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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
Cracking the Code of Campaign-Speak

"Do you ever get the feeling," asked humorist Robert Orben, "that the only reason we have elections is to … Read More.

30 Jan 2016
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Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

23 Jan 2016
The Man Who Drowned Democracy With 'Sewer Money'

Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. This week marked the anniversary of … Read More.

No Easy Job


To charge that your opponent does not know what it means to go to work every day can be dangerous to your own political health. I learned this on May 3, 1974, in a Cleveland City Club debate between two Democrats embroiled in a bruising campaign for Ohio's U.S. Senate nomination: the then-appointed senator, Howard Metzenbaum, and his challenger, retired Marine Colonel and U.S. astronaut John Glenn.

Metzenbaum, a self-made millionaire lawyer-businessman, emphasized his private-sector success and went so far as to suggest that Glenn "had never held a job." Here is John Glenn's rebuttal to that charge:

"I served 23 years in the United States Marine Corps. I served through two wars. I flew 149 missions. My plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire on 12 different occasions.

"I was in the space program. It wasn't my checkbook. It was my life that was on the line ...

"You go with me to a Gold Star mother and tell her that her son did not hold a job. ... You go with me on Memorial Day coming up, and you stand in Arlington National Cemetery — where I have more friends than I like to remember — and you tell me those people didn't have a job.

"I tell you, Howard Metzenbaum, you should be on your knees every day of your life thanking God that there were some men — some men — who held a job ... and their self-sacrifice is what has made this country possible. I've held a job, Howard."

What followed immediately upon Glenn's words was 22 seconds of uninterrupted applause. And just 96 hours later, John Glenn won the Senate primary going away.

As soon as I heard Democratic strategist and CNN commentator Hilary Rosen say that Ann Romney, the mother who had stayed home to raise five sons, had "never worked a day in her life," I thought of Howard Metzenbaum's politically suicidal "never held a job" line some 38 years earlier.

Both the Obama and the Romney campaigns saw the high risk and high reward potential in the exploitation of this blunder.

As the victim of a seemingly dismissive and unjust rebuke, Ann Romney could be publicly transformed from appealing help-mate to sympathetic, perhaps even compelling, surrogate.

President Obama's big lead in the polls among women over Gov. Romney could be put at risk especially if married mothers who are not employed outside the home sensed that Democrats were devaluing their worth.

That is why Obama campaign manager Jim Messina wasted no time in stating: "I could not disagree with Hilary Rosen any more strongly. Her comments are wrong, and family should be off-limits. She should apologize."

The president unequivocally distanced himself from any suggestion that Ann Romney (and every other American mother) did not work every day of her life. In an interview with Bruce Aune of KCRG-TV of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Obama said, "There is no tougher job than being a mom," adding, "Anybody who would argue otherwise probably needs to rethink their statement."

Then came a policy statement: "I don't have a lot of patience for commentary about the spouses of political candidates."

Just remember this: In 2008, when Barack Obama won a larger percent of the popular vote than any Democrat in history other than FDR and Lyndon Johnson, John McCain won a majority of married voters with children. In 2004, married voters with children provided George W. Bush's margin of victory over John Kerry. Beyond the unfairness of the "never worked a day in her life" gaffe, this is about the raw numbers of who will choose the next president.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




