Democrats get lost in the “binders full of women”
One good way to understand the margin of Mitt Romney’s victory in the debate last night is to watch Democrats scramble to find some little thing they grab onto as a “Romney gaffe.” Republicans can point to Obama lying about Benghazi, energy production, job growth, or any number of other areas. If they want a fun Obama sound bite, they can go with “Candy, there are some jobs that are not going to come back.” If they want to splash around in an Obama wading pool of weird, they can try deconstructing Obama’s apparent belief that low gas prices cause recessions.
And what have Democrats decided to make a big deal about on Wednesday morning? “Binder of women,” a perfectly understandable phrase Romney deployed during a solid answer about his genuinely historic achievement of putting women into important offices when he was governor of Massachusetts.
Here is the relevant passage, which begins with Romney discovering that all of the qualified applicants for Cabinet positions presented to him by his staff were male:
We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. 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. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.
Now, one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort, but number two, because I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce, that sometimes they need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can’t be here until 7:00 or 8:00 at night. I need to be able to get home at 5:00 so I can be there for making dinner for my kids, and being with them when they get home from school. So we said, fine, let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.
Now, Mitt Romney has come up with some rather inelegant phrases during his time in the public eye. But this really isn’t one of them. There’s nothing at all strange or inexplicable about what he said. Any typical listener would understand that he’s talking about flipping through books filled with the resumes of qualified female applicants.
It’s been fun to goof on the phrase as a possible new group term for women, along the lines of “pride of lions” or “murder of crows,” but that’s mostly because the Left has been trying to make such a big deal about it. Mark Haperin of Time magazine went so far as to describe “Democrat attempts to make this binder thing into a deal” as a “freakshow” on Twitter, adding that he had no doubt the Democrats knew how much of a stretch it was.
For the rest of America, the notion of Romney patiently sifting through a mountain of resumes to find the most qualified female applicants is perfectly in line with his image as a competent manager. And as Romney would go on to explain, only in a robust high-employment economy are the kind of flexible schedules required by working moms truly feasible, without becoming a serious competitive disadvantage against male applicants. Flexible scheduling is one of many benefits characteristic of a seller’s market for labor; Obama’s New Normal of essentially permanent “unemployables,” with a dwindling pool of people getting hired and re-hired for available jobs, is not such a market.
Obama’s New Normal also includes 5.5 million women unemployed, and a 17-year high in the poverty rate for women. That’s way too much “flexible scheduling.”