed new artists, and made tons of money by forcing everyone to purchase overpriced CDs when all of us really just wanted one or two songs off each album. The RIAA under her watch also refused to embrace alternative technologies for distributing music, a void that Apple and Amazon stepped in to fill while the RIAA was concentrating on making criminals of their potential customer base.
From there Rosen went on to such illustrious jobs as representing British Petroleum after the Gulf oil spill. In other words, if you’re looking for someone who understands the plight of America’s everywoman, Rosen is a terrible choice because her perspective appears to be a lot closer to the Romneys than she would likely admit. Yet she still manages time-after-time to get gigs as an allegedly progressive pundit, a job she still can’t manage to get right despite its ridiculously low bar for being considered a success.
Yet if you look at the substance of what she said to CNN on April 11, most of it was accurate. Yes, the working mother comment was laughably inartful for someone who supposedly makes a living thinking about the political ramifications of public utterances. But most of it made perfect sense about Mrs. Romney.
By virtue of her own privileged upbringing—and marrying into the Romney riches—Anne Romney has never had to face the kinds of difficult choices confronting many working mothers.
Pay the rent on time, or buy groceries? Pay the utility bills or fix the car? Fretting over which Ivy League school your kids might get into is a far cry from worrying about whether you can afford to send your kids to even an in-state land grant college.
Anne Romney’s has been a life of extraordinary privilege.
And please spare me the hand wringing over whether a candidate’s spouse should be off limits. If Anne Romney and her kids had chosen to stay off the campaign trail, I’d say everyone should leave them alone. But she’s long embraced right-wing causes, as have her children. And they are all on the campaign trail every day repeating every single lie that is fed to them by Eric Ferhnstrom and the other campaign functionaries—including Anne’s latest whopper about the fact that the family dog actually enjoyed riding down a highway on top of a car.
Rosen’s worst gaffe, then, was that she lost an opportunity to once again point out how out of touch nearly the entire Romney clan—and GOP—is with the reality of life outside a wealthy bubble. She handed the GOP a chance to do what they do best: change the subject from the awful plight of the average American, to a conversation about mom and apple pie.
Some Democrats never learn.
(Jeff Epperly is the former editor of Bay Windows. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at jefepp or on Facebook at http://facebook.com/jeff.epperly.)