15 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... Some how I believe that most women will be able to figure things out, in spite of this big old foot in the mouth of Hilary Rosen... No stay at home mother will ever devalue her own worth... Labor and deliver is but the beginning of a life of hard labor with many worries and little respite...Families take a financial hit to have a mother at home, and they never get the respect they deserve from anyone who has not done it... My wife stayed at home and worked impossibly hard, saving as much as she might have earned...
I never had the advantage of those men with working wives, to camp out on a job near home, and often had to travel miles in the hopes of catching a contractor in need when I happened to show...A lot of my jobs required long commutes that would wear out my autos and myself, and subjected me to greater hazzards, higher costs, and cut into my productive ability and life time earnings...And from my point of view it was worth it... No one could possibly have been better on the job than my wife, but it cost her far more than myself...She is still working and delivering the mail while I get our final child off to school...At her age I was already retired, busted up, worn out; but retired...She has earned half of my income, and deserves every cent of her own... There simply is not alternative to a mother at home for the welfare of children who are the product of a family and of a society, and this product is the result of most intense and dedicated labor...
It is not families with stay at home moms who devalue the process of childrearing and house keeping... Motherhood is a form of relationship spiritual and etherial on the one hand answering dire need with practical activity on the other... It is not such mothers putting a price on the priceless, but employers, and like all commodities in great supply, the labor of mothers is bought at its lowest possible price... When women entered the work force it was out of necessity, but as more and more mothers worked out of necessity it drove down the price of all labor until the financial pressure was felt by all women to work...
It was expected that the wages of a man in my father's generation would support a wife and family... Now a man's wages barely support himself if he can find work, and it is very often a struggle for two working parents to support even a single child... Supply and demand does its inevitable work, and lowers wages to poverty levels... So what is a mother's love really worth???
Minimum wages is the usual answer...And does that pay the bills???... Children raised by institutions, by day care, and school, or by television and video games without a support system, and without a shoulder to cry on, advice when needed, ultimately cost society in delinquency, and failed relationships...Just my opinion; but how can one blame mothers for the failure of motherhood when they are driven by necessity to work, and often to endure humiliation at work for the sake of children she must love, but is in no position to give love to...Motherhood is the greatest and most demanding job anyone could do, and one that is essential to society, and yet it pays nothing, and so must be given up for degrading and thankless employment...Mothers have better sense than to demean motherhood... It is the force of our economy that puts a price on all things priceless that devalues and demeans motherhood... Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Apr 13, 2012 6:26 AM
If the spouses of political candidates want to be off limits for discussion, perhaps they should step away from the cameras and keep their mouths shut.
Comment: #2
Posted by:
Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:17 PM
I agree that Ms Rosen's comment was vastly under valuing of the work of women who stay home to raise children but I also think it is paternalistic of men (Republicans in particular) to feel that they can deny women the right to choice about their own bodies and the decisions they need to make about when to have those children. As a woman who both stayed home for several years with children and also worked while they were young I think I was smart enough to make decisions about abortion and birth control that were right for me and my family.
Every mother is a working woman and we don't need men to legislate what our medical decisions should be.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Joan A
Fri Apr 13, 2012 6:18 PM
Do we say, "Mary, Mom of God?" The word, "mother," connotes a sacred role; "a mom," carries no such meaning.
"A stay-at-home mom," is perjorative from the perspective of professional women, and the expression should fall into disuse by a commentator who accords people proper respect.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Suzanne G.
Fri Apr 13, 2012 6:56 PM

Why do so many "professional women," such as Hilary Rosen, in knee-jerk, mindlessly conformist fashion, attribute non-existent intellectual development to women who remain at home to nurture their own children's minds? Does anyone have an answer for this?
Ms. Rosen is quoted as having said: "I apologized to Mrs. Romney and work-in-home moms for mistakenly giving the impression that I do not think their work is valuable. Of course it is. She is insinuating that women who remain at home to nurture their own children, have the brains of widgets and thus are not capable of competent analysis of public affairs. Following that comment to its logical conclusion: The disenfranchisement of all women who are not counted among "professionals" such as Ms. Rosen, who has shown that her kind of feminism extends no further than advancing the standing of herself and that of women similarly situated to herself.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Suzanne G.
Fri Apr 13, 2012 7:04 PM
Re: Suzanne G.;... What ever Mrs. Rosen says or thinks on the matter, many stay at home mothers are not capable of competent analysis of public affairs; but in that regard they are no different from most people... I have read history and anthropology since I was a child, and I am aware of a great variety of different social systems of the deep and near past...Our social system and the larger system of the world economy is complex, and it is made to seem even more complex than it is... The wealthy especially, no matter what they do, have the ability to spin what they do as something entirely other than what they actually do...I do not think democracy in the true sense of the word requires anything more than a sense of ones own self interest, but at times what is in ones self interest is a matter of confusion as well...

It is impossible to conceive of democracy as other than a dynamic relationship requiring though, education and communication... Today the communication is pretty much one way... Our leaders tell us what to think and do, even how to feel; and we obey...You can tell in the variety of promises they make, and the sops they flop on us that they are out of touch with us, and are unaware of what we really need....And if you could ask most people to simply blurt out what they need at any moment I am certain others would blush, or laugh, or abuse them for their want of foresight... In fact, people can often be inspired to act against their own self interest -rationally, and will act contrary to their self interest irrationally... Who thinks when they set out to limit the rights of others that they are limiting the very rights they may need by the same argument???

