“Is There a War on Women?” Obama White House Communications Director Dodges and Squirms

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“Is There a War on Women?” Obama White House Communications Director Dodges and Squirms

Jodi Jacobson

In a Q and A interview today at Netroots Nation, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer could not bring himself to acknowledge that there is a "war on women," underway in the United States and fudged the issue of how exactly the Administration would either respond to or fight back attacks on women's rights.

This article was amended to correct the spelling of Kaili.

At Netroots Nation today, Daily Kos Associate Editor Kaili Joy Gray interviewed Dan Pfeiffer, White House Director of Communications.  During the interview, questions posed to Pfeiffer ranged from the War Powers Act to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Environmental Protection Agency and gay rights, among other issues. 

Concluding her discussion on the War Powers Act, Gray turned to Pfeiffer and said, “Now I’d like to ask you about a different kind of war, and this is one I am particularly concerned about…the war on women.” Gray continued:

We’re seeing an unprecedented number of attacks on women at the state and federal level, everything from contraception to health care to food stamps, drug-testing of women receiving welfare in Florida.  Women in Congress including Nancy Pelosi are talking about the war on women.  I want to know if the President agrees with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and new DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz that there is a war on women.

Roe is gone. The chaos is just beginning.

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Pfeiffer punts.  He acknowledges that “there is a sustained effort at the state and federal level to roll back progress we’ve made,” and goes on to cite the efforts to de-fund Planned Parenthood in Congress and in Indiana as examples.

Gray challenges him on what happened during health reform and asks again: “Is there a war on women.”  Pfeiffer punts again, refuses to answer the question and then states: “Let’s talk about health reform,” calling the Hyde Amendment “settled law,” and stating that what happened with the Hyde Amendment during health reform was a “simple choice.”  Gray reminds him that, no, the Hyde Amendment is not settled law, but rather is attached to annual appropriations.

Pfeiffer claims that “there is no question that the President is concerned about the very same things that concern Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.”  Gray asks, then “well he hasn’t really said anything about it, so, is he planning to speak out on the issue?”

When Pfeiffer falls back on the example of Planned Parenthood and on the Lilly Ledbetter act, Gray says, “because you know in 2008, President Obama carried women by a 56 to 43 margin, and in 2010 Democratic women stayed home or voted Republican. Women in this country, Democratic women, are the majority in the country and a majority of the party, we feel like we are under assault, frankly we are a little sick hearing [just] about [Ledbetter].”  She is asking Pfeiffer every which way she can to articulate an analysis of what is going on and offer some kind of response on how the Administration will address the attacks on women.  When he doesn’t she asks:

“Does the President think he can win without women?”

Pfeiffer: “Of course not.”

“So what will he do to get women to turn out in 2012?”

Pfeiffer points out a push for the Paycheck Fairness Act and states the President went to bat for it last year (it lost) and will do so again.

In short, is the real answer that the President apparently agrees with some of the things Pelosi and Wasserman-Schultz says, but can’t articulate the issues on his own? Does he realize exactly what is going on? Is there an analysis and a plan of action for women within the Administration?

The answer given today was that there is no answer nor any articulated, concerted strategy to address the assault on women’s rights.  Indeed, not even an analysis about the war on women from the White House.  Nada.

This is the change we needed?