You've come a long way, baby? Somehow the 2012 campaign has regressed back to 1992 (some would say even decades earlier) when Hillary Clinton kicked up a storm for saying "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.''
The perceived knock on homemakers by the Yale-trained lawyer who went on to become First Lady came to mind when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen scoffed on CNN Wednesday that the wife of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney "has never actually worked a day in her life.'' It was an insulting comment that revealed a lesson still unlearned from 1992. Work is work, whether it's a paid office job or unpaid and generally thankless child-rearing. In a move clearly aimed at ginning up outrage among stay-at-home moms, Ann Romney joined Twitter to shoot back: "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work."
Are we still having this debate in 2012? Worse, are we having it in 140 characters or less? Still, Ann Romney's tart response was the smartest move by the Romney campaign yet as it tries to close a yawning gender gap with President Obama. When asked about his deficit of support among women, Romney has repeatedly pointed to his wife's role in the campaign. That's not going to cut it. Then Romney tried to turn the tables on the alleged "war on women'' by claiming 93 percent of the jobs lost in the Obama administration were done by women, a terrific comeback if only it were true. He made the claim at carefully choreograped press conference in which he was surrounded by rows of women.
Gov. Romney, you cannot outsource the gender gap to your wife. Also, women are not props.
Feminists might say all this talk about what women want shows progress. Politicians are fighting for women's votes! Except what's unclear is whether both sides are simply pandering or actually committed to real policy reforms that would make a difference in women's lives. Then we truly will have come a long way.