People can often act thoughtlessly, and speak rashly, even in government, and they do so out of the sense, and knowledge, that they are denied true political power, and can afford prejudice, or ignorance because those with better sense will protect them from themselves...That is not my world, and not the world I want for my children...If the rules of democracy are that we are each free to do as we choose so long as it affect no one else, and that what affects others must be subject to some form of vote, or agreement; then we have some protection from each other... Then if people have a warped view of self interest, they are free to dispose of themselves, and no one is obligated to protect them from their own stupidity... That is not the job of government...

It is the job of government to do what people cannot alone do that none the less needs doing... And it is not complex, but all those people taking their wealth out of the commonwealth like to throw a sheet over the process to make it seem magical, or miraculous... In this country, the people only have a small and growing ever smaller piece of the government... The masses were denied political power because they were thought ignorant and unable to self govern... Once they were denied political power they could also be denied education so that the awarness of their problems and possible solutions had to come from others...

It is true that many educated and employed women learn contempt of stay at home mothers, but each is in the same situation, of self denial for society, devalued by their society for the contribution they make... When women join men in comtempt of women -all women lose, but it has never been unusual for the victim to identify with the victor...

The fact is that where men are backwards and mired in religion so are the women backward and mired in religion... Intelligent and educated men seek out intelligent and educated women... The thought that humanity can progress while holding down women is like thinking one can walk and stand on ones other foot at the same moment... If we are going to do better than we have, and escape this round of powerlessness and forced ignorance, and if we will get out of this slough of mutual contempt and recrimination we will have to learn to talk to one another, and not through government which is the right and natural place for our national dialogue, because that place is a filthy wallow where a price is set on honor and virtue...

Without dialogue and mutual respect no democracy is possible... Without a clear and reasoned view of self interest -no democracy is possible... Without the ability to find consensus -no democracy is possible.. Our technology has brought us beyond the point of representative democracy, and now our minds have to catch up to the fact... Self interest is the entire point of democracy... We cannot say that every woman driven by economic inequality to work for peanuts while leaving her children neglected is acting out of freedom of choice, or out of self interest; and in acting the slave she cannot be said to serve the interest of the next generation of society... It is no mother's fault that the love of her children has made her a slave... Love makes slaves... That class of people willing to exploit the love of mother for child for filthy profit is behind every other assault on freedom as well...Thanks... Sweeney
Comment: #6
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Apr 14, 2012 5:28 AM
Re: Suzanne G....The want of respect across the reach of this whole society is one concern... The ease with which that want of respect has been pushed into absolute and obnoxious contempt is frightning... We cannot have a civil society without mutual respect; and we cannot long have a society of any sort without mutual respect...Today mirrors quite well that period of our history before our great civil war... Lincoln characterized us as a house divided... The North pointed the moral finger and eschewed the South its luxury taken out of the sweat of slaves, and pointed to the general poverty of a society where slavery dishonored all labor... The South was insulted, offended, and called us yankees or wage slaves... Both were right, but their common denominator was their contempt of each other that justified every inhumanity to follow...The one thing we learned from the civil war -that we must again learn- is mutual respect... There is nothing like seeing your countrymen fight and die for what they believe, right or wrong, to give you a respect for them...It should not require such a terrible price; and intelligence should hold the hand of modern mankind...I am afraid that if people are not willing to stand, and fight and die for their freedom -and their morals- that they will have too little of either with which to resist the world which is no better than us, and may be worse as far as I can see... That country that tramples on the rights of its women is doomed... That is what happened in Ancient Greece...We have not gone so far as to trample on the rights of women or to admit them to full equality...Their proper place is in greater than equality to men... First, because they are; and because that government where the weak hold the political power the physically powerful do not need for their defense- will always make better sense... This was certainly true of the Iroquois... Government should be for the weak, and against the strong unless the strong -controlling government- would make slaves of the weak...Thanks... Sweeney
Comment: #7
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Apr 14, 2012 5:57 AM
You are smarter than this, Mark. Of course, Rosen (who was speaking in no official capacity - just as some Democrat on the tube) wasn't talking about the woman down the block who chooses to work raising the kids and keeping house (or the man, for that matter). She was speaking to the privilege, unimaginable to most of us, experienced by 1 percenters like Ms Romney.

