As I've often said before (see here), an absurd percentage of every campaign is taken up by one side attacking the other side for something the other side's candidate said. In almost every case, it's something the candidate wishes he could take back the moment it came out of his mouth. Sometimes, we even get campaign kerfuffles about something a campaign advisor said, as we did when Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom's unfortunate Etch A Sketch remark. And now, we've got something even more ridiculous: a kerfuffle about something said by a political professional who isn't even working for a campaign.

In case you haven't checked your Twitter feed this morning, last night on CNN, Democratic consultant and talking head Hilary Rosen mocked Mitt Romney for saying he understands what women are going through, because his wife Ann tells him what they care about. In the course of making that argument, she said Ann Romney had "never worked a day in her life." Cue the faux outrage! It's quite plain that the fact that Rosen said this proves that Barack Obama hates stay-at-home moms. Right?

I imagine millions of women watching this and saying, "Gee, those Republicans don't think I ought to get health coverage, or equal pay for equal work, or access to contraception. On the other hand, some woman I never heard of who doesn't actually work for Barack Obama said something on TV that sounded insulting toward Mitt Romney's wife. I guess you've got my vote, Mitt!"

Many people are now going to say that "candidates' families should be off-limits." Which they should. Nobody ought to care how hard Ann Romney had to work to raise her kids, or whether something Michelle Obama wrote in a paper as an undergraduate reveals her radical sympathies (in case you've forgotten, conservatives actually did try to make the latter case, at great length). On the other hand, since candidates' families are often participants in their campaigns, it's perfectly fine to engage them on what they say. If Ann Romney argues that Mitt Romney's presidency would be great for women, you can say that she's completely wrong. After this, though, I'm sure if you said that some Republicans would accuse you of trying to destroy a fine woman.

I suppose this counts as the first inane manufactured controversy over somebody's extemporaneous comments of the general election, if we date the general to when Rick Santorum pulled out of the race. And there will only be about 80 or 90 more before we get to November. But it's going to be tough to match this one for sheer absurdity.

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