Hilaryrosengate

There are days when I look at news aggregator sites to see “what’s going on,” and wonder if I’ve wandered into an alternate universe, because I have no clue what everyone’s talking about.

Sometimes it’s my own fault, because I have these blind spots, and miss burgeoning controversies or debates by just tuning them out. I have to confess, for example, that energy policy just bores me to death (maybe it’s a product of coming to age during the 1970s Energy Crisis). When suddenly Solyndra became this epochal issue that conservatives considered The Greatest Scandal Since Teapot Dome, I had no idea what it was about, and every effort to “catch up” just made me drowsy.

Today, as you may know, the Morning Controversy is all about some remark that CNN guest and “Democratic Strategist” (that catchy all-purpose term used for people with a partisan perspective but no specific gig) Hilary Rosen made about Ann Romney. Now I know of a fair number of Hilaries and a fair number of Rosens, but “Hilary Rosen” didn’t ring a bell. I do not, as indicated here now and then, watch much political TV chatter (except when I visit my father, who has MSNBC on all day, and I sit there saying “I know him!” and “I know her!” at half the guests, since many of my DC-based blogger buddies are on the tube an awful lot these day). There are only so many hours in the day.

Looking up her bio online, I feel mildly ashamed I didn’t recognize Hilary Rosen’s name, since before playing a “Strategist” on TV, she was pretty much the face of the recording industry during all the battles over Napster and other free download services, and also briefly ran the Human Rights Campaign and played a big role at HuffPost.

Today, it seems, according to Republicans, Hillary Rosen is a “DNC advisor” and more-or-less the Voice of the Obama Campaign or of Liberal Feminists. The offending comment, suggesting that Ann Romney “actually never worked a day in her life,” was Rosen’s irritable comment about Mitt Romney’s habit of touting his wife as his personal ambassador to the real world of real people–particulary real women of late, since he’s struggling with that demographic.

The whole world, or at least the whole TwitterVerse, immediately collapsed on poor Rosen (a working mother herself), led by none other than Ann Romney! It seems Rosen had expressed the underlying contempt of liberals for stay-at-home moms, a famously self-conscious tribe that naturally dislikes any suggestion that they are sitting around eating bonbons instead of “working.” Rosen tried to fight back on Twitter and at Huffpost with arguments that she meant Ann Romney had never had the particular challenge of balancing out-of-home work with child-rearing. But she was immediately thrown under the bus by the Obama Campaign (for which she does not, in fact, work) and mocked by many people who weren’t shrieking at her.

If it had been me, I would have probably mentioned Ann Romney’s unimaginable wealth a little more prominently than Rosen did, since the financial ability to do any damn thing you want separates Ms. Romney from Everywoman pretty decisively. But then if it were up to me neither Mitt Romney nor anyone else would be talking about his spouse, either.

This whole cable-to-Twitter psychodrama is an example of what can happen these days when someone in a political operation notices something said by An Enemy that can be used to address a real weakness of a presidential campaign. I will say that Ann Romney, or whoever runs her Twitter account, has nicely internalized the Rovian jiu jitsu principles of her husband’s campaign. Accused of being insensitive to women? Find a way to say exactly the same thing about the Other Side, as loudly and angrily as possible.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.