I very much doubt that Ms Romney would receive a rousing standing ovation after describing a gruelling life of managing the staff managers of her many households, or deciding which car to have her garage person put on the car elevator for a day's outing.

Rosen's fault was leaving herself open to intentional misinterpretation. This is the typical flimflammery we've come to expect from American Spectator hacks. Mark, you've been around long enough to know that, so you are just playing along with the BS...
Comment: #8
Posted by: chuckvw
Sat Apr 14, 2012 10:55 AM
Re: chuckvw
Yes, yes, yes. There are working stay-at-home moms and there are delegating stay-at-homes. I'm sure Mrs. Romney had a staff. I sure didn't. This, too, is what HIlary Rosen was implying...
Comment: #9
Posted by: Joanne Rocklin
Sat Apr 14, 2012 2:04 PM
Re: Joanne Rocklin....If you want the true answer to whether Mrs. Romney was a working mother; then just ask her children... Judging from the behavior of many people raised with money, or with parents who gave free rein to their ambition it seems clear that they left to the wolves their part of the parenting while they concentrated on their own extended childhoods... Ask their children if they ever felt loved for themselves... Ask their children if they ever recieved enough of cuddlleing and affection... You might ask the children of poor working mothers the same because those who have not the time to love themselves seldom have time love up their babies... And considering that the most essential product of any family is happy and healthy children we must ask what we are in fact producing... Obese, lazy, violent or untouchable children are not happy or healty, and we have many, many of them... Young and old are all too willing to lose themselves in drugs; and escape may be the best personal alternative to a state of constant outrage, but what if outrage is the key to a permanent solution to our social problems??? I think we need money becuase we have no love, and the rich create for themselves and for the classes they exploit a love deficite for which material goods, were they even available are no substitute... Thanks... Sweeney
Comment: #10
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun Apr 15, 2012 7:14 AM
Re: James A, Sweeney

I don't know the Romney family, but I have some very, very close friends who are Mormon, they are very wealthy and very close. Very afffectionate, and very loving, all of the Mormon families that I know are family oriented, devoted to their church and children and wonderful parents. They are very closed as a group, as explained to me by my Mormon friends, they tend to stay within their own social structure, as a long time reponse to being ostracized and discriminated against.

I am not trying to claim that all Mormon's are this way, just relaying what my friends have told me.

Conservative Mantra: I've got mine, screw you
Comment: #11
Posted by: Bloom Hilda
Mon Apr 16, 2012 8:59 PM
Re: Suzanne G.
Suzanne said: About Rosen,

She is insinuating that women who remain at home to nurture their own children, have the brains of widgets and thus are not capable of competent analysis of public affairs. Following that comment to its logical conclusion: The disenfranchisement of all women who are not counted among "professionals" such as Ms. Rosen, who has shown that her kind of feminism extends no further than advancing the standing of herself and that of women similarly situated to herself.

You may be following your hyperbole to your hysterical conslusion, but Helen Rosen, (who is not in the Obama campaign), said none of what you wrote and I just quoted. Keep your histrionics separate from what Rosen actually said. She said that Ann Romney does not have the struggles that mothers who have an outside job have. WOW, there's a bandwagon, go jump on it. Interesting that the far right is jumping on anything that would deflect their own misogyny from themselves onto Obama. Nice try though, it's expected.

Conservative Mantra: Why should women get equal pay for equal work? We have the majority of votes,
We have ours, screw them

