The Cycle | August 29, 2012
>>> it's the moms of this nation, single, married, widowed who really hold this country together. we're the mothers. we are the wives. we're the grandmothers. we're the big sisters . we're the little sisters and we are the daughters. you know it's true, don't you? i love you women !
>> well, she loves them but will they love mitt? that's ann romney last night appealing to female voters a demographic that has already been fought over tooth and nail by both parties each oo accusing the other of waging a war on women . make no mistake, women typically outnumber men at the polls by a margin of 10 million .did her speech last night do enough to help connect with female voters that may have been alienated by the abortion debate ? joining us is melissa harris-perry. you are the first ever noncyclist to sit at the cycle table. so welcome.
>> thank you.
>> we couldn't think of anyone better to have. i wanted to ask you a little bit about this because it strikes me that the predicament the republicans find themselves is interesting to me. there's been an unspoken rule in republican politics at republican conventions where they have a very conservative abortion platform but don't like to talk about it except for pat buchanan and the family values of '92, they have pro-choice speakers and try to convey a softer image. this year it's been forced into the headlines by todd akin and all this stuff. do you think ann romney has any effect?
>> i think what happens is we sart talking about women as votersen an then it collapses into reproductive rights . reproductive rights are critically important and obviously the profound right word drift and to you racing to the right of the republican party is in the news, but i feel liking what ann romney needed to do was not so much connect around the question of republican rights but that the republican party understands that women are not just reproduction. to reflect a broader understanding of all the roles that women play as citizens. let me be clear, i am no fan of mitt romney but i was rooting for ann. i feel like it's tough to be the spouse of the person running for office.
>> it is.
>> you're not the public speaker. so i was hoping for a compelling speech not because i wanted people to vote for mitt romney but because i thought she deserves to have a good moment on the is taken.
>> did it.
>> no, because all she could do was talk about women as mothers which once again recuses women to their reproductive functions which just draws all the attention to abortion, to birth control . at one point she said what about the family that's thinking about having another child but can't afford it in well, if you guys are going to take away birth control and abortion, actually that's going to be a situation that a lot -- you can't -- she just kept talking about women in their relational roles, women are mothers, widows, are wives women are lots of other things.
>> i'm really glad you said that. when i watched that speech, had i that same sense of like i'm being pandered to here. but i couldn't quite put my finger on what it was that was really bothering me about that speech. you put your finger on it really well. s.e. has another take. what did you think about ann romney 's speech?
>> well, a couple of things. i think it's hard to make the case that the wife of a candidate who is out there to talk about her role as a wife and mother is pandering. and when you compare that, for example, to the dnc's lineup of sandra fluke and lily leadbetter and the president of planned parenthood , it's hard to make that argument. i think sheep did a good job with the speech. was it a knock it out of the park oh, my god, ann romney should run for president speech, no. but i think she did what she was put there to do, which was to soften mitt around the edges, tell a personal story or two. and get people rooting for him.
>> but s.e., she does have really compelling personal stories she chose not to tell very much about. i have a big sister living with ms. it's a brutalizing disease. it's not that i needed her to pander on it but i was surprised how quickly she sort of said there's one chapter about breast cancer and one chapter about ms. she actually didn't give us her story.
>> i think you're right. that's an interesting point. and i can only speculate that they were very afraid of going too far with that narrative looking for sympathy votes. i think she touched on it. she mentioned that this is a real marriage. we've had real ups and downs , realtive bulations, we've had to deal with real problems and then moved on. i think that's more a modesty thing than anything else.
>> i do think it was a missed opportunity though. i was frankly surprised by it. i have seen her be very poignant in discussing she was really struggling with ms, for example, when governor romney was running the olympics. she's told this story about how he would come home and stop by the grocery store and she couldn't get out of bed and he would say, ann, it's fine. that was a very moving story. it's not enough just to say he's a great dad. give us the picture. paint it for us. i was surprised she didn't do that. i don't want to be go too far here. i think she gave a strong delivery of a not very poignant speech.
>> she's a lovely woman but this idea we don't want to ourselves is endemic to the campaign. i expected anecdotes, as we said. she has those anecdotes but won't give them. crucial line was we don't use our life for political talking points . i'm like -- what is that? is it the religious -- modesty? is it that mitt will be the strong, silent type, get it done and not talk about it and not be emotional. what do you read that as?
>> it is odd. as she was giving us her picture of mitt and says, you know, here are all the things she does. she talks about his scholarship fund which is lovely. it is very nice that they have a scholarship fund but it is also sort of, you know, most -- nfl players have one. and a lot of hip hop. it is a kind of standard thing wealthy people do. it is not so much like a reflection of him as a leader. he does have an actual record. he has an actual story of being governor. of running the olympics. she didn't -- i mean, it is an odd sort of decision not to give us a more complex image. she continued to give us sort of the wooden cutout mitt romney when she is the one person that could give us something else.
>> yeah. we know man or person by the battles they deal with. she didn't talk about valleys he dealt with. just to wrap up, you have been going through with something in your home in new orleans and are sorry you had to deal with that.
>> yeah. i mean -- we, you know, we like -- other folks are trying to invest to build our community back up, the home we were not living in but was across the street from us that we bought, collapsed in isaac. you know. obviously it is seven years to the day since hurricane katrina . but the things that matter are not things. they are family, my family is safe. that's what matters. and for all of white house are watching what's happening, the one thing i will say is this. last night the thing that irritated me was not ann romney 's speech, it was the language about who built and it who didn't. the fact is, look, live in place where we need levees. small businesses don't build levees. government builds levees. right now the levees are holding. for that i'm the earnly grateful that they don't -- if they don't hold, that's about government. we have real problems that require collective solutions to solve.
>> thank god you are safe and your family is safe.
>> it is a busy week in politics. our thoughts are with you.
>> thank you.
>> true for all the viewers, too. please know that. melissa harris-perry. thanks for being our first ever "the cycle" table