In this week's Etch A Sketch moment, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said the GOP's perceived "war on women" was as fictional as a war on caterpillars. Now, while it's pretty fun to imagine politicians in suits doing battle with what we can only assume would be enormous, mutant caterpillars, it's also reveals the problem with drawing such comparisons: trivializing people's concerns isn't the best way to get them to drop an issue.
Priebus' point, which he made in a Bloomberg Television interview to air this weekend, was that the so-called war on women, seen in initiatives like mandatory ultrasounds for abortions and the push to drop birth control from employer-funded health care, was a media creation: "If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars," he said. That gave his critics a high road position: "If you agree that attacks on women's health is too serious to be compared to a 'war on caterpillars' tweet @Reince to tell him how you feel!" tweeted Democratic National Committee press secretary Melanie Russel. And it gave them a silly road position: "In response to Priebus' comment, @CaterpillarInc is now assembling its militia for the upcoming War on Caterpillars," tweeted MSNBC's Amanda Sakuma.
Priebus and the rest of the republicans really do need to get away from the notion that the right is the enemy of women, because women appear to be fleeing the party, per a USA Today / Gallup poll Bloomberg cited, that showed President Barack Obama picking up the support of women under 50: "In mid-February, just under half of those voters supported Obama. Now more than six in 10 do while Romney's support among them has dropped by 14 points, to 30%. The president leads him 2-1 in this group." Whether the GOP believes there's a war on women or not, plenty of women appear to think so, and comparing their plight with that of the caterpillar is not going to persuade them otherwise.
Update (12:09 p.m. EDT): The Obama campaign took the opportunity of Priebus's comments to attack Republicans in general, but especially Mitt Romney, saying in a statement that the caterpillar comparison "reinforce[s] why women simply cannot trust Mitt Romney or other leading Republicans to stand up for them." Obama for America Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter emailed the statement, which drew a direct comparison between Priebus's comments and Romney's record:
Reince Priebus’ comparison of Republican attempts to limit women’s access to mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, and contraception to a ‘war on caterpillars’ shows how little regard leading Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have for women’s health. We already know that Mitt Romney would ‘get rid of’ Planned Parenthood and supports the Blunt Amendment, which would give any employer the ability to deny their employees coverage for health care services like contraception because of their own personal beliefs. Does he stand with Reince Priebus—the leader of the Republican Party—when he compares the debate over vital health care services to a war on insects?
Update (2:55 p.m. EDT): Video of the interview's available at Bloomberg if you'd like to see it.