WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney's comment about having to put together a binder full of qualified women to staff his gubernatorial cabinet has overwhelmed the post-debate conversation, both because of its inherent clumsiness and the inaccuracies with respect to the timeline.
Romney, it turns out, never put together the binder. It was put together for him by MassGAP, a bipartisan coalition of women’s groups dedicated to increasing the number of women appointed to top government jobs in Massachusetts. Even then, he wasn't all that involved with the hiring process, according to Liz Levin, who chaired MassGAP at the time, leaving the task to his lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey.
Putting aside what role Romney played in making sure he had top female talent in his administration, it is worth noting that his staffing decisions did win plaudits at the time they were made.
The Boston Globe, on Nov. 15, 2002, reported that among the 97 members of Romney's transition steering committee, which was designed to help him craft his actual cabinet, 49 were women and 48 were men. Fifteen percent of the team's members were minorities.
"We obviously strive to bring together the widest array of background and skills and experience possible," Romney said. "So the people who you see behind us are individuals of all different walks of life, different regions of the Commonwealth, different personal backgrounds."
On Jan. 1, 2003, the Patriot Ledger ran a story under the headline: "Incoming Gov. Romney is getting high marks so far for his top-level appointments." The piece quoted Democratic lawmakers saying they felt Romney had exhibited a concern for bipartisanship with the staff choices he had made. It also quoted Roni Thaler, then the executive director of the nonpartisan Mass. Women's Political Caucus, saying she was impressed with the number of women Romney had appointed as high-level advisers.
"For us in terms of the number of women, the jury is tentatively optimistic," said Thaler. "In terms of the quality of the people, they're certainly well regarded in terms of the management skills they would bring to their respective positions."
Four days later, the Sunday Telegram ran an item titled: "Romney's choices get high marks; Governor assembles diverse group."
His top aides are a mix of business leaders, conservationists, government veterans and members of former GOP administrations. Nearly half the members of a group that Mr. Romney promised would be ''inclusive'' are women. Two of the appointees are black and one is openly gay.
On Jan. 14, 2003, the Boston Herald reported that Democrats were praising Romney's appointment of two female members to his team: expert Jane C. Edmonds as director of labor and work force development and Barbara Berke as director of economic development.
In fact, even in the aftermath of Tuesday night's debate -- when Romney made his now-infamous binders remark -- his successor, Deval Patrick admitted that Romney's record on hiring woman had been decent.
"We didn't have to find a binder," Patrick told The Huffington Post in the post-debate spin room. "Look, it is about what you go and get and what you attract. He had an OK record. We've got a better one."
Indeed, while Romney made good progress in hiring women early on in his administration, it appears to have become less of a priority as his term in office continued.
"Prior to the 2002 election, women comprised approximately 30 percent of appointed senior-level positions in Massachusetts government," MassGAP said in a statement on Wednesday. "By 2004, 42 percent of the new appointments made by the Romney administration were women. Subsequently, however, from 2004-2006 the percentage of newly-appointed women in these senior appointed positions dropped to 25 percent."
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John Bolton: Secretary Of State
<strong>Pros:</strong> Awesome mustache capable of manipulating foreign leaders into doing his bidding. <strong>Cons:</strong> The man behind the mustache is actually not a big fan of diplomacy. He also <a href="http://www.salon.com/2011/05/06/bolton_single_issue/">really, really, really</a> wants to <a href="http://mediamatters.org/research/2012/02/29/john-boltons-default-setting-when-in-doubt-bomb/186567">bomb Iran</a>.
Ron Paul: Treasury Department Secretary
<strong>Pros:</strong> Gold is pretty cool. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) agrees. The Fed could also use an audit. Furthermore, Paul knows that our current drug policy is a drain on the Treasury. <strong>Cons:</strong> Pretty sure an across the board elimination of taxes isn't great policy advice for the president.
Allen West: Defense Department Secretary
<strong>Cons:</strong> The military career of Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/27/world/struggle-for-iraq-interrogations-colonel-risked-his-career-menacing-detainee.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm">ended with him being discharged from the Army</a>. The disciplinary action was a result of him overseeing the torture of an Iraqi policeman in an incident that ended with West firing a pistol near the captive's head. But West and the soldiers who helped him conduct the interrogation said it produced information that helped them foil an ambush on their company. <strong>Pros:</strong> Isn't it time we had a Secretary of Defense willing to shoot first and take names later?
Rick Perry: Attorney General, Justice Department
<strong>Pros:</strong> Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) knows a thing or two about justice. <strong>Cons:</strong> If by justice you mean being okay with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/07/rick-perry-death-penalty-gop-debate_n_953214.html">executing a ton of people</a>, including some who <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/02/cameron-todd-willingham-execution-rick-perry_n_946654.html">were innocent</a>.
Sarah Palin: Interior Department Secretary
<strong>Pros:</strong> The former GOP Alaska governor could condense management of the nation's public lands and conservation efforts into catchy three-word slogans. "Drill, baby, drill," "log, baby, log," etc. <strong>Cons:</strong> We can't think of any.
Michelle Obama: Agriculture Department Secretary
<strong>Pros:</strong> Organic spinach for everyone. <strong>Cons:</strong> Organic spinach for everyone.
Herman Cain: Commerce Department Secretary
<strong>Pros:</strong> Plans for job growth that hinge entirely upon the number "9." <strong>Cons:</strong> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/13/herman-cain-999-sim-city_n_1008952.html">Plans ripped from "Sim City"</a> probably aren't good models for the real world.
Scott Walker: Labor Department Secretary
<strong>Pros:</strong> Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) is currently organized labor's biggest nemesis. <strong>Cons:</strong> This could <a href="http://www.theblaze.com/stories/romneys-possible-cabinet-part-iii-education-health-and-human-services-and-labor/">actually happen</a>.
Todd Akin: Health And Human Services Department Secretary
<strong>Pros:</strong> Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) would address the numerous injustices currently at issue in the field of women's rights. For example, why is it so easy for women to find access to birth control and abortions, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/02/todd-akin-abortion-providers_n_1934305.html">even when they're not pregnant</a>? Why is it so simple for them to report <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/19/todd-akin-abortion-legitimate-rape_n_1807381.html">"legitimate rapes"</a>? These concerns must be dealt with. <strong>Cons:</strong> You think there's a "war on women" now? You ain't seen nothing yet.
Donald Trump: Housing And Urban Development Department Secretary
<strong>Pros:</strong> Low-income housing is unsightly -- casinos and luxury apartments would spruce up economically depressed urban areas nicely. <strong>Cons:</strong> HUD <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/donald-trump-filed-bankruptcy-times/story?id=13419250#.UHQaRfnuWXc">can't file for bankruptcy</a>. Trump also has a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/29/donald-trump-blacks-lawsuit_n_855553.html">controversial history</a> with a large percentage of people who actually live in urban housing.
Steve King: Transportation Department Secretary
<strong>Pros:</strong> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/21/steve-king-nanny-state-sp_n_1903957.html">"Nanny state" speed limits</a> are lame and should be repealed. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) could help make this happen. <strong>Cons:</strong> Never wanting to drive on the highway again.
David Koch: Energy Department Secretary
<strong>Pros:</strong> The man has overseen energy companies that have produced billions in profits for his family and others. <strong>Cons:</strong> Invest in renewable resources for energy? But there's more oil in them thar hills!
Rick Santorum: Education Department Secretary
Pros: Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum knows the essential problems facing learning institutions. Too many of them are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/24/rick-santorum-obama-college-plan-indoctrination-_n_1299403.html">liberal indoctrination mills</a> that turn students into <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/25/rick-santorum-obama-snob-college_n_1301854.html">snobs</a>. Cons: Kids might Google the education secretary. You'll also understand how Santorum feels now when he alters the Department of Education so drastically that you end up being forced to homeschool your kids.
Joe Walsh: Veterans Affairs Department Secretary
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Jan Brewer: Homeland Security Department Secretary
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James Inhofe: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator
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Chris Christie: Press Secretary
<strong>Pros:</strong> More entertaining White House press briefings. <strong>Cons:</strong> Broken-willed Washington journalists would be sent home crying on a daily basis after being berated for asking "idiot" questions. Wait -- maybe there are no cons after all.
Michele Bachmann: National Security Advisor
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Glenn Beck: Fed Chairman
<strong>Pros:</strong> It's so crazy, it might just work. <strong>Cons:</strong> It wouldn't work.
Newt Gingrich: NASA Administrator
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