The Ed Show | April 16, 2012
SCHULTZ: Good to have you with us tonight. Folks, thanks for watching. The Romney campaign is busted. They spent the better part of last week creating a public spectacle out of comments made by a Democratic strategist about Ann Romney . Behind closed doors, well, it's a little different story. At a Florida fund-raiser over the weekend, Ann Romney told a roomful of donors she didn't view the comments as offensive but as an opportunity. "It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mom, as a mother. And that was really a defining moment. And I loved it." So, I guess you could say in a moment of candor, Ann Romney revealed the Romney campaign cynicism. Hilary Rosen 's comments were exactly what the Romney campaign wanted and needed to try to shore up the gender gap. Today, on her 63rd birthday, Mrs. Romney was asked to clarify her comments.
ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: That wasn't how it meant it. It was a birthday gift to me because I love the fact that we're talking about this. I love the fact that women are talking about deficit spending and the economy. I love that.
SCHULTZ: Well, I got news for the Romney campaign , women were talking about the economy long before last week. But the controversy gave the Romney campaign a perfect distraction. It took the focus off of Romney's proposed policies. Still, Mitt Romney is confident that he can defeat President Obama in the fall. He has a message for the president.
ROMNEY: Start packing.
ROMNEY: That's what I'd like to say. Obviously, we have a very different view. The president, I'm sure wants another four years. But the first years didn't go so well.
SCHULTZ: American people aren't buying it. The latest polling taken two days after Hilary Rosen made her remarks shows President Obama ahead by nine points overall. Among women , President Obama has a 16-point advantage. The truth of the matter is the middle class , folks, the middle class Americans in America believe Mitt Romney doesn't understand their problems. Romney takes issue with that.
ROMNEY: We don't divide America based upon success and wealth and other dimensions of that nation. We're one nation under God.
SCHULTZ: We don't separate. Really? How about when it comes to taxation, mister? Mitt Romney is desperately trying to portray himself he's man of the people . He's right in there with you. Insensitive comments made about his wife have only helped him.
ROMNEY: I happen to believe that all moms are working moms.
SCHULTZ: Really? All moms are working moms except when they're poor. Here's what Mitt Romney had to say about those kinds of moms earlier this year.
ROMNEY: I also like the idea that people who are receiving assistance, welfare assistance, have a responsibility of working. In my state , we make good progress in that regard following the days of the Welfare Reform Act . But then while I was governor, 85 percent of the people on a form of welfare assistance in my state had no work requirement. I wanted to increase the work requirement. I said, for instance, even if you have a child two years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, well, that's heartless. I said, no, no, I'm willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It will cost the state more providing the day care , but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.
SCHULTZ: Dignity. It's a big word. According to Mitt Romney , the "all moms are working moms" argument doesn't apply to moms on welfare. According to Mitt Romney , moms who receive government assistance and stay home with their children aren't working. In his mind, it's really very simple. Moms struggling to make ends meet should work outside the home. Moms like Ann Romney should be given a choice. The Romney campaign confirmed with " National Journal " that these are Mitt Romney 's beliefs. "Moving welfare recipients into work was one of the basic principles of the bipartisan welfare reform legislation that President Clinton signed into law." Romney 's own book "No Apology" goes even further. Romney wrote, "Welfare without work erodes the spirit and the sense of self-worth of the recipient. And it conditions the children of nonworking parents to indolent and unproductive lives." Well, Ann Romney is right. Last week's made up controversy was a gift. It allowed Mitt Romney to -- I guess you could say -- shake the old Etch-a-Sketch and tell the women in the country he understands their problems. It allowed the Romney campaign yet another opportunity to run from the truth. Get your cell phones out. I want to know what you think. Tonight's question: Will Mitt Romney 's war on women stunt backfire? Text "A" for yes, text " B " for no to 622639. You can always go to our blog at Ed. MSNBC.com . And we'll bring you results later on in the show. I'm joined by Joan Walsh tonight, editor at large at Salon.com . And E.J. Dionne , MSNBC contributor, senior fellow at the Brookings Institutions and Washington columnist. Great to have you both with us tonight. Joan , I want to ask you first. Dazed and confused comes into mind when I start thinking about the Romney campaign and where they stand on working moms in America . Did they create a bigger problem for themselves? What do you think? JOAN WALSH , SALON.COM: Oh, I think they did. You know, Ed , I've always thought that Ann Romney was literally his better half and that she was a better campaigner, a more natural campaigner, more personable in general. But really with that comment, she shows herself to be so entitled. A birthday present. I mean, we ginned up this faux outrage. Hilary Rosen , I just want to say a kind word to her. She didn't mean it the way it came out and we all knew it. Had he added three little word, worked outside the home, she would have been fine. We understood that's what she meant but we all had to have a big hissy fit and a big horrible conversation, and they declared that President Obama had declared a war on moms. They ginned up this phony outrage, and then that woman calls it a birthday present. And I think it's really wonderful that you ran the clip also with her husband saying that it's time for President Obama to start packing. I mean, between the two things, you see the cluelessness and the absolute entitlement of these two people who expect us to just show them the White House and show that guy out. He can start packing. It's hilarious. It's really funny.
