NBC's Gregory: Doesn't 'Binders' Comment Show Romney's 'Out of Touch' With Women?

On Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, moderator David Gregory grilled Florida Senator Marco Rubio on Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" comment: "Can you understand why some women have that reaction, that he seems sort of out of touch with what modern women are going through?"

Gregory also seized on Romney's support of flexible work schedules for women as more evidence of a supposed disconnect: "He talked about the – the importance of flexibility so that, you know, women could get home early to be with their kids and make dinner. And he's gotten some criticism for that because it seems that there's a narrow view of what women's view – roles are, both at home and in the workplace."

Gregory quoted liberal Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus attacking Romney as a "fifties dad" who "speaks of 'the dignity of work' when talking about welfare moms. But at heart, he seems convinced that children are better off when mothers stay at home."
 
After Rubio explained the economy was the number one issue for women and criticized President Obama for not outlining a second-term agenda, Gregory quickly tried to get back to Democratic talking points: "But, my – my question, Senator, has to do with again the – the perception, real or not, about whether Mitt Romney gets it when it comes to what women are dealing with in the workplace today and in their own choices that they face today."

During the roundtable panel discussion later in the broadcast, Gregory again pushed the "binders" comment: "Here was a picture on Tumblr, actually. What is that, of course? That is binders full of women, which refers, of course, to Mitt Romney’s reference to that."

Gregory then teed up former Bill Clinton Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers to hit Romney: "...the debate after that, about understanding women's choices today, pressures they face, about access to contraception, about abortion, all of this seems to be an intense play right now as the administration, the President wants to – to drive up that wedge and get women to vote for him. What did you make of all of that?"

Not surprisingly, Myers ranted:

I think that the way that "binders of women" blew up was sig – indicative that – that women don't trust something about – about Romney and his position on women. It's – it's first of all, why does he need binders of women? He's been out in the – you know, 25 years in the private sector as – as a governor, I mean, as – as a candidate for governor, before that as a businessman, before that as – during that time at the Salt Lake City Olympic, why didn't he come with a network of women, right? So he doesn't have any relationships with women, which just makes women suspicious.

Gregory also invited New York Times White House correspondent Helene Cooper to expound on how "out of touch" Romney was. Cooper obliged:

He really comes across that way.... I think he has the tendency when he talks about women to some, maybe he's been watching Mad Men, but he does sound very 1950s. The whole idea of, you know, women rushing home to cook dinner is something that just didn't – I don't think that sounded quite the way he would want to appear, because that's – that's a battle I think that women feel that they fought years ago. We – women have gone so far – we've come so far now that – that the idea – that the whole idea of women, you know, should be able to go into the workplace and should be able to leave at a certain time. For us to be, for women to be litigating that now just seems like he – it makes him seem as – as if he's out of touch.


Here are portions of the October 21 program:

10:39AM ET

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DAVID GREGORY: Let me talk more generally about how he relates to women, again, because this has become such an issue on the campaign trail, as our piece at the very top setup. You know, when he talked about flexibility in schedules, he talked about the binders full of women that he received from some women's groups when he was looking to fill his cabinet with posts when he was governor of Massachusetts. He talked about the – the importance of flexibility so that, you know, women could get home early to be with their kids and make dinner. And he's gotten some criticism for that because it seems that there's a narrow view of what women's view – roles are, both at home and in the workplace.

Ruth Marcus with the Washington Post wrote this in her column on Friday, and I'd like your reaction to it. She writes, "Listen closely to Romney, not just in the debate but in his comments about women throughout the campaign, and you hear not only modern manager but fifties dad. He speaks of 'the dignity of work' when talking about welfare moms. But at heart, he seems convinced that children are better off when mothers stay at home." Look, Senator, you're – you're forty-two, you're of a different generation, as a – as a father and as a husband, can you understand why some women have that reaction, that he seems sort of out of touch with what modern women are going through?

MARCO RUBIO:  Well, first of all, let me correct to you, I'm forty-one. I only feel forty-two.

GREGORY: You know, I thought we were the same age.

RUBIO: Let – let me – just couple things I want to say about that. Number one, the number one issue in America, especially for women, but for all Americans, is an economy that's growing and creating opportunities. And that's why you just read a poll that the – the gender gap is narrowing.  The reason why is because Barack Obama is not offering anything. What's he going to do over the next four years economically so that women that are graduating from the universities can find jobs in the professions that they're studying for? That's the number one issue in America, it's the number two issue in America, it's the overriding issue in America, and the President is failing to put forward what is his plan for the next four years. What's his plan?

GREGORY: But, my – my question, Senator, has to do with again the – the perception, real or not, about whether Mitt Romney gets it when it comes to what women are dealing with in the workplace today and in their own choices that they face today.

RUBIO: The – there are going to be columnists and folks on the left that don't like Mitt Romney, do not support Mitt Romney. They're going to come up with all sorts of interesting arguments between now and Election Day. I think that's absurd. He has a record of placing highly-qualified women both in his administration and his campaign and throughout his life. And the debate, this is silly outrage. It's not – it's not even real outrage. He was discussing a process that they went through to identify qualified women for important positions in his administration. I mean, I think his record speaks for itself on that in terms of the way he's behaved himself in both private life and in his campaign.

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11:18AM ET

GREGORY: We're back with our roundtable. Here was a picture on Tumblr, actually. What is that, of course? That is binders full of women, which refers, of course, to Mitt Romney’s reference to that. Dee Dee Myers, the debate after that, about understanding women's choices today, pressures they face, about access to contraception, about abortion, all of this seems to be an intense play right now as the administration, the President wants to – to drive up that wedge and get women to vote for him. What did you make of all of that?

DEE DEE MYERS:  Well, first of all, I – I think that the way that "binders of women" blew up was sig – indicative that – that women don't trust something about – about Romney and his position on women. It's – it's first of all, why does he need binders of women? He's been out in the – you know, 25 years in the private sector as – as a governor, I mean, as – as a candidate for governor, before that as a businessman, before that as – during that time at the Salt Lake City Olympic, why didn't he come with a network of women, right? So he doesn't have any relationships with women, which just makes women suspicious. Then it came out that he made up his role in that, which – you know, took credit for something that 25 groups of women had done in – in Massachusetts in order to – in order to make sure that more women got into government.

And then it's his positions more broadly, right? He says he's – would – is against abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother. Except he would support Supreme Court justices that would overturn Roe. He supported a Personhood Amendment, which would make abortion illegal under any circumstances and outlaw many forms of birth control, even though he says he supports access to contraception for all women. He's been all over the map on every issue that's important to women in this election.

He doesn't have a plan to help narrow the pay gap, which is really important to women. You know, women care about the economy, but in a recent poll, 39 percent of women said abortion was the most important issue, jobs was a second, and third was access to – equality in – in the workforce and equal pay.

GREGORY: But the gender gap is closing…

MIKE MURPHY:  Yeah, I was going to say we…

GREGORY: …among women. Mike.

MURPHY: ...we – we talked to 65 million American women today via that poll, and the gender gap is definitely closing. So the women of America are coming up with another definition. One, it's always amazed me how the media assumes there's no such thing in the world as a pro-life woman, it's the most under-represented, you know, group in the world, we never talk about them.  They're very comfortable with Romney. And a lot of pro-choice women are because they know his priority is going to be the economy.

You know, I listen to this, and this is the Democrat line. But I – I close my eyes, because I worked for Romney when he was governor, and I imagine all the women I knew then who ran the place, throwing stuff at the TV. I think it's ludicrous people vilify Romney for being a leader among all governors in appointing – I can't even remember any of the men who worked there, frankly. When I think back, it's 10 years ago, I'm getting old – but it's – it's – I think it's what I called a shiny object attack. It's the whole problem with the Obama campaign. Push it into small divisive things to make up for the lack of any big vision.

GREGORY: But I – but I – Helene, one of the things, and I talked about it with my wife and talked about it with some of my, you know, colleagues here at work. When the example he cites about more flexibility for women had to do with so women could get home at five o'clock, be with their kids and cook dinner. Now, look, there's a lot of families who do make that choice, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. My understanding from my wife about feminism is respecting the choice. And yet, he talked about it in such a way that earned him that criticism, "Well, he's just a little out of touch. That he doesn't understand what's happening today."

HELENE COOPER [WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES]: He really comes across that way, and I bet your wife wishes you cooked dinner sometimes, David.

GREGORY: Yeah.

MYERS: Maybe not.

COOPER: But that's a different story. I think he has the tendency when he talks about women to some, maybe he's been watching Mad Men, but he does sound very 1950s. The whole idea of, you know, women rushing home to cook dinner is something that just didn't – I don't think that sounded quite the way he would want to appear, because that's – that's a battle I think that women feel that they fought years ago. We – women have gone so far – we've come so far now that – that the idea – that the whole idea of women, you know, should be able to go into the workplace and should be able to leave at a certain time. For us to be, for women to be litigating that now just seems like he – it makes him seem as – as if he's out of touch.

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Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC