Tuesday night, Ann Romney was supposed to introduce us to the real Mitt. She was supposed to reveal the human side of the man seeking to be our President, Commander-in-Chief, and our face to the world. Mrs. Romney's speech was supposed to endear her husband to female voters, many of whom were shocked and angry over recent comments made by the likes of Todd Akin, and even VP candidate Paul Ryan. (It doesn't help that the GOP has Mike Huckabee, one of Akin's loudest defenders, giving an important primetime speech.)
Did she do that? In my opinion, she didn't deliver the message that was so needed by the GOP.
Fox News contributor Juan Williams didn't think so either, calling her a "corporate wife. Though I agree with Williams on some level, the tone and delivery of his comments serve to highlight the very problem of which he spoke: respecting women voters.
As a disclaimer, I can respect most political spouses. They may have chosen their mate and known what they were getting themselves into, but public life is hardest on those expect to react privately, if at all. I also have a lot of respect for Ann Romney in particular. Overcoming breast cancer and dealing with multiple sclerosis while your husband leads a very public political life is to be admired.
However, those health crises were, most likely, slightly easier to deal with the support of unlimited funds and unlimited access to best possible doctors and treatments. A woman with MS who is in her 20s, single, and under-insured may have a different story.
Of course, Ann Romney was taken care of financially. She has never had to work outside her several homes, or known the real struggles of most women and mothers in this country.
Let's get one thing straight, though: Ann Romney had the right to choose to be a 'corporate wife.' Any woman has the right to choose whether to work outside the home or not. That is what Williams should have pointed out. The election cannot be about hating Mitt Romney's success.
My mother has always had a career. I may not agree with Ann Romney's choice in life at all, but I do respect it as a woman. Each of us has the right to make the choice, even if we don't all have the ability.
I will agree with Juan Williams on one point: Ann Romney "did not convince me that, you know what, ‘I understand the struggles of American women in general.'"
As speechwriters should have known, any topic can be politicized in an election year — even love.
This is where Williams was correct in criticizing Ann's speech as not delivering the message that Mitt's platform cares about women, and the crux of the problem faced by the GOP.
Personally, I (along with most people who ventured out on their own after high school or university) have stories of apartments and landlords that would shock you. Perhaps as a New Yorker, I'm a little more sensitive to this topic. What Ann Romney failed to convey was that during their 'door on sawhorses' desk period of life, she and Mitt Romney were living off dividends and inheritance.
It's like that saying: "Born on third, think they got a triple." Let's not overlook the fact that GOP policies would not favor Ann or her family if she was still living in that basement apartment eating tuna fish. Let's not overlook the fact that the safety net for the poor the GOP plans on implementing would have forced Ann to work, most likely outside the home, through her illnesses in order to make ends meet.
She doesn't know what it's like to see your 60-year-old parents' jobs cut, inevitably delaying their retirement by several years. She doesn't know what it's like to see those same parents get sick during a period of under-insurance, or have to leave the place they called home for 20 years in order to find suitable, high-level employment. She doesn't know what it's like to see her husband or her sons go off to war and the associated issues. She doesn't even know what it's like to be a single woman, having gotten married at such a young age.
The highlight of her 'struggles' would have gone over slightly better had she addressed her health issues and talked about health care. It is a very personal issue, but it would have been far more genuine.
And now we come to the topic of love.
I wanted to change the channel as soon as I heard the word. It was a topic intended to make Mitt seem more like a husband and a man than the figurehead behind Bain Capital.
It didn't work. The speech was aimed at what I like to call The Notebook demographic. (Ladies, you know what I'm talking about.)
However, it's just assumed that women aren't also the 'feminist/equality' demographic.Making Mitt more human is a wise political strategy, but do us women a favor, and don't dumb it down.
When 'love' is referred to in a political speech, it's 'love' between a man and woman who are married to each other. There is no space or consideration for gays, lesbians, the childless, or the single. The undertone was there, and we could hear it.
What is a 'real marriage' exactly? I understand Ann Romney set out to correct the Ken/Barbie impression of her marriage in order to make the Romneys seem more accessible to us real folk, but why use the term 'real marriage?' Why not just call it a marriage?
More importantly, are there non-real marriages? The implications on the national stage of such a categorization did not sit well with me.
I wonder how many 'real marriages' have been ravaged by two costly wars, economic policies carried over from the Bush era, and all the stresses that come from unemployment and health care costs. I wonder if two successful, stably employed, gay people with children can ever have a 'real marriage' in the eyes of the GOP.
You may think Ann was supposed to come on only as a softball spokesperson, but in this election, I think the wives' speeches will have a much bigger impact. They are very different women; Michelle Obama's speech is surely being carefully crafted after Tuesday night.
Juan William's assessment lacked tact to say the least, but his general critique was not off. Ann Romney didn't make her husband seem any more accessible to the American people, especially women, given its context and undertones. The GOP would do well to highlight Condoleezza Rice tonight if they really want to show they respect women.