Here is Mitt Romney at the Presidential Debate on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012 at Hofstra, telling the story of how, as Massachussetts governor, he noted the absence of female nominees for cabinet positions:
"…and I went to my staff, and I said, ‘How come all the people for these jobs are all men?’ They said, ‘Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.’ And I said, ‘Well, gosh, can’t we find some women that are also qualified?’ And so we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women."
****THIS IS NOT WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED.****
From “Mind The Binder,” The Boston Phoenix, immediately after the debate on Oct. 16, 2012, by David Bernstein:
"What actually happened was that in 2002 - prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration - a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor. They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected… Romney’s claim tonight, that he asked for such a study, is false."
It is A VERY BIG DEAL that Romney misspoke in telling this story. For three reasons:
(1) He presented it as evidence that he has been a leader on women’s workplace rights by claiming that his outreach to qualified women was his initiative. It was not. That is massively misleading.
(2) Either he knew he was being misleading or he didn’t. Either way, it does not speak well for Romney as president. Here’s why: The now-infamous ‘Binders of Women’ initiative was actually an initiative of an ENTIRE WOMEN’S ORGANIZATION, MassGAP, which exists SPECIFICALLY to increase the number of women appointed by new governors to senior cabinet positions. MassGAP is sponsored by the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (MWPC). These are not organizations you meet once and never deal with again. These are organizations Romney would have worked with throughout his term as Governor - the same term as governor that he’s running on to be President.
At the dinner in Manhattan at which the governor was feted, he attributed his success in attracting “top-level women to serve in [my] Administration to the MassGAP program spearheaded by the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus shortly after the 2002 gubernatorial election.”
That’s from the MassGAP “about" page. This was not a blip; also from their "about" page:
Between January 2002 and July 2004, 42% of the new gubernatorial appointments made by Governor Mitt Romney were women. Massachusetts was widely recognized for that achievement and MassGAP was given credit for it.
It is too much of a stretch to claim that this was a forgettable part of Mitt Romney’s larger gubernatorial story - the same larger gubernatorial story he’s running on in his bid for president.
So, if he misrepresented exactly whose idea the binders of women were, then he either claimed the credit deliberately (sketchy!), or he forgot (dim). Neither one recommend him that highly for President.
(3) This story was very clearly prepped beforehand as part of Romney’s intensive debate training with his campaign staff. The fact that such a major detail was wrong (and permitted by trained campaign operatives to be presented as such) means that the Romney team is not coordinating with/supported by any women’s groups in Massachussetts who would otherwise have been part of supporting Romney’s record on women. That’s an eyebrow-raise, especially given that his record in promoting women in his administration ought to suggest that he’d have a lot of friends amongst women’s groups in Massachussetts. It’s a definite red flag that he does not.
But - given that he just casually waltzed in on national TV and claimed the credit for a whole bunch of work done by women, maybe it’s not such a surprise.