Poor Hilary Rosen. The former British Petroleum PR flak who singlehandedly destroyed the popular Napster music download site has landed herself in the middle of a national controversy over her remarks suggesting that Mitt Romney's wife Ann "has never worked a day in her life" -- and, by implication, should simply shut up and go home -- rather than speaking out on the plight of struggling working and middle class women in America.
Rosen, of course, must have known that her remark would cause a storm of controversy. But having blasted conservative women with virtual impunity for the past four years, it must have come as a shock to see how quickly senior Democratic party officials and White House aides would distance themselves from her, with even the president himself taking the extraordinary step of denouncing her remarks at some length -- all but mentioning her by name and with a hint of derision, suggesting that she needed to "rethink" her position.
Of course, there's more than a little hypocrisy on the part of Obama and his administration here. They're literally quaking in their boots that the president's vaunted gender advantage with women may soon come to naught once Ann Romney becomes a regular part of her husband's presidential campaign, and it's been clear for some time that party bosses look to eager PR flaks like Rosen to do some of their ugly bidding for them.
As reported by Politico two weeks ago, Democratic operatives who have watched Mrs. Romney in action are deeply worried about her ability to connect with American voters -- already amply demonstrated during the GOP primaries -- and genuinely fear that her presence on the campaign trail next to her adoring husband could be a huge political asset for Republicans fighting charges that they are "insensitive" to women.
And, of course, that's precisely why those who see Rosen as a loyal Democratic attack dog gave her the green light, as they have so often in the past, to get out in front and start taking swings at another one of the GOP's leading ladies. Rosen first emerged on the scene in a big way in 2008, when the issue of women in presidential politics rushed to the fore thanks to Hilary's Clinton's bid for the presidency, followed by Sarah Palin's nomination as John McCain's GOP running mate.
CNN, always looking for photogenic and articulate commentators like Rosen to help them seem more representative of specific demographics, saw Rosen, who previously worked as an aide to Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, among others, as an ideal choice. And Rosen, who visibly gasped in fear after Palin "hit it out of the ball park" with her speech at the GOP national convention, has clearly relished being able to fight the good feminist fight on behalf of the Democratic party using the journalistic cover of an official CNN "commentator."
How much of a political shill is Rosen? About as "shilly" as it gets. Sarah Palin, who regularly appears on Fox News as a "guest" commentator, and is frequently derided for it, as is Fox, has no official or unofficial ties to the Romney campaign, and indeed, is largely despised by the GOP establishment.
Rosen, on the other hand, though unpaid by the White House -- that is, as far as we know -- is a de facto Obama campaign aide, and everyone in Washington knows it. White House records show that she's met with White House officials, including the president himself, at least 35 times since he took office. It may only be a matter of time before someone probes into those meetings to try to learn just how closely she's been coordinating her own remarks on CNN with the president's evolving campaign strategy.
For now, the big winner in this controversy appears to be Mitt Romney, who's been facing a 19-point gender gap with the president on women -- a record, apparently -- in his increasingly uphill battle for the White House. In fact, Rosen's insensitive and over-the-top remark -- and the ensuing flap -- isn't just an embarrassing gaffe for Rosen. It appears to have destroyed the start of a major White House backed campaign, now that Romney has sewn up the nomination, to discredit his wife before she emerges full-blown as a one-woman Super PAC on behalf of the GOP, reversing the president's gains.
It's clearly backfired. Romney's own gracious and restrained remarks in a national interview have introduced her to the entire country as a woman of grace and intelligence, with a keen ability to read an emerging issue and to exploit its national political significance -- without in the least appearing to do just that. Rosen, by contrast, is the big loser. It's not very often that a national journalist receives a formal dressing down from the president of the United States. In a political race that is likely to be defined as much by gender as 2008 was, she now has to figure out how to rehabilitate herself if she's to regain her professional credibility.
A journalist less vain and egotistical than Rosen might be able to take a brief vacation and wait for the political tide to shift before simply washing up up on the airwaves again. But having badly over-reached with her remarks -- made even worse by her thoroughly unconvincing apology -- Rosen has committed the cardinal sin: she's officially "part of the story." She's been, in a word, "outed," and that means she's no longer of any real use to the Democrats, much less to CNN.
In fact, this would be a good time for Rosen's graceful and quiet exit from the ranks of the national commentariat. If Obama is re-elected, she can always come back and say, "I told you so." Perform a public "Kali" dance on top of Romney's political grave, if she likes. Right now, though, she might consider honoring the woman -- and the profession -- she just so ungraciously slandered by becoming a "stay-at-home Mom."
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