October 11 2012

Nancy Pelosi's Debate Advice to Joe Biden: "One Word--Women"

Charlotte Hays

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says she distilled her advice to Vice President Joe Biden for tonight’s debate with Rep. Paul Ryan into one word: women.

Speaking to Current TV’s vivacious Jennifer Granholm, Pelosi said this:

“I just would say one word to the Biden people: Women,” said Pelosi on Tuesday night’s War Room.

“Whether you are talking about women’s health care, whether you are talking about Medicare, whether you are talking about equal pay, ending discrimination in the workplace, the rest of it,” said Pelosi.

She noted that President Barack Obama enjoys a large lead among all women, but that lead is larger among unmarried women. She said that the Obama/Biden ticket needs the support of a large percentage of married women as well in order to win in November.

Vice President Joe Biden probably didn’t need to be nudged by Rep. Pelosi. He will likely talk about the so-called War on Women tonight without prompting. It’s one of the issues in his portfolio. Biden was, after all, author of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which was renewed last summer. The Violence Against Women Act is one of the great panders of all time, but it also has one of the great names of all time: are you in favor of violence against women if you oppose this act?

Domestic abuse is a serious problem. To the extent that VAWa has made people aware of it, we applaud this otherwise misguided piece of legislation. But VAWA has been from the start the wrong way to address it. For one thing, it grew out of and still to a large extent adheres to a feminist interpretation of violence, which emphasizes “patriarchy” and victimhood over a realistic, fact-based approach to individual cases. It also federalizes a problem that should be addressed at a level closer to the actual violence.

VAWA costs us more than Big Bird (this year’s budget request was $454,898,000) but the money is not well spent. Much of the money goes for pet feminist causes (an office at Mississippi State University, which receives VAWA grants, for example, puts on a womanless beauty contest wherein guys don high heels, supposedly deterrence to rape). VAWA has eroded due process for men accused of violence against women, and, according to father’s rights activists, is responsible for breaking up families. But there’s that name: Mr. Ryan, are you in favor of hitting women?

It is hard to get behind the rhetoric of VAWA  and talk seriously about violence against women. But it’s possible: Ryan can talk about how strict sentences (after a fair trial or hearing that doesn’t ignore rights of the accused) are more likely to deter violence against women than increasing the authority of tribal courts to try those who don't live on the reservation, a provision of the renewed bill. But VAWA has always been a tricky subject for opponents. Ryan no doubt knows that there is a good chance that VAWA will come up tonight.

Another reason we are likely to hear about the so-called War on Women tonight is that recent polls indicate that the support of women for the Obama-Biden ticket, which is crucial to victory, is slipping. A Pew Poll has the two presidential candidates suddenly even among women, though the discrepancy was 18 points in favor on President Obama until after the first debate. A more plausible poll has Obama holding a slight, but eroded, lead among women. Bloomberg reports interesting results among married women:

Married mothers in two competitive presidential states rate Republican nominee Mitt Romney better at dealing with the nation’s economic challenges than President Barack Obama, even as they side with the incumbent on reproductive rights and say he best understands their problems and struggles.

This gives Ryan an opening to make an argument we have been making at IWF—that women care about the same issues that are important to men. Unemployment among women has gone up 15 percent since President Obama took office. This is the real war on women. If Ryan can hammer home this point, he will further erode the president's support among this important demographic.

Ryan will likely be asked by Biden about an anti-abortion bill he sponsored with disgraced Rep. Todd Akin. Ryan will also be asked to discuss the bogus "issue" of contraception (on which Republicans have no position). He can turn the latter to the issue of religious freedom, but the former has plenty of opportunity for Vice President Biden to distort. My advice: Don’t budge. Defend your positions valiantly and with clarity—and then get back to the economy.

I am not sure I want to hear the vulgar term “lady parts” (the Obama campaign has advised us to “vote your lady parts”) in Ryan’s mouth. But he can talk to women tonight about the economy and national security--things that have more bearing on our lives than free contraception for uber-brat Sandra Fluke.

 

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