Score One for Mom and the GOP

The Democrats appear to have lost the latest battle in the culture war, and by a rout.

Hillary Rosen, a former recording industry lobbyist who until Thursday was always described as “Democratic strategist” during her frequent television appearances, fired the opening salvo in the media skirmish while chatting with newsman Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” Eager to press her party’s perceived advantage with its accusations of a Republican “war on women,” and hoping to counter the Romney campaign’s riposte with the candidate’s telegenic and personable wife, Rosen said that stay-at-home mom Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life.”

The response from the Romney campaign, and its friends in the conservative media, was quick and devastating. Ann Romney immediately “tweeted” her answer, making the obvious point that raising five children and running a home is indeed hard work. Mitt Romney expressed his understandable umbrage that the opposition had taken a swipe at his wife. Conservative commentators piled on, noting the blatant hypocrisy of a self-described feminist, supposedly a philosophy devoted to giving women a wider range of life choices, showing such disrespect for another woman’s choice. Even the liberal pundits were forced to admit that attacking stay-at-home motherhood was ill-advised, even if Rosen hadn’t added an insult to apple pie and the American flag.

By Thursday afternoon the Obama campaign was in full retreat. They first sought to distance themselves from Rosen, despite her role as an advisor to Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has been outspoken in claiming the Republicans are waging a “war on women,” then started issuing their own denunciations. Obama himself finally weighed in, saying that political wives should be entirely off-limits, thus washing his hands of the incident while also making a preemptive strike against any criticism of his own wife’s controversial statements. By the end of the day, even Rosen was offering an apology.

It’s all just another one of those media brouhahas that quickly fade from the public’s memory, of course, but the Democrats were shrewd to make their tactical retreat and re-group. The “war on women” theme had already had mixed results, with their contraceptive coverage ploy firing up their feminist base but angering the Catholics who were being bullied into acting against their long-held beliefs, and their attacks on Rush Limbaugh’s ill-advised “slut” remarks drawing attention to the even more vile language routinely employed by their advocates, and there was no way to defend a slur against such an iconic archetype as the stay-at-home mom.

The downside to stereotyping Republicans as old-fashioned fuddy-duddies is that it plays right into a stereotype of Democrats as the natural enemies of all the old-fashioned American virtues. Hillary Rosen should have known that, and we expect that she does now.

— Bud Norman

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