The most insane press conference call of the week took place at 11:30 a.m. today. It was billed as a "conference call on women in the Obama economy." Its surrogates (the term slung around for endorsers temporarily empowered to speak for a candidate) -- Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Rep. Cynthia Lummis, Concerned Women for America's Penny Nance, Virginia Del. Barbara Comstock, and a conservative "mommy blogger."
Within five seconds it was clear that the call would have almost nothing to do with the economy.
"I represent New Hampshire in the United States Senate," said Ayotte. "I also am the mother of two children. And I think it was very insulting for President Obama's adviser, and DNC strategist Hilary Rosen to make the comment she made about Ann Romney yesterday, that she never worked a day in her life. It's insulting that the president's adviser would dismiss the value of the hard work women do when raising children."
She was telling whoppers. Rosen is neither a presidential adviser nor a "DNC strategist." She's a CNN analyst and a strategist at SKD Knickerbocker. In her paid CNN role, she's prohibited from working for a campaign. There are, occasionally, work-arounds when it comes to these contracts. James Carville contributes to CNN; he also lends his name to DCCC fundraising emails.
But as the call went on it got clearer and clearer that the surrogates were mainlining talking points. Several times they mentioned that Rosen had visited the White House 35 times, even though we don't know if every visit was made by this Hilary Rosen. "Visiting the White House" does not mean "advising the president." When pressed, Rep. Lummis kept up the whopper regimen.
"It’s hard for me to believe that Hilary Rosen, who has visited the White House 35 times recently, and advises on message, would make remarks like that in a haphazard or freelancing way," she said.
Well, then, it was settled! Someone who may have advised a campaign months before appearing on TV is still, clearly, coordinating a message with the campaign. My colleague John Dickerson tried to get the surrogates to explain, under the new standard, who was and wasn't officially speaking for a candidate. Suddenly the topic changed.
"I think the general point on the economy and the reality of the impact on women is really the more important issue here," argued Comstock. "When you look at the fact, really -- any mother in the home, working in the home or working outide the home, has a lot more economic common sense than this administration does."
It was "more important" than the Rosen issue, but five of the six surrogates had, up to this point, only talked about the Rosen issue. Reporters got only four chances to ask questions. All four questions concerned Rosen and why the Romney campaign was doing this.