Rosen’s gaffe does not equal Ted Nugent’s threat

Should a politician have to answer for what his/her surrogates say? That’s the question Politico’s Arena asked yesterday.

I see a big difference in the comparison between the two examples given, however. Here’s my answer–what do you say?

Politico Arena Asks:

The Secret Service has taken an interest in comments by rocker Ted Nugent about President Obama. At an NRA convention in St. Louis on Saturday, Nugent, a Mitt Romney supporter, said, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

The Romney campaign has disavowed Nugent‘s remarks. And last week President Obama’s team denounced comments by supporter Hilary Rosen critical of Ann Romney’s role as a stay-at-home mother.

Should Romney be tied to Nugent’s tirade, as the president got linked to Rosen’s remarks? Or should candidates be absolved of responsibility for what supporters say about the campaign?

My Response:

All leaders get tarred or starred by the people they bring with them. It’s how leaders react that counts. Neither Romney nor Obama deserves kudos for his reactions to recent events. But Hilary Rosen’s gaffe does not equal Ted Nugent’s threat.

Shame on Romney for his tepid disavowal of Nugent. Any leader should voice unequivocal opposition to anyone who threatens, commits, or suggests others commit violence. Doesn’t Romney realize that if he becomes president, he might well become the target of similar vitriol that could become violent action if other leaders fail to stand with him against it? He should have issued a much stronger statement blasting Nugent.

In a lesser offense, but nevertheless discouraging to many women who have supported him, Obama threw Hilary Rosen under the bus when he could have used the opportunity to reframe the discussion of women and the economy in more positive and less polarized terms. Instead he bought into the right wing narrative that being a stay-at-home mother is the ideal, and that idealizes women who stay the heck out of the male-dominated economy.

Sure, motherhood is hard, but so is fatherhood if done right. Rosen was wrong in how she said it, but right in what she meant to communicate. Obama would have made himself a hero if he’d recognized women who not only are mothers but also work three jobs to support their kids with no nannies or housekeepers to help them–unlike Ann Romney whose cushy life gives her “choices” most women simply do not have.

And frankly, most women want to work for pay, even if they have multi-millionare husbands, because they want to use their talents beyond the home front. What are they, chopped liver?

Women who work outside the home make up the base of Obama voters, and he should give them more respect in the future.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.