Charlotte Hays

A chorus of right-thinking columnists is emerging to advise the Romney campaign that it’s time to get back to the real issues. Don’t get bogged down in these imaginary gender issues, they urge.

Do not listen to this siren song. To be sure, the “war on women,” supposedly being waged by Republicans, is a phony war. But, as historians know, phony wars can inflict real casualties. The GOP needs to win this phony war because, in a close election, the return of the gender gap, which vanished in 2010, could be a decisive factor in November.

Some of these above-it-all columnists happen to be among my usual favorites. Thus I was dismayed to read this from Ramesh Ponnuru, in his Bloomberg column:

“The RNC has been especially eager to repeat former aide Anita Dunn’s claim (which she later said was taken out of context) that although Obama himself was blameless, his White House was ‘a genuinely hostile workplace to women.’"

As one of the many bloggers who has gleefully repeated Ms. Dunn’s charge, I rise to our defense. First of all, if Dunn is right, this shows a White House with a case, albeit likely a comparatively mild one, of Teddy Kennedy Syndrome: Sufferers from this malady say all the things feminists want to hear, but don’t necessarily treat women with the utmost respect. This phenomenon is always well worth noting.

If, however, Ms. Dunn’s charge is false, as I a strongly suspect to be the case, it is even more important to repeat. It makes a point: that our feminist friends live in an imaginary world where they see slights where they don't exist. If you want to defeat their legislative agenda—the vast extension of government to counter imaginary sexual discrimination—Anita Dunn has handed you a talking point. Don’t be too good to use it.

After joining Ponnuru in mocking us Anita Dunn aficionados, the normally sage Heather Mac Donald opines at National Review Online.

“Equally dismaying is the RNC’s embrace of the charge that the Obama White House pays female aides less than male ones.” Et tu, Heather!

Charlotte Hays

Director of Cultural Programs at the Independent Women's Forum.