The Corner

Politics & Policy

The ‘Binders Full of Women’ Outrage Still Makes No Sense

The Boston Globe reveals the find of the century:

In the world of important political documents — from the Magna Carta to the Pentagon Papers — there are also those known for more pedestrian reasons. Count Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” in that category.

For those who don’t recall, Romney mentioned the binders during a 2012 presidential debate in which he was questioned about workplace inequality. He awkwardly referred to the “binders full of women” he had considered for state posts after he was elected governor. Critics pounced on his response as clumsy at best, patronizing at worst. Late-night comics had a field day.

For all the high-stakes attention they drew, the binders themselves never surfaced. Until now.

A former Romney aide recently exhumed the files and shared them with the Globe. Two white three-ring binders (weighing in at an aggregate 15 pounds, 6 ounces) are packed with nearly 200 cover letters and résumés, along with a few handwritten notations.

This, naturally, is written in a tongue in cheek fashion. But you’ll notice that the Globe, which is joking, still can’t work out what the original story was. The paper characterizes the incident as Romney being “clumsy at best, patronizing at worst.” But it doesn’t explain why. And you know why that is? Because there was never anything there.

I am yet to hear an explanation of what was wrong with Romney’s line that isn’t wholly incoherent. It has never been satisfactorily explained, and it never will be. Those who try fall swiftly into paroxysms of insinuation and incoherence. They merely repeat the words: “It was because of the binders. And the women. The binders full of women. He said that he had binders full of women. See?”

I don’t see. I’ve never seen. There is nothing to see. At root, Romney was being hit for doing something that those hitting him wanted him to do. As the Globe confirms:

“It was a response to a desire on the part of the Romney administration to access a pool of talent,” said Linda Rossetti, who worked with the coalition, made phone calls to encourage job candidates to submit applications, and included her own. “They drummed up what was an inelegant way to get at this pool of talent.”

Romney ultimately received high marks for the number of women he appointed to high-level administration posts and state courts.

That, though, was inconvenient, because in 2012 it was vital that Mitt Romney be cast as an evil man who wanted to screw over everybody except for Mitt Romney. So we had to hear about the binders! And the women! And we had to be told that Romney hated women so much that he actively sought to promote them in exactly the same way as did President Obama.

I’m no fan of the reflexive way in which right-leaning journalists say, “that’s why you got Trump.” But in this case it applies. When Mitt Romney did what progressives say that politicians should do but was slammed anyway because he did it while wearing the wrong t-shirt, many Republican voters thought, “whatever our guy does, he’s going to be accused of perfidy.” And then they tuned out and elected Donald Trump.


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