By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services
If there’s one special talent of Republicans, it’s turning a nothing issue into a raging controversy. They’ve done it before: with Van Jones, ACORN, and Obama’s birth certificate.
And they did it again with Hilary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney. Judging from the feigned outrage, you’d think Rosen had accused Mrs. Romney of being a lazy welfare queen. When, in fact, all she did was tell the truth.
Most people don’t realize how this whole flap started. In her job as CNN contributor, Hilary Rosen was merely responding to a ludicrous comment by Mitt Romney that, despite being a multimillionaire, he can identify with average Americans because his wife keeps him informed of what working-class women are thinking.
Are you kidding, Rosen gasped. Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life.” By which, of course, she meant “never worked a day in her life outside the home.” The truth is, as Rosen was trying to point out: Ann Romney, in her life of luxury as a mother of five — with multiple homes, dressage horses and Cadillacs — has no more idea what it’s like to struggle as a single-mom waitressing in Las Vegas or Kansas City than Mitt does. But, with Ann Romney’s help, Republicans quickly turned Rosen’s comment into an attack on all stay-at-home mothers.
Clearly, what the Romney campaign was trying to do was divert attention from the Republicans’ war against women, which they succeeded in doing, though only temporarily. Because the Republican war against women is real, deliberate, and ongoing. And there’s no denying it.
In one sense, the war on women is nothing new. It’s been raging longer than the war in Afghanistan. You can trace it back to decades of Republican opposition to early childhood education, child care, family and medical leave, equal pay, family planning, and every other government program designed to help women. But the current war on women started with successful Republican efforts, over 10 years, to kill what became known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for women to sue for wage discrimination. President Obama finally signed it into law on Jan. 29, 2009.
The war has only escalated in recent weeks. Republicans tried to overturn new rules of the Obama administration making access to contraception, with no co-pay, part of every woman’s basic health insurance. Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut.” Rick Santorum said states should be able to make birth control illegal. Mitt Romney won’t say whether or not he’d have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Senate Republicans voted for the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed any employer to refuse to cover any kind of health care service by citing “moral reasons.” They are now blocking reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Republican opposition to the Violence Against Women Act is especially odious. Written in 1994 by then-Senator Joe Biden to offer legal protection to women who are victims of domestic violence, it was passed, and has been re-authorized several times, with strong bipartisan support. Three provisions were added this year to extend protection to women in same-sex marriages, Native-American women and women immigrants who are here illegally. Because of those three amendments, all eight Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, voted against the bill. By their presumed logic, it’s wrong to beat up most women — but lesbians, Native Americans, and undocumented women are fair game.
Equally puzzling is Republican opposition to the Paycheck Fairness Act. Even today, on average, according to the 2010 Census, women earn only about 77 cents for every one dollar a man earns. Yet the Paycheck Fairness Act failed to get one single Republican Senate vote in 2010. And Republicans vow to block it again this year.
Perhaps most importantly for Republicans, the war on women is not only morally wrong, it’s political suicide. No matter how hard Republicans try to deny they’re waging war on women, American women aren’t buying it. Asked in the latest CNN/ORC 2012 Presidential Poll which candidate is more “in touch with the problems facing women today,” women rate Obama over Romney, 59 percent to 23 percent. Bad for Mitt. Good for Barack. Women aren’t stupid.
© 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.