Does Mitt Romney Think His Wife Lacks Dignity?

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Mitt 'n Ann.Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/2012 AFP

This morning MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes aired a freshly unearthed piece of Mitt Romney's recent past: A video, apparently taken in January, in which the Republican candidate argued that stay-at-home mothers receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits should receive federal assistance for childcare so they can "have the dignity of work." In the context the apparently ongoing War on Moms, which Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen set off last week when she said Ann Romney "had never worked a day in her life," this is news. Or, if not news, exactly, then certainly something for Mrs. Romney — who, as we are now well aware, considers the years she spent raising the couple's five children to have been hard work —  to take issue with over dinner tonight:

"I wanted to increase the work requirement," said Romney. "I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, 'Well that's heartless.' And I said, 'No, no, I'm willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It'll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.'"

Of course, these are poor women we're talking about — it's entirely possible that Mitt believes the dignity conferred upon Ann by her stable of Austrian Warmbloods is dignity enough for one lady. Even if it is, however, it certainly doesn't reflect the reality he described in yet another video —  this one found by Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski — in which he pointed out that, "This is a different world than it was in the 1960s when I was growing up, when you used to be able to have mom at home and dad at work. Now mom and dad both have to work, whether they want to or not." The video itself was taken in what, by now, feels like another world — the one of 1994, when Romney boasted a somehow even more impressive head of hair —though it would be difficult to argue that the current economy is somehow friendlier to families than it was back in the mid-nineties. 

This all plays easily enough into the Romney-as-Etch-a-Sketch narrative, but — as with nearly all the bluster surrounding Rosen's gaffe — that would be missing the point. As Intel Noreen pointed out last week, allowing the conversation about "women's issues" to turn into an UrbanBaby blowout about how mothers should spend business hours (see Bill Maher's Friday night observation that "What [Rosen] meant to say, I think, was that Ann Romney has never gotten her ass out of the house to work.”) is an easy way to allow both sides to moralize about choices (assuming they're even available) instead of discussing, you know, actual issues affecting actual women.