SCHULTZ: E.J., is that somewhat a big of arrogance being shown by Mitt Romney saying get packing. I mean, it's not even respecting the competition. It seems to me that the Romney campaign has taken on the personality to continually denigrate the president of the United States . And I think that now that they're making comments -- well, I really didn't mean that. Well, Hilary Rosen didn't really mean that either. I mean, we got a bunch of people that are running around didn't mean what they are saying.
E.J. DIONNE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean, the Republican Party has been denigrating President Obama from the day he took office. So that's not surprising. And you know what the definition of a gaffe is when somebody tells the truth. It was a birthday gift for the Romney campaign . I agree totally with Joan that Ann Romney is one of best assets they have. And the less we're talking about Mitt Romney 's positions, the better off it is for them. The more we're talking about Ann , the better off it is for them. But I hope something good can come out of this. What we have to be asking is, if we care about motherhood or parenthood so much, why do we have the weakest family leave laws in the industrial world.
SCHULTZ: Great point.
DIONNE: If we care about motherhood or parenthood so much, what are we to say to the mom that has to work at a Burger King to make ends meet when her kid gets sick and she has no options?
SCHULTZ: You're making a great point. But it's the policies of where Romney stands on these issues.
SCHULTZ: It's not just so much about how his wife felt about her career of raising five kids at home versus what poor mothers have got to do. But there's another issue here. Mitt Romney still can't say whether he would sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act . I find this interesting. He says, "I'm not going to go back and look at all the prior laws and say that had I been there, which ones I would have supported and signed, but I certainly support equal pay for women and have no intention of changing that law. Don't think there's a reason to." Well, wait a minute now. What about health care ? He's been running around the country telling everybody he's going to repeal Obamacare , is what he calls it. He's not going to do anything to Lilly Ledbetter , but he doesn't think he would have signed it. Now I'm dazed and confused on exactly where Mitt Romney stands on women 's rights in this country . His campaign couldn't give a straight answer last week when they were asked about the Lilly Ledbetter law. They said we'll get back to you. Joan , we're seeing more of the same, aren't we?
WALSH: Yes, we are. Why is it so hard? Why can't you say yes, I think it's a great law and I would have signed it if that's what you believe? You know, the tough thing with equal pay is in enforcement, Ed. And it's extremely relevant because his hero Scott Walker , he called him a caller, just signed a bill in Wisconsin repealing some of their equal pay enforcement protection. So it really, you can mouth platitudes about every mom is a working mom, and I like equal pay , but it really comes down to what you do in terms of policy. And that's where Mitt Romney can't be trusted. I mean, Chris Hayes dug up that great old clip. It's not that old. It's from earlier this year actually. Now, we know welfare doesn't need the dignity of work but his wife doesn't. She has dignity already. I mean, when he opens his mouth to talk about anything class-related, he sticks his foot in it.
SCHULTZ: Well, and he's also continuing to push this 92 percent lie about women losing jobs.
SCHULTZ: E.J., is this going to work? It's just a buzz phrase, 92 percent of the jobs lost in the recession were lost by women . What about that?
DIONNE: I don't think it's working. I mean, my sense is every fact checker has made the point that men lost jobs in the Bush years. And that they are just drawing a line on January 20th . This recession was not caused by President Obama . Job growth started again under President Obama . But what they were looking for and they were clever about it was something to distract attention from all the other issues related to women that were really hammering them until they brought this up. And then they just kind of scrambled things. You know, and the other issue that's dear to your heart, Ed , that we ought to talk about on this whole family question is declining wages for middle class and working class people -- people who want one parent at home, can't afford to do it anymore. That ought to be what we're talking about, too.
SCHULTZ: Let me tell you -- I had call on the radio show today. A lady says I work two jobs. I'm a single mom . I've got a couple of kids. I could take $100, and I can go a long way with $100. You'd be surprised how I can stretch a dollar. I don't think Mitt Romney knows those people. I don't think he's ever going to know those people. And that is the majority of Americans out there who live paycheck to paycheck. And the fact is small businesses in this country , they can't go maybe two or three payrolls without going under unless people pay them. I mean, that's how tight it can be at times. And I just don't think Mitt Romney is swimming in that fish bowl with the majority of Americans .
DIONNE: And I hope -- I hope we can use this parenthood issue to turn it right back around to the question of how can parents have the kinds of lives they want with their kids. That should be at the center of the election.
SCHULTZ: I'll tell you, it just seems to me that the Romney camp wants to change the lifestyle of middle class Americans , the wrong way. Joan Walsh , E.J. Dionne -- great to have you with us tonight. Thanks so much.
DIONNE: Good to be with you .
SCHULTZ: Remember to answer tonight's question there at the bottom of the screen. Share your thoughts on Twitter @EdShow. We want to know what you think. Mitt Romney is telling supporters he's going to gut Washington , going to cut a bunch of programs. But he's still not telling anyone what he plans to cut. Howard Fineman and Richard Wolffe will join me on the discussion. And later, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is becoming the poster child for extremism. Just listen to him. This weekend, he called on the NRA to help out his campaign efforts. John Nichols will be here from " The Nation " magazine for that story. We're right back. Stay with us.