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

VIDEO: White House Communications Director Dodgey When Asked about War on Women

During an interview at Netroots Nation 2011 White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer dodged while answering questions about the GOP’s war on women.

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.

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?

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  • amadi

    This is the first step of the change we needed, definitely. Given the alternative, not only would this war be waging, it would be waging with a President ready to support these bills and sign them into law, and we wouldn’t have HHS and the DOJ involving themselves in these various state efforts to withhold funding from Planned Parenthood or barring Medicaid recepients from receiving care at PP health centers.


    Also, I think it’s richly ironic to fail to turn up the polls for the midterms, watch as that failure not only hamstrings him with a defiant and oppositional House but a weak-willed, weak-majority Senate and delivers numerous state legislatures and governor’s offices into the hands of Republicans with anti-choice, anti-woman records and platforms and not only is that the President’s fault, somehow, it’s also his fault that within the (constitutionally) limited power of the Executive that he’s not fighting harder against the opposition we did nothing to help him avoid.


    At what point is the current adversarial situation, and the legislative horrors stemming from it, the fault of voters who just couldn’t be bothered to care? Everything cannot be laid at one man’s doorstep, we all knew what was at stake. Did we need engraved invitations handsigned by Obama himself to get out and campaign and doorknock and phonebank when we could see the writing on the wall as clear as day — if we bothered to look?

  • antoinette-bonsignore

    It’s very disturbing to see the administration’s acceptance of the Hyde Amendment as essentially inconsequential to women’s health care — to call it “settled law” – that is such a sad statement of political capitulation and appeasement to the demonization of abortion rights in this country by the GOP!



  • malematters

    No legislation yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap), not diversity, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act…. Nor will a “paycheck fairness” law work.

    That’s because pay-equity advocates, at no small financial cost to taxpayers and the economy, continue to overlook the effects of this female AND male behavior:

    Despite the 40-year-old demand for women’s equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Women,” stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. “In the past few years,” he says in a CNN report at http://tinyurl.com/6reowj, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier….” at http://tinyurl.com/qqkaka. If indeed more women are staying at home, perhaps it’s because feminists and the media have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs — so why bother working if they’re going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman.)
    As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Because they’re supported by their husband, an “employer” who pays them to stay at home.

    Both feminists and the media ignore what this obviously implies: If millions of wives are able to accept no wages and live as well as their husbands, millions of other wives are able to accept low wages, refuse overtime and promotions, work part-time instead of full-time (“According to a 2009 UK study by Cristina Odone for the Centre for Policy Studies, only 12 per cent of the 4,690 women surveyed wanted to work full time.” http://bit.ly/ihc0tl), take more unpaid days off, avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (http://tinyurl.com/45ecy7p) — all of which lower women’s average pay. Women are able to make these choices because they are supported or anticipate being supported by a husband who must earn more than if he’d chosen never to marry. (Still, even many men who shun marriage, unlike women, feel their self worth is tied to their net worth.) This is how MEN help create the wage gap. If the roles were reversed so that men raised the children and women raised the income, men would average lower pay than women.

    See “A Response to the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” at  http://tinyurl.com/pvbrcu

    See also “Why Women Earn Less” at http://tinyurl.com/3ped7tb

  • ahunt

    Yah.  Because if a woman is doing it…IT… is not work.

  • prochoiceferret

    This is how MEN help create the wage gap. If the roles were reversed so that men raised the children and women raised the income, men would average lower pay than women.


    Too bad that the pay-inequality stats address women versus men doing the same work in the same position, and not an average that is skewed by homemakers who don’t earn an income.


    If the roles were reversed, I’m sure female chauvanists would be dismissing mens’ pay inequality as a figment of the male imagination, too.

  • crowepps

    This is a little off-topic, but I ran across an excellent book review of Unnatural Selection that I wanted to share:


    I will say, I think banning sonograms and sex-selection abortions will not correct the sex ratios but instead force people to go back to the traditional method of drowning female infants, and that instead the thing that needs to be addressed is the social and economic drivers behind the problem — customarily girls marry out of their birth families and virtually disappear, boys bring a wife into the family and produce children for ‘the family’ (which does not include the absent daughters).

  • adolmd

    Yes we can compromise on women’s rights. Yes we can throw women under the bus and get nothing in return.


    The other side doesn’t compromise, so why should we? A good negotiator never comes to the table STARTING with her final offer but that’s what Obama did with the Hyde amendment and in fact he gave away MORE than the status quo. With Hyde, at least there was the hope that if we ever got a prochoice majority again, we could reverse Hyde. Obama put Hyde into healthcare reform (which would not be up for vote annually) and thus it would be a LOT harder to get rid of the Hyde that he put in.


    Yes, there is a War on Women! defunding birth control. no abortions in the military for rape. DC can’t pay for abortions with its own money. It’s ok for ERs to let women die if they are pregnant bc the baby is more important. I am NOT making this stuff up! please tell your friends to wake up and get active!  


    Please check out the Silver Ribbon campaign to TRUST WOMEN and like us on facebook http://on.fb.me/hmKaES 


  • crowepps

    The easy solution, of course, is to have men take a portion of their paycheck, say 50%, and pay their wives/girlfriends a salary for staying home and taking care of the kids.  It could be tax deductable for the man, taxable for the woman, and she could pay social security so that she would qualify for it later.  Alternatively, he could pay half the daycare out of HIS check so she could work.  The only times in my life that I ‘stayed home with the kids’ and didn’t earn any money were when my husband INSISTED that I do so.  When I had a CHOICE I worked part-time.


    Another easy solution would be for you to recognize this is a reproductive health board and go post your cut and pastes at Fathers Rights or Fairness For Fathers or IT’S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS (who I don’t want to pay support for) or one of the other ‘poor pitiful me, teh wimmin are mean to me’ sites.  Except I suspect that’s where you got them from in the first place.

  • nehalem

    “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”


    So apparently only women need health care, food stamps, or welfare :/.  If not giving bailouts to women constitutes a war; what do you call it when you actively take from men and give it to women?

  • karenaldridge

    Wouldn’t know.  I’ve never seen it done.