President Obama has apparently decided he can’t run on his record and dare not reveal his agenda. So he has launched a series of thinly disguised efforts to drive up Mitt Romney’s negatives, first with the Buffett rule (“the GOP likes rich guys”) and then with the “war on women.” How Romney specifically has gone to battle against women is unclear, but Team Obama perhaps is hoping voters confuse him with Rick Santorum, who did not much care for women working outside the home or for contraception. Romney’s pro-life position and his objection to the Obamacare birth control mandate for religious institutions don’t make for a “war,” but facts are not at issue here.
The Romney team is fighting back with abandon today, maybe wary that Obama’s onslaught will drive up Romney’s negatives. He has released a series of statements from GOP women attesting to the tough time women have had in the Obama economy. This from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) is typical: “President Obama refuses to address the fact that women have been hit hardest by his failed economic policies. The poverty rate among women is the highest it has been in nearly two decades, and women have seen massive job losses during his presidency. President Obama’s proposals for higher taxes and more regulation will do nothing to bring our economy back. Women deserve a president who will ensure that they have the opportunity to prosper. Mitt Romney will create an economic environment where women, and all Americans, will be able to find lasting employment.”
Romney himself got into the act with remarks in Connecticut, which the campaign later put out in the form of a press release. He asserted: “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! Now, the President says ‘I didn’t cause this recession.’ That’s true. He just made it worse. And made it last longer. And because it lasted longer, more and more women lost jobs such that in his three and a half years, 92.3 percent of the people who have lost jobs have been women. His failures have hurt women. More information: What president has the worst record on female labor force participation? Barack Obama. In history, we’ve gone back twenty years. The progress that was made of more women getting into the workforce has been stepped back twenty years by virtue of this president’s policies. Under President Obama, 858,000 more women are out of work. 858,000 more women out of work under this president. And finally, the total female unemployment rate has gone from 7 percent when he took office in January 2009 to 8.1 percent in March of 2012. This president has failed America’s women. And if I’m the next President of the United States, I will go to work to get American women good jobs, rising incomes, and growing businesses.”
The fact checkers can carve up the statistic anyway they like, I suppose. But Romney’s response, while focused on women, is nevertheless part of his basic message: Obama has been a rotten steward of the economy.
You have to admire the Obama team in some respect for its pure gall. After all, Obama has a few women-issue problems of his own, in addition to problems with the economy.
The conservative Free Beacon reports: “According to the 2011 annual report on White House staff, female employees earned a median annual salary of $60,000, which was about 18 percent less than the median salary for male employees ($71,000).”
And there was the revolt of the women in the White House staff. The Post reported last September:
“Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President,” by journalist Ron Suskind ... details the rivalries among Obama’s top economic advisers, Larry Summers, former chairman of the National Economic Council, and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. It describes constant second-guessing by Summers, now at Harvard, who was seen by others as “imperious and heavy-handed” in his decision-making.
In an excerpt obtained by The Post, a female senior aide to President Obama called the White House a hostile environment for women.
“This place would be in court for a hostile workplace,” former White House communications director Anita Dunn is quoted as saying. “Because it actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.” . . . .
It says that women occupied many of the West Wing’s senior positions, but felt outgunned and outmaneuvered by male colleagues such as former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Summers.
“I felt like a piece of meat,” Christina Romer, former head of the Council of Economic Advisers, said of one meeting in which Suskind writes she was “boxed out” by Summers.
What this is all about of course is the battle over the gender gap. Romney wants to lessen it; Obama wants to keep it high. Unfortunately for Obama, as with the Buffett rule, there isn’t a whole lot of substance to his charges against Romney. But Romney also has a problem: The White House has a very big megaphone and the ability to drive a narrative with little push back from the media. The coverage generally characterizes Romney as on the defensive, but there’s been little effort to query Obama about the support for the original accusation. The best thing the Obama team has going for it is the willingness of the media to regurgitate the president’s attack lines.
This is just a preview of what is to come — from the mainstream media, Obama and Romney. It’ll be quite a fight.