A Democratic strategist apologized Thursday for a comment questioning Ann Romney’s qualifications to advise her husband on women’s economic issues, while the Romney campaign sought to exploit the controversy to help fix a gender gap problem in the race against President Barack Obama.
Hilary Rosen issued a statement after fellow Democrats, including a Twitter post on Michelle Obama’s page, criticized her remarks the night before on CNN.
“I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended,” said the statement by Rosen, who is a CNN contributor. “Let’s declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance.”
In a later interview on CNN, Rosen said she “should not have chosen words that seemed to attack Ann Romney’s “choice in life” and that she hoped Mrs. Romney “understands I didn’t mean it personally,” adding “I was trying to talk about economic issues.”
On Wednesday night, Rosen said on CNN’s “AC360″ that Mitt Romney shouldn’t be relying on his wife for guidance on economic issues affecting women.
“This is going to be an ugly campaign season,” Rosen told CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,”
“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,’ ” Rosen said. “Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life.”
Rosen continued by saying Mrs. Romney had “never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority off 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.”
Republicans slammed the comments as disparaging to stay-at-home mothers, and top Democrats including Obama’s chief campaign adviser also took exception.
Clearly Rosen (who is not involved in Obama’s reelection campaign and seems to exist mostly as a cable news talking head) said something stupid, which other Democrats were quick to distance themselves from. And the whole kerfuffle will soon be forgotten in the onrush of future flaps du jour.
But the larger issue here was hardly mentioned. And despite their defense of stay-at-home mothers and “family values,” it’s not an issue that Republicans are comfortable dealing with. It’s the fact that her husband’s earnings gave her the option to be a stay-at-home mother– an option that millions of other women don’t have.
As I wrote last year about the huge increase in the percentage of mothers who work:
I think most people can agree that no single factor explains this dramatic rise in the percentage of working women with young children. Part of it surely has to do with the increase in single-parent households. And part of it has to do with the enormous and positive change in the status of women generally.
But in large part, I think, it has to do with… the stagnating incomes of the majority of American workers. More and more households now require two income-earners to maintain a standard of living that previously could be provided by one earner.
Surely, if they could afford to, many working women with children would prefer to be stay-at-home moms. (Of course higher incomes generally would also allow some fathers to be stay-at-home dads if they choose.) Some of the millions of mothers with young children who work at low-paying “pink-collar” jobs may be doing so out of a sense of feminist fulfillment; but I think most would probably prefer to be at home with the kids if they could afford it.
So who is standing up for family values? Someone like Fox News’s conservative commentator Brit Hume, who says, “If [income] inequality is at a very much higher level, who cares?” Or those who raise concerns about income inequality and stagnating incomes?