Pundits’ peril

Hilary Rosen, the Democratic strategist and political pundit, decided to skip “Meet the Press” this past weekend in an effort to put the controversy she created to rest.  

It didn’t work. Linda Hirshman, the feminist author and activist, penned a column in Sunday’s Washington Post (“Hilary Rosen Was Right. Ann Romney Doesn’t Speak for Women in the Workforce”) guaranteed to keep the controversy alive.

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This column appeared after the president decided that Hilary’s words were important enough that he had to trash her (which was right before he decided that he had to comment on the story involving the Secret Service and prostitution).

I like Hilary Rosen, although I rarely if ever have agreed with her politically. She is a canny political operative and a smart strategist, and she is plenty tough when she needs to be. Hilary has found herself in an unenviable position. She has become the news rather than being somebody who merely comments on the news. And she is being Sister Souljah’d by her own allies.

I disagree strongly with Hilary’s comments regarding Ann Romney and her work history, but as a fellow pundit, I just as strongly support her right to make them.  And I am more than a bit puzzled as to why her comments have occupied so completely the attention of both the Romney and the Obama campaigns. 

First, let me refute Rosen’s assertion that Ann Romney hasn’t worked a day in her life. Anybody who spends any amount of time around kids knows that raising five of them is a bunch of work. Hard, back-breaking and frequently emotionally taxing work. I know plenty of women (and most men) who see the “workplace” as a much easier place to deal with than the home.

And there have been plenty of studies that show that for all of the work that mothers do, they don’t really get compensated very well. But, of course, it isn’t about the financial benefits these days (although it certainly would be nice if the kids, when they grow up, can get out of the house, get a job, contribute to the Social Security system and maybe pick up a dinner or two along the way). It’s about the feeling of fulfillment that comes from being a mother and a father.

Hilary Rosen is a mother, so she should get all of that. And I guess I understand what she was trying to say, although I think she underestimates Ann Romney’s role in Mitt Romney’s success. I actually think that the wife is a much better candidate than the husband, much more authentic, a better speaker and a more accessible personality.

What is interesting to me is how both the Romney and Obama campaigns used Rosen’s comments for their own devices, all in an effort to attract the vitally important married-woman vote. Romney’s campaign, behind in this demographic, had obvious reasons to take on Hilary, and did so quickly. David Axelrod and Michelle Obama — followed in short order by the president himself — quickly responded by throwing Rosen under the bus and then backing over the CNN pundit again and again.

But if you take a wider view, nobody should really care what Hilary Rosen said about Ann Romney. She is a pundit, not a candidate herself. She doesn’t work for the campaign, although it has been noted that she had been a frequent visitor to the White House, in her role as a non-
lobbying lobbyist.

It is now the pundits’ peril, in this super-heated campaign, that everything they say can and will be used against them, especially if it fits into the campaign strategies of Team Romney and Team Obama.

Feehery is president of Quinn 
Gillespie Communications and 
spent 15 years working in the 
House Republican leadership. He is 
a contributor to The Hill’s Pundits Blog and blogs at thefeeherytheory.com.