My Commentary on the Maddow-Castellanos Battle

by Timothy Horrigan; April 30, 2012

I never watch those Sunday morning talk shows, but I do pay attention when someone else spots something of interest. On Sunday, April 29, a seemingly routine episode of Meet the Press turned into a memorable melee between MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and Republican Advertising/PR man Alex Castellanos. On one level, it was just another right vs. left food fight, and the combatants most likely meant to take it in a spirit of good fun. But on another level, it was an ugly battle in an ongoing War on Women. During the run up to the 2012 general election, Republicans nationwide and in my own state's capital city of Concord have evidently decided that women are going to be their enemy. This seems like a losing strategy, since women make up the majority of the electorate, but the Republicans are pursuing it aggressively. Castellanos was beyond aggressive, however, while fighting with Maddow. He didn't just settle for misstating the facts: he was extremely rude and belittling. Even when he tried to apologize, he was condescending.

Aside from his attitude, Castellanos is annoying because he is a symptom of a dangerous trend. Politics has been taken over by the public relations industry. Castellanos has never served in government nor has he ever been a journalist. His expertise is in making TV attack ads for Republican candidates, which is an art form which requires certain talents, but which doesn't qualify him as an expert on policy matters. (In case you are wondering what Dr. Maddow's credentials are, she has a degree in public policