The Killer Conflict-of-Interest Statement

From an op-ed by Campbell Brown titled, “Obama: Stop Condescending to Women”:

When I [Brown] listen to President Obama speak to and about women, he sometimes sounds too paternalistic for my taste. . . . But to suggest to women that they deserve dominance instead of equality is at best a cheap applause line.

Hmm, I didn’t know that Obama thought women deserve dominance. Brown is confusing him with Dick Morris, perhaps? But, ok, let’s continue:

My [Brown’s] bigger concern is that in courting women, Mr. Obama’s campaign so far has seemed maddeningly off point. . . . I spent last weekend with a friend who attended excellent private schools and graduated from Tufts University two years ago. She’s intelligent, impressive and still looking for a full-time job. . . .

Good point. All the speeches in the world won’t help if people can’t find jobs:

Mr. Obama is trying too hard. He’s employing a tone that can come across as grating and even condescending. He really ought to drop it. Most women don’t want to be patted on the head or treated as wards of the state. They simply want to be given a chance to succeed based on their talent and skills.

This seems to me to miss the point. I’m not disagreeing with what Brown is saying, but she seems to be implying an either/or, that Obama can offer rhetoric or an improved economy, but not both. I don’t see it. Obama is of course already trying as hard as he can (perhaps ineffectually or counterproductively) to improve the economy. He doesn’t want people to be unemployed, neither did Bill Clinton or George Bush or John McCain. Brown’s advice to Obama: what does this mean, he is “trying too hard”? If he’d just ease up on the throttle, the economy would jump-start itself? Maybe so, but if so that’s an economic argument, it has nothing to do with his rhetoric.

But then comes the kicker. It comes in a parenthetical statement in the eleventh paragraph of the op-ed:

(I should disclose here that my husband is an adviser to Mr. Romney; I have no involvement with any campaign, and have been an independent journalist throughout my career.)

OK, then. I just hope her husband is giving better advice to Romney than she’s giving to Obama. Otherwise Romney is totally getting ripped off.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

Andrew Gelman

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University.