This wasn't 1897, this was last week.................
Comment: #12
Posted by: Bloom Hilda
Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:21 AM
Re: Bloom Hilda;... I would not imply or other wise suggest that Mormons are not good parents and do not make a priority of their children... We should all stand up for our children and for their rights in the commonwealth, and we should defend even our rights to create children, or at least reproduce ourselves with some hope that society will recognize our effort, and help us to raise good citizens... THIS- it does not now do...
When people are left to shift for themselves it breeds a terrible and immoral sort of human being... When honorable citizens see the commonwealth snatched from under their noses and pissed away like every ill gotten gain always is while they live in worry and want, and go to bed hungry then it robs all the honor out of honorable poverty...
When students must accept the slavery of debt for education, and to have any hope of advancement in society then they gain the dishonorable, and immoral attitude that it is all about them, and that they owe to society all the nothing they got from society... An educated person should be an asset to society, but we send so many of our best into fields where money is plentiful, and morals are extinct because it is the only way they can get for all they give...
We know that the institutions of education are built and maintained on the public dime, and that the public, seeing little value in an education it cannot afford- and will see no money from- says they have paid their share... I think that if we were concerned with social justice which is the only way we can ever hope to have it, that we must educate all to the limit of their ability... Not everyone is as mentally incapable of education as am I...Everyone else should be educated... We must simply rule that to whom much is given much is due, and expect people will use their minds for the benefit of mankind...
We cannot well judge the Mormons...They have become a force to be reckoned with, in part because they have recognized the need for unity... Political and dogmatic unity is something all the religious denominations find a need for... What I do not understand from any of these groups is the hostility to organized labor when labor is only responding to a recognized need when they organize... And God forbid that organized labor should unite its dollars to have a united voice in government as if that were not their right...
Just for example: Can anyone say that the positive effect of the churches in our society has been greater than that of organized labor... What good have the churches done if it did not benefit them more or less directly...They have meddled in politics and in economics to the injury of humanity...Since their right is spelled out they think they are entitled to attack all whose rights are not expressed...
These churches so freely critical of the morality of the nation are the greatest cause of immorality... Do they want mothers to bring their sin conceived babies to term??? If they only bought every such child from its needy mother, or assisted her, or defended her right and the right of her child they could have saved many millions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of babies from dire poverty or death... Their ultimate goal is not good, but political power, and the destruction of our rights which is the real cause of so many people working for not enough of nothing to raise a family...
Where are the churches??? They are taking care of their own, and their own are taking care of them; but they are not doing God's work as far as I can see... Thanks... Sweeney
Comment: #13
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:49 AM
Re: James A, Sweeney

James said:

Not everyone is as mentally incapable of education as am I...Everyone else should be educated...

I am not sure of the meaning of this, I gather you mean that you do not have a formal education?

I beg to differ with you Mr. Sweeney, you may not have sat in a classroom chasing advanced degrees on a heavily indebted paper chase, however if life is an education, you are one of the most educated people I have ever met, your wisdon, reason, and logic would stand up against any should be very proud............
Socrates didn't go to UCLA, Plato didn't go to Northwestern, but they were thinking men who pondered life, justice, and the follies of mankind, as you do, I think you are great..........

"Conservative" Mantra: Snobs go to college..........Santorum
Comment: #14
Posted by: Bloom Hilda
Tue Apr 17, 2012 11:29 AM
Re: Bloom Hilda;...Ma'am, thank you... I do have a year at MSU behind me, and that was back when credits were relatively cheap... I am not a good student... I failed Kindergarten, and always scraped by... It is surprising what a little dislexia and problems with verbal comprehension will do to sabotage a fairly intelligent mind...Like anyone who learns, I have simply found out how I learned best, and followed that course of self education... So many people I met while in university who were sharp, compared to me, as a razor left it all behind... The cost of learning something new was that they deliberately forgot as much as they could of what they had just learned... And I know, because that was a question I asked people when I found out they had taken a class I intended or was required to take... What did you learn???
The price of my never forgetting is a library that keeps my house at the point of explosion... Occasionally my daughter hits me up for books to sell, and I donate; but if I can find them cheap, and it is amazing how cheap good books often are, then they come in, and my house groans and sighs... Thank You... You know; The good part of little formal education is that what is taught and learned is usually: the form... Learn to negotiate the form, and you are edgified...

Learning to think formally, to view these moral forms and the social forms like government that we build out of our moral forms like justice and equality- as objects is key to understanding almost everything in human experience... Every form, social, moral, or physical is also a form of relationship... Every form, such as governments and economies and religions can be judged on the quality of the relationships they structure...

You cannot call a marriage a good form of relationship if the people in it are unhappy... And; though we build our social forms to resist change because change is what humanity most fears, it is through the changing of forms that all human progress is made... To change their forms people must first change their minds...If you read Jefferson's Declaration it is clear that not only he, but his generation had formal consciousness... They were trying to change their society... They were not doing so blindly, but with reference to philosophy... Thanks again for your kindness...James
Comment: #15
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Wed Apr 18, 2012 5:05 AM
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