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Metropolitik: And the moms fight on

Is “stay-at-home mom” a respectful signifier? Or does it imply a lack of dignity?

After a week in which Republicans turned Democrats’ rhetorical “War on Women” around on them by shifting the debate from the right-wing’s ubiquitous anti-women policies into a battle over lefties’ alleged disdain for working mothers, we thought maybe this election battle had played itself out.

We weren’t the only ones. Slate’s Dave Weigel called it for the talking point: “The ‘War on Women’ is over,” he wrote. (Online, at least, women appeared thankful for that.) The Washington Post was less jury, more judge: “Dear media: Stop playing along with fake controversies,” they instructed.

It’s almost as if they’d never been through a presidential campaign before!

Alas, neither side of this fracas was inclined to obey the orders. Yes, much like our other legacy entanglements — think: War on Terror, War on Drugs, War in Afghanistan — this so-called war seems intent on playing itself out indefinitely.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner went on ABC yesterday to attack Mitt Romney’s argument that the president’s economic policies have unfairly affected women. “It’s a ridiculous argument,” he said. “It’s been largely debunked.”

See, Romney keeps saying that “92.3 percent of the job losses during the Obama years have been women.” This is sort of true, but also not at all: While many have lost their jobs in the recession, Obama’s stimulus saved many more. And while Republicans oppose any and all stimulus, more government spending could have saved still more. (And if it’s true that the government reaction to the 2008 mortgage crisis spawned “The Obama Great Failed Recovery,” as conservative blog Legal Insurrection and many others allege, what was the GOP counteroption? Tax cuts for the rich? Deregulation? Would those help women?)

Even Fox News Sunday saw a discrepancy in the Romney claim. Host Chris Wallace called the figure a “little bit of an accounting trick,” saying “all the independent fact-finders have said it’s misleading.” Romney adviser Ed Gillespie shot back: Those were “liberal economists.”

The big get in the mommy skirmishes came this weekend from NBC’s Chris Hayes, who found video of Romney arguing in January that poor stay-at-home moms ought to get a job so they can “have the dignity of work.” This paints a telling contrast from the campaign’s manufactured outrage after unaffiliated Democrat operative Hilary Rosen said Ann Romney had not “worked a day in her life.” The Romney camp mobilized, using the incident to paint Dems as anti-mom; Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom called it the “‘kill Ann’ strategy.”

So which is it, Romneys? Is “stay-at-home mom” a respectful signifier? Or does it imply a lack of dignity?

Our moms are waiting.



For more political commentary, follow Brayden Simms on Twitter @metropolitik.