A Political Tempest In A Tweetpot

This week, when Democratic consultant Hilary Rosen said Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life," she kicked off a controversy expressed in short political gists: Tweets. Guest host Linda Wertheimer muses on how the news cycle is shortening into mere moments.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The political weather report must include a midweek tempest in a tweet - a quick spatter of reactions to a statement by a democratic consultant, Hilary Rosen. She told Anderson Cooper on CNN that candidate Mitt Romney should not use his wife as an indicator of how much women worry about the economy. His wife has never worked a day in her life, said Rosen. Her quote kicked off a controversy expressed in short, distilled, political gists - tweets. Mrs. Ann Romney entered the fray, using a brand new Twitter account, showing off a talent for the kind of pithy statements that memorable tweeting requires. I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys - believe me, it was hard work. No doubt it was. Anyhow, the exchange set off a flock of angry tweets, coming mostly from Ms. Rosen's fellow Democrats.

There's a solid political reason for that - but first, a sample: Disappointed, inappropriate and offensive, from Obama advisor David Axelrod She should apologize; families should be off limits from the President's campaign managers. Ms. Rosen finally did apologize but not before she responded to Mrs. Romney: Most young American women have to both earn a living and raise children. We've heard this all before. Remember when Hillary Clinton made a crack about staying home and baking cookies and it was widely interpreted as an attack upon cookie-baking homemakers? Theresa Heinz, the wife of the unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry wondered if First Lady Laura Bush had ever had a real job. She had. That got Heinz in trouble too.

No one seriously thinks that raising children is unimportant. Most moms are already in the labor force. But the quick reaction tells us how important women will be in the coming election. In a recent Gallup-USA Today poll of key swing states, Mitt Romney tied with President Obama with male voters, but the President beats him badly with women. The gender gap, about 19 points in those swing states, is a very good reason why the president's reelection team jumped all over Hilary Rosen. Another interesting factor: this is not the first example, but it's a good one, of the way the news cycle is shortening into mere moments. No need to wait for campaigns to draft statements, news organizations to write stories, seek reactions and responses, tweets can do all that work. Witness this little essay.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKIN' ROBIN")

WERTHEIMER: You're listening to NPR News.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.