A minor kerfuffle emerged among the political chattering class yesterday over RNC Chairman Reince Priebus' statement that the allegations that his party is waging a war on women were as fictitious as a war on caterpillars. Democrats blasted out press releases, falsely indicating that Priebus had equated women's issues with insect issues, misconstruing an awkward metaphor. Yet the substance of what Priebus claimed was objectionable. The GOP's war on women didn't just spring from liberals' imaginations. It developed when the party decided to turn reproductive rights into a contentious issue, proposing bills in Congress that would have allowed any employer to refrain from providing women with birth control, Mitt Romney declaring his intention to ruin Planned Parenthood, and the tepid response to Rush Limbaugh's offensive descriptions of Sandra Fluke. That disdain for women has been born out in polls; Romney, for example, now trails Obama by 18 percent among women.
I might be reading too much into this, but a statement from Romney yesterday makes me wonder if he's beginning to realize just how much trouble he's in if he can't fix this problem. The Masters Tournament kicked off yesterday, raising the annual question of when the course will begin to admit women. For those not in the know, Augusta National—the course that hosts the green jacket-awarding tournament—is an all-male club, excluding any women from becoming members. This outdated sexism becomes an issue each year, though it is especially pressing this time around. As one of the chief sponsors for the club, IBM's CEO is traditionally invited to join Augusta, but new female CEO Virginia Rometty has yet to be included.
Romney was asked about Augusta's rule and had this to say:
"I am not a member of Augusta. I don't know if I would qualify. My golf game is not that good," Romney told reporters after an energy-themed event in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. "Certainly if I were a member, if I could run Augusta, which isn't likely to happen, of course I'd have women into Augusta."
That seems pretty common-sense, but compare that to Rick Santorum's comments:
"I encourage Augusta to accept women members, but I recognize their right as a private organization to decide for themselves," he said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.
It's a subtle difference in language, but a key one. Romney, who has spent the past several months keyed into the whims of the conservative elements of the GOP, didn't feel the need to hedge his statement or make any claims toward legitimizing Augusta's sexism.
As a side note while we're on the Masters, the New York Times' golf reporter Karen Crouse had some damning comments yesterday about the exclusionary policy. "If it were left to me, which it seldom is in the power structure of writer versus editor, I'd probably not come cover this event again until there is a woman member," Crouse told GOLF.com. "More and more, the lack of a woman member is just a blue elephant in the room." The AP contacted her editor Joe Sexton who said it was "completely inappropriate and she has been spoken to." Shame on Sexton for not defending his reporter. It is sometimes necessary to send reporters to cover events where they are unwelcome, but only when it is something of true news value. I hardly think a trivial game matters that much. Instead of just covering the meaningless outcome of a tournament, Crouse was speaking to the far more relevant discriminatory policy, exactly what a reporter should be doing. It'd be a shame if the Times silenced that issue just to make sure their readers were aware of how well Tiger Woods played yesterday.