In case any conservatives out there are wondering why everyone is upset, appalled or falling on the ground laughing over the “Binder Full of Women” quote, it’s because it sounded like this: It's January of 2003, and newly-elected Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney faced one of the toughest questions in his entire political career: Where were all the smart, qualified women in New England?
Where in the name of Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, or Smith could they have possibly been? You would have had to have been a graduate of Harvard, Yale, or Brown to even know where to begin to find women in the Northeast qualified enough to serve on the governor’s staff There was some discussion about contacting someone over at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the hopes that they could come up with some sort of algorithm to help find capable and talented females, but that technology appeared to be decades away.
Fortunately for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Governor Romney discovered a “women’s group,” and he ordered them to scour the entire state for the handful of women smart enough to do the job. After a long search, this “women’s group” then presented Governor Romney with “The Binder,” which allowed him to staff half of his cabinet with females, thus preventing the Romney Cabinet from being a cadre of interchangeable, middle-aged white men, which is something the Republican Party simply cannot abide.
It’s nice that Romney felt that it was important to hire women for his cabinet, and it is equally nice that he actually did. But what a lot of people are absolutely failing to comprehend is the idea that he didn’t know who any of these qualified women could possibly be. In all of his years at Bain Capital, did he never run across any women lawyers, CEO’s, bankers or administrators? In all his years in Massachusetts, did he never come across any of the ridiculously sharp brains coming out of the Ivy League or Seven Sister colleges?
Or did he just assume all those gals were majoring in “Womyn’s Studies” and didn’t bother to meet any? In all of his campaigning across Massachusetts, in all of the fundraisers he attended, in all of the policy planning meetings, in all of the debate preparations, did nothing of note done by somebody with XX chromosomes come across his radar?
By now, the facts of the case are well established. There was a “binder full of women” given to him by “women’s groups,” but the binder was waiting for him on his desk well before he was sworn in, and the binder wasn’t waiting for him because he asked for it. A group called MassGAP had been reaching out to every candidate in the race in order to lobby for more female appointments to government posts. To his credit, Romney agreed to take their suggestions seriously, and that should have been enough.
All Mitt Romney had to do was say “Half of my cabinet were women,” and it would have been the truth, and he could have used that fact as Kevlar against a lot of the other justifiable concerns that many women voters have with him as a candidate in particular and the entire Republican Party in general. But it appears that Romney wanted to portray himself as a hero.
He wanted us to believe that he walked into his office on his first day as governor, saw nothing but a row of dudes looking back at him, and then immediately marched over to “Smart Women Supply Company” and placed an order.
It says something about the guy and his attitude towards women when you consider that even his self-generated, wishful-thinking scenarios seem completely outdated. If Romney’s dad had marched into the Michigan governor’s office and demanded that more women be found for more government positions, that would have definitely have been radical and heroic, but that would have been because his dad was governor in 1963.
George Romney very well might have had to approach some “women’s group” somewhere to find qualified candidates, if only because the idea of women serving in cabinet positions back then was practically unheard of. Transplanting that same “let’s get some women in here, where are they” scenario to 2003 simply doesn’t work. Women have had way too much skin in the game for way too long for any American politician to pretend he needs outside help to find the qualified ones.