(The usual: The deal with the syndicators means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)
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THE GENDER FLAP
BY BOB FRANKEN
It’s time for an excursion into really dangerous territory. Already there’s a huge uproar over Democratic hanger-on Hilary Rosen’s clumsy effort to belittle Ann Romney by saying Mrs. Romney had “never worked a day in her life.” By Rosen’s admission, after it had hit the fan, her words were “poorly chosen.”
You bet they were. For starters, they really disrupted her party’s plan to exploit the big “gender gap” advantage that President Barack Obama enjoys over Mitt Romney, otherwise known as “husband of.”
Obama wasted no time trying to tamp down the controversy and leave Rosen twisting in the wind. At first opportunity, which was an interview on an Iowa local TV station, he hastened to argue that “There is no tougher job than being a mom.” But then he added, “I don’t have a lot of patience for commentary about spouses of political candidates.”
Sorry, folks, this will antagonize the gallant lot of you, but since when is any campaigner immune? Put another way, if a candidate offers up his or her wife or husband or kids, for that matter, to make speeches and appearances, then said spouse or child is fair game. Not foul game, like what we get from a Rush Limbaugh, but certainly open to criticism once they’ve decided to become participants.
In the case of wives, it is anti-female condescension to advocate sheltering them from the unruliness of a political process they’ve decided to join. That reduces them to a delicate little flower role that we have thankfully discarded. If Ann Romney decides to let Mitt Romney ride on her skirttails, then she’s part of the untidy process.
Besides, she showed she is fully capable of defending herself, telling Fox News “We have to respect women and all those choices that they make. And by the way, let me give a shout out to all the dads that are home raising kids.”
The question, Mrs. romney is what do parents do who would love to make running the house and raising the kids a full-time job, but can’t afford to?
That was the kind of question that can be expected by anyone who goes out to promote candidates or policies. Just ask Michelle Obama, whose anti-obesity advocacy has brought on all sorts of grief. Obviously, much of it has been thoughtless or vitriol that crosses the line, but once she decided to take on a fight, she could reasonably expect to have a fight back. She should not be immune, nor should Ann Romney. By the way, Mrs. Obama joined the damage-control effort when she went on Twitter to say “Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.-mo”
Thank you for that, MO, and it should be noted here that you were an accomplished practicing attorney who decided that the greater rewards came from choosing to focus mainly on family.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, also a lawyer, made the decision to take a different approach. Even before she became first lady, she famously informed the world “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.” She certainly lived up to her words, starting off by taking on a complete makeover of the health-care system. The effort failed, of course, and in the process, she was called every name but “Hillary.” It was fitting and proper then, and it is now.
Hopefully, the awkward attempt to frame an issue by this other Hilary, Ms. Rosen, won’t make it more difficult to challenge anyone who volunteers to compete in this arena. All should expect nothing less. And if you can’t stand the heat, stay in the kitchen.
© 2012 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.