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Romney's Female Surrogates Oppose Women's Rights | The Nation

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Ben Adler

Ben Adler

 The 2012 election, Republican politics and conservative media.

Romney's Female Surrogates Oppose Women's Rights

Mitt Romney thought he had found the right wedge to drive between President Obama and women: unemployment. On Wednesday morning Romney started the day off with a speech in Hartford, Connecticut, blaming Obama for job losses among women since he took office. Said Romney:

I was disappointed in listening to the President as he’s saying ‘Republicans are waging a war on women.’ The real war on women is being waged by the President’s failed economic policies.… These are just some statistics which show just how severe the war on women has been by virtue of the President’s failed policies. The number of jobs … this is an amazing statistic…the percentage of jobs lost by women in the President’s three years, three and a half years, 92.3 percent of all the jobs lost during the Obama years have been lost by women. 92.3 percent!

This is merely a variation on the same intellectually dishonest nonsense that Republicans have been slinging at Obama for years. There is a lag between when a president takes office and when his policies are imposed, then take effect, and then have measurable results. The job losses during Obama’s first year in office are the result of the economic collapse that began before he was elected. Since then, the private sector has been slowly adding jobs. The public sector, meanwhile, has been shedding jobs because there is also a lag between an economic downturn and the compressed government budgets that force layoffs of civil servants. Also the president cannot pass everything he wants by fiat. Obama and other Democrats have pushed for stimulus measures such as aid to states that would reduce the number of teachers, police officers and so forth getting laid off. That would benefit both citizens who depend on their services and the economy as a whole. Republicans have refused to vote for these bills on the grounds that we cannot afford to add to the national debt to pay for them, and then turned around hypocritically lambasted Obama for the job numbers that are the direct result of Republican policies.

And that is just what Romney is doing on the subject of women’s employment. As Slate’s Matthew Yglesias explains:

Recessions hit male-dominated highly cyclical sectors like construction and manufacturing first. Women tend to disproportionately work in sectors like health care and education that show slow and steady job growth. But those male-dominated cyclical sectors also bounce back relatively quickly. So since the recession started more than a year before Obama's inauguration, male job losses were close to bottoming out by the time Obama took office and he's presided over a lot of rebound growth in male employment. Women, by contrast, have been devastated by cascading waves of teacher layoffs.

No wonder New York Times reporters Ashley Parker and Trip Gabriel labeled Romney’s claim “misleading for several reasons.”

Mere intellectual dishonesty is a daily operation for Romney, and it would hardly have caused a mainstream media kerfuffle. But on a conference call Wednesday Romney’s advisers were dumbstruck when asked whether he supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act that Obama signed into law in 2009. Romney can’t credibly present himself as an advocate of women in the workplace if he doesn’t support legislation that would protect them from discrimination. (The law makes it possible for women to sue for being paid less than male colleagues within 180 days of the last, rather than first, paycheck. The Romney campaign later said he would not repeal the law.)

But Republican women seem to think they can do just that. Romney’s campaign spent Wednesday flooding reporters with statements from female Republican politicians attacking Obama’s record on women in the economy. Here’s a sample from a conference all they pulled together on Thursday:

“Women have faced massive job losses under this administration and the policies of this president have failed women voters.”   —Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)

“Since President Obama and the Democrats can’t run on the record, which includes the longest streak of high unemployment since the Great Depression, a record increase in the national debt, and near-record gas prices they’re working desperately to change the subject. And that’s why they’ve created this whole ‘war on women’ campaign. It’s really designed to distract women from the real issues…. There’s no ‘war on women’ by the Republicans.”   —Representative Cathie McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA)

“The Obama policies have failed.  In fact, they've made the economy worse, and they've made it worse particularly for women.”   —Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)

Something is funny about all these Republican women rushing to Romney’s defense. None of them support women’s rights. Ayotte co-sponsored the Blunt-Rubio amendment that would allow employers to refuse to cover any medication, including birth control, which they object to on moral or religious grounds. McMorris-Rodgers and Lummis voted against the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, as did Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-FL), who issued a statement attacking on Romney’s behalf saying, “Women in the Obama economy are facing hardships of historical proportions.” All three congresswomen voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would take other steps to make it easier for women to fight for equal pay, such as prohibiting retaliation by companies against workers who raise wage-parity issues. Just because these politicians are women does not mean they have women’s interests at heart. If they oppose women’s rights to be protected from discrimination in the workplace, then they are hardly credible as critics of the effects of Obama’s policies on women’s economic standing.

And it’s not just at work where Romney’s female surrogates oppose women’s rights. Virginia Delegate Barbara Comstock, who also participated in the Thursday conference call, voted to require women to have an ultrasound prior to an abortion.

The Romney campaign seems to think that merely being a woman makes one qualified to represent all women. As Jessica Valenti notes, this patronizing belief manifests especially in their use of Mitt’s wife Ann as his supposed ambassador to women. But is only slightly less ludicrous to claim that because a Republican politician with typical anti-women Republican policies happens to have two X chromosomes that she is somehow a spokesperson for women’s political interests.

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