Usually, the term “faux outrage” loosely translates from the French into “someone else’s outrage, which I am not acknowledging as in any
way valid on account of I don’t want to.’’
But in a political system in which attacks are so reliably monetized, Ann Romney couldn’t help woohooing about how profitably she’d been disrespected by Democratic consultant Hilary Rosen, who commented on cable news that Mrs. Romney had “actually never worked a day in her life.’’
Ca-ching, the candidate’s wife exulted.
At a fund-raiser in Palm Beach, Florida, over the weekend, Mrs. Romney not only showed no hint of outrage, faux or otherwise, but was really kind of giddy: “It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mother,’’ reporters overheard her telling supporters. “And that was really a defining moment, and I loved it.’’
Now, when I wrote last week that the Romneys owed Rosen a thank-you note, I didn’t expect them to agree while wearing a microphone. But as a spouse unfairly maligned, a mom denied her due, what was not to love? And no one can say her delight was inauthentic.
Yet mostly, Michelle Obama has passed on the perquisites of victimhood. Perhaps because, as she told Gayle King the one time I do remember her giving voice to some umbrage: “I guess it’s more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation here and a strong woman. But that’s been an image that people have tried to paint of me since the day Barack announced. That I’m some angry black woman.”
She hasn’t made that mistake again. And Ann Romney wasn’t so foolish as to pretend to have been wounded by Rosen’s remarks, either; that’s why God made surrogates, and the campaign sent them out to do so in her stead, on behalf of mothers everywhere.
So far, it doesn’t seem to have hurt her any to have been caught celebrating Rosen’s remarks. It probably won’t, either, because after Obama and half of his campaign team rushed to say spouses should be off limits, they’re not about to double back and make a big deal of it.
Now that the Romneys have been busted high-fiving over the insult, though, milking it any further is not a plan, either — and I hope they won’t try to spin comedian (and self-funded Green Party presidential candidate) Roseanne Barr’s rude and baseless speculation about how much help Ann Romney had while raising her five sons as anything other than a bid for attention.
(“Mrs. Mitt Romney claims to have worked her toned *&% off, raising five Romney males all on her own, as privileged wives often do,” Barr wrote in the Daily Beast. “But, no, Ann, I call bull*&^% on your Big Mama story, girlfriend.” Okay, and I call what she said on that column, though it’s not worth getting excited over.)
The “real housewives” of the campaign trail do have a hard and often thankless job, and a schedule that involves plenty of actual work. Yet politics is also enough like reality TV that it is infinitely better to be the aggrieved party -- the housewife having wine tossed in her face for the umpteenth time -- than the one who’s doing the tossing.
But then you just pat it dry, without looking either too offended or too pleased, and get right back to selling the candidate.
Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors the paper’s ‘She the People’ blog. Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.