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Susan Estrich
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Women's Work


As it turns out, Hilary Rosen was wrong about Ann Romney not working a day in her life. She's plainly working right now, as a strategist for her husband's campaign, not a stay-at-home mom. For all the shock and chagrin about Rosen's comment (which was, of course, poorly put, but was an effort to address the question of whether the Romneys could understand the problems of "people like us," as pollsters usually ask it), it turns out that Mrs. Romney wasn't insulted at all. She considered it an "early birthday gift," a strategic opportunity for her husband's campaign, which she expertly exploited.

As for her husband, the candidate, it turns out that his professed view that all moms are "working moms" does not extend to welfare moms. Just last January at a town meeting, he said, "Even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, 'Well, that's heartless,' and I said, 'No, no, I'm willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It'll cost the state more providing that day care, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.'"

The "dignity of work," huh? He wasn't talking about work inside the home.

What this is really about is politics and, specifically, gender politics. Polls are showing the biggest gender gap in years, as much as 20 points in President Obama's favor. That's enough to win an election. Or lose it.

So Romney, finally freed from the "contraceptive wars" of the primary campaign (a throwback to the '50s), is trying to convince women that they have been the big losers in this recession. Critics (and objective analysts) say he's playing with the numbers, but at least he's on the right topic. It is, as always, "the economy, stupid," including related issues such as education and health care and housing. After lambasting Obama for telling the Russians that he would have more flexibility after the election (duh!), Romney was overheard by reporters at a fundraiser telling his supporters that he planned to slash government programs (and even departments), notably housing and education, but probably wouldn't tell voters until after the election.

The humor, if you can see it that way, in all this is that in this Internet and social media world, anything you say can be used against you, even if you think you're saying it to a dead mike or said it months ago or in a larger context.

Perhaps candidates should be given a revised version of the Miranda warnings every morning.

Rosen's larger point was that when it comes to the economy, health care, education and other such issues, there is a real question about whether the Romneys can relate. And that question is particularly acute for women voters, who tend to earn less money than men, assume more responsibilities for children and focus more on domestic issues than "toughness."

Obviously, most presidential candidates are part of the 1 percent, not the 99 percent. Obviously, you don't have to work (much less by the hour) to understand or empathize with the problems of people who do. One of the famous lines in American political history came from a miner in West Virginia, who, in response to a young Ted Kennedy's comment that "they say I haven't worked a day in my life," shouted out, "You haven't missed a thing." I'm sure I'm biased because I worked for him and admired him, flaws and all, but I don't know how anyone could say that Ted Kennedy did not understand the problems of people "like us."

The jury is still out on Romney, and the women on that jury are likely to be particularly wary. It's not because Ann Romney, a much-admired woman, a great mom by all reports, a shining role model in coping with serious illness, hasn't worked outside the home. It's because her husband, in candid moments, seems not to have a clue and, in more serious moments, seems not to support policies that are indeed critical for mothers and others. The one thing that is certain is that these issues are not going away. Women may earn less than men in the workplace, but in this election, they may count for more.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



5 Comments | Post Comment
Dear Ms. Estrich,

You conveniently pass over the real issue in the Rosen flap, that being the Liberals who believe they are better educated, and have better positions really do demean stay at home moms!

I see it's not just okay for former President Bill Clinton to have sex outside marriage with the Liberals defending him, but somehow it's not okay for the Secret Service. Duh! just another example of why Bill Clinton and his supporters [YOU Liberals] lowered the bar so low, it's lower than whale $#!@

Nuff Said...Dennis
Comment: #1
Posted by: Dennis
Tue Apr 17, 2012 7:44 PM
There's a reason the 'greatest generation' is/was the greatest. It's because most were raised by a mother and father. The father was paid sufficient wage to support the family and the mother was a full time homemaker/mother. Times have changed and it doesn't bode well for future generations.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Early
Wed Apr 18, 2012 5:43 AM
Another column schilling for obama and spinning the "get Romney, Romney is rich,weird and out of touch" Democrat/progressive line. These pieces, get, in turn, more and more pathetic.

Firstly Estrich laughably tries to recast Rosen's comment. Estrich spins like a top endeavoring to posit that notwithstanding Rosen's clear words to the express effect that Mrs Romney had never worked a day in her life, that she did not mean it but really meant that the Romney's could not understand "people like us". Why it is asked then did she not say that the Romney's do not understand people like us? Estrich that dog just does not hunt.

No, Rosen said precisely what she meant and meant precisely what she said. It was intended as an insult and was indeed taken as one. An intended insult and a strategic opportunity are not mutually exclusive. That Mrs Romney skillfully turned it around so as to damage the boy barack and discredit the Rosen thing was a joy to watch.

Estrich goes on to actually ask if the Romney's can relate when it comes to the economy, healthcare, education and such other issues. Really?

The boy barack has the worst jobs and employment record of any modern president (not one net job added in 3 years), the highest misery index in decades, record deficits in each year of his presidency, the first president to add over 5 Trillions to the national debt (and in only just over three years), added an abortion of a healthcare law that will cost not less that twice that promulgated and will significantly add to the already monstrous debt, has caused a downgrade of our credit rating, has destroyed the energy industry, has directly caused and is causing gas and energy prices to skyrocket as he promised he would do, has wasted billions of dollars on green energy boondoggles for his cronies and is deliberately making it almost impossible for small businesses to operate.

All this and Estrich wants to posit that Romney is out of touch on matters economic? Sober up Estrich !

As to women. What no mention of the real and lethal war that will be conducted on women when US unilaterally runs from Afghanistan or the real war on women that will materialize out of the Arab Spring and the Islamist take over of the Middle East as orchestrated by the islamist barack ?

What will the next coulmn be about? Lets guess. I know dogs. You the know the lovable things that the boy barack used to eat. Or horses maybe. The animals that the boy barack has added to those that may be slaughtrered for food. Or maybe bald eagles that the boy barack has allowed to be killed for the sake of a religious rite.

One thing is certain, it will be more on the boy's talking points and nothing about the boy barack's abysmal record and his unmitigated failure as a president.
Guess the next column
Comment: #3
Posted by: joseph wright
Wed Apr 18, 2012 1:41 PM
As a follow up opon the the theme that Estrich simply follows the latest obama talking point and avoids the issues and obama's record consider the following.
The Republic is disintegrating under the debt created by the boy barack and the incompence and or malevolence of the boy barack and yet Estrich, the lame stream media and Axelrod now want to talk about dogs. Can you beleive it?

Well yes, the talking points all have to steer well clear of the absolute failure that barack is and was always going to be.

Estrich, to assist in avoiding the issues here are a few suggestions for the title of your next piece given the recent revelations of the boy barack's dietary history and comments heard recently on radio from others
No credit is taken for the suggestions the credit goes to unknown others.
1. Dog on a roof: obama's meals on wheels.
2. The Whitehouse breakfast special: Beagles with cream cheese.
3. The Democratic Party, Where have all the blue dogs gone. Check obama's freezer.
4. Obama's new book: Dreams of my fido.
5. Obama the attax dog.
6. Moochelle "Antoinette" Obama: Let them eat dog, barack does.
Trivial Estrich may say, but no more trivial than the current obama, Democratic talking points and distractions.
Wake up people !
Comment: #4
Posted by: joseph wright
Thu Apr 19, 2012 5:24 AM
Regarding this line from the column: The "dignity of work," huh? He wasn't talking about work inside the home.

Clearly Mr. Romney was saying that there is dignity in earning the money to run your home, and that he believes there is value there, and he would rather help someone to do that by providing child care. It's not that there is less value in raising a child, except to someone like Ms. Rosen perhaps. But there's a difference mindset when you can see the correspondence between your efforts and the size of your paycheck, compared to getting the same check every month whether or not you were a good mother that month.

Personally, there are times I miss working fast food, where I could see that if I took those hours from others who called in sick, and did so consistently, my two-week paycheck was a whole lot bigger. I made a direct connection between work and the money. Now I'm salaried, and the connection is more between how hard I work and how secure my job is, but that paycheck is not as satisfying.

Ms. Estrich, you might see if you can have a conversation with one Dave Ramsey regarding the behavior modification built into his financial strategies. It's less about numbers than about behavior.

While I think raising children is important, it's also important that the children learn from an early age about the connection between work and monetary rewards. Bill Clinton's welfare reform, even if only enacted to starve Bob Dole of a campaign issue, was one of the best things that ever happened to a lot of people. Mitt Romney is only reiterating those ideals. It is out of love.

But you have a valid point, on the surface, that Mr. Romney seems to be undermining Mrs. Romney's outrage, but let's face it, the natural reaction from the modern gender feminists (at least the squeaky wheel types) is to put down stay at home moms because they seem to set the movement back. In that context Mr. Romney is correct that there is more dignity, on the whole, in being employed to bring in the money, than to wait for government checks, even if you're the best possible mom in the meantime.

But again, wouldn't the ideal parent find a way to demonstrate to the child the monetary value of work?
Comment: #5
Posted by: Michael Dougherty
Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:29 PM
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