You heard it here first. Wednesday is hereby renamed “Meme-day,” at least around “The War Room,” thanks to an explosion of Internet ephemera following Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment during last night’s presidential debate. We’ve collected our favorites here. Not since the Big Bird boom two weeks ago have the GOP candidate’s awkward comments sparked such creative lampooning and brought easy fodder for President Obama and the Democratic campaign.
But to be fair, Romney was attempting to weasel out of answering a straightforward question about whether he supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the 2009 federal statute creating pathways for women to sue their employers and ensure equal pay. Rather than answering this question, Romney highlighted his small, but laudable attempts to hire women into senior positions in his Massachusetts administration.
Sadly, even here, Romney’s recollection of the facts are off. The Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus issued a press release Wednesday noting that they — not Romney — raised the gender-gap issue with both Republican and Democratic candidates in 2002, winning promises from both to be proportional in reviewing and hiring female appointments into their new cabinet.
The Massachusetts Government Appointments Project (MassGAP) did indeed bring Governor-elect Romney binders with women’s resumes. That key word — “resumes” — could have saved the Romney campaign at least 48 hours of post-debate distraction. But award him a measure of credit that by 2004, 42 percent of the new appointments made by the Romney administration were women.
The MassGAP Project notes, however, that Romney’s progress on gender-equality lagged in the second half of his term, with the percentage of women newly appointed to these senior positions dropping to 25 percent.
So the truth is, Romney neither asked for nor received a binder with actual women in it, like some sort of corporate version of the sexy lady cake pop. Very glad to hear it.
But Mitt, the question was about equal pay for women nationally — not your short-lived efforts at gender parity during your four years of running Massachusetts.
In an effort to defuse the “misunderstanding,” Romney aide Ed Gillespie attempted to nip the binder in bud, saying that although the governor opposed the Ledbetter Act when it was being considered in 2009, he wouldn’t overturn it once in office.
The candidate’s campaign surrogates have taken pains to highlight the hiring policies Romney made as governor as evidence of his future gender-balanced approach in the White House.
Although Romney has consistently avoided answering the fair pay question, he is partially on record as supporting vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s budget plans to freeze federal pay for at least five years, something President Obama may ease after re-election.
Romney has also pledged that once in office, he will both de-fund Planned Parenthood and appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe vs. Wade, a key legal victory allowing women fundamental control over their bodies and reproductive choices. President Obama reminded women voters he’s fighting for a “pocketbook” freedom as much as a reproductive one.
And the list continues. In an effort to answer a question on gun control, Romney stated he wants the culture of violence in the country to change. And just how do we do that? In a stumbled response, Romney said that single moms were a part of the problem, with children being more likely to get in trouble if they come from a single-parent home. Not the best response if you’re trying to appeal to women voters.
Tonight on “The War Room,” we’ll talk about this and much more, with Salon.com writer Irin Carmon and political correspondent Keli Goff.