During the second debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the ex-governor of Massachusetts made a comment that has now become an Internet meme:
"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," he said.
As pointed out in Laura Bassett and Jason Cherkis's article, Romney 'Binders Full Of Women' Female Hiring Boast Falls Apart, Romney's bizarre comment wasn't even true. A collection of women's groups put together a binder of resumes and brought it to him in an effort to get more women in state government. When he did add to his roster of female employees, he put them in less important positions than those occupied by the men in his staff and, two years in, had less women in positions of authority than his first two years as governor.
In an exchange during the MSNBC Ohio Undecided Voters Focus Group after the debate, Chris Matthews asked whether four still undecided women on the group were surprised that Romney refused to support equal pay for equal work. The answer from one, affirmed by another, was that "she liked the idea that Romney had women in his cabinet and that he went out to find them."
Undecided women voters who leaned toward Romney's binder didn't hear that the resumes of women came from women's groups concerned about Romney's male-dominated staff. Romney's "binders full of women" lie, as fun as it is on the campaign trail and as an Internet meme, is an empty binder Romney used to cut into the president's support among undecided women.
History can turn on moments, real, perceived or misleading. The "binders full of women" may seem like a gaffe, but it was a purposeful lie meant to give Romney the same advantage as his "Gish Gallop" technique deconstructed in my last post.
The best defense against the binder deception is a clarification after the laugh about the gaffe with something along the lines of but, seriously, folks, Romney couldn't even get that right. He didn't reach out to women. Women's groups came to him to put the women in his empty binder.