'Binders full of women': Romney’s latest blunder still plagues him

Imagine how Romney must have felt when he realized he had stumbled into a hornets' nest. Photo: Binders full of women?

WASHINGTON, October 19, 2012 — Poor Mitt , he just can’t help himself. He meant well. After all when he answered that young woman’s question about pay equity for women and men at the latest debate, he had no idea that he would sound out of touch, patronizing, and even a little weird.

That was not his intention. Mitt Romney was trying to show he cared and that he cared enough to go looking for women to hire for his cabinet when he was governor of Massachusetts.

Instead, a fire storm erupted and he and his running mate Congressman Paul Ryan found themselves dashing about the country from campaign event to campaign event showing how much they love women and their contributions and, yes, of course, they both support women in the work place.

But it appears to be too little, too late. What’s a poor guy to do?

After all, he didn’t denigrate women. He was replying to the question Katherine Fenton directed first to the President: “In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72% of what their male counterparts earn?” President Obama responded with a discussion of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Since Romney has shown his indifference for the Fair Pay Act, he took a different tactic, ignoring the question and instead  talking about his years as governor of Massachusetts.

Romeny Went Looking For Women

Gov. Romney on the stump Wednesday AP

“I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men,” Romney said. “And I – and I went to my staff, and I said, ‘How come all the people for these jobs are – are all men?’ They said, ‘Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.’ “

But being a good guy wasn’t good enough, Mitt explained.  So “I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”

And the next thing the Romney campaign knew, his “binders full of women” comment went viral on Twitter. Soon there was even a Facebook page with 100,000 followers. Wow! You can imagine how Romney must have felt when he realized he had stumbled into a hornets’ nest.

And then it got worse after the debate when it turned out that his story was a bit of an exaggeration or distortion, if you will. It seems that Romney didn’t go hunting for qualified women by asking women’s groups for help. Instead, he found a binder of resumes on his desk given to him by MassGAP. It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition whose full name is Massachusetts Government Appointments Project and is dedicated to remedying the underrepresentation of women in top appointed positions in state government. Long before Romney had won the election, MassGAP had obtained a pledge from both gubernatorial candidates that if elected they would work to appoint highly qualified women.

And yes, Governor Romney was true to his word and did appoint women, making Massachusetts at one point first in the nation of women appointed to top state government jobs. However, two years into his term that percentage dropped from 40% to 25%.

Paul Ryan and Ann Romney to the Rescue

As more and more details of the “binders full of women” emerged and as “binders” became an Internet joke, the Romney campaign has done its darnedest to shore up Mitt’s earnestness quotient with women.

Paul Ryan was on the stump Thursday in Ocala, Fla. saying, “What so many women need is the ability to have flexibility. Especially if you’re women with children, you want to have flexibility to have the kind of a job that gives you the ability to meet all of your needs and your family. That’s what job training skills are all about, that’s what growth is all about. Most women get their jobs from successful small businesses.  

Congressman Ryan in Ocala, Fla. Thursday AP

“And of all the things we can do to get women back into the workforce, get them the skills they need, get an economy, and help those small businesses bring them back into the work force so they can provide for themselves and their families.” Notice, however, he made no mention of pay equity, much less the Lilly Ledbetter Act.

Romney then sent his wife Ann in his place for a chat on the “The View,” where she tried to convince the viewers that her husband was pro-choice before he wasn’t. It was a truly convoluted answer that only muddied his position on abortion rights. But no talk of pay equity.

What Do Women Really Care About?

The Romney campaign has also put out an ad since the last debate, trying to soften his image with women, who see him hardline on social issues. It shows a woman talking directly to the camera:

“You know, those ads saying Mitt Romney would ban all abortions and contraception seemed a bit extreme, so I looked into it. Turns out, Romney doesn’t oppose contraception at all. In fact, he thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape, incest, or to save a mother’s life.”

Then she points out that the more important issue is the economy and changes the subject. Again nothing on pay equity.

Not very assuring to women who know that the Republican platform supports the personhood amendment to the Constitution that would make an embryo a full-fledged citizen and thus an abortion would be murder, meaning the woman could be charged with its murder.  

And if the Gallup Poll is right, then women actually care more about abortion rights than jobs or the economy despite conventional wisdom, so that might not have been a good tactical move:

Abortion – 39%; Jobs – 19%; Health care – 18%; Economy – 16%; Equal rights, pay equity, opportunity 15%.

On Thursday, even as Obama, Biden and Ryan hit the campaign trail, Mitt took still another day off. Licking his wounds? Preparing for the Al Smith dinner Thursday night? Prepping for Monday’s debate? Rehearsing some zingers? Or working on a new way to woo the woman voter?

If he is still planning on winning come November 6, he had better been doing the latter.

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.


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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

Contact Catherine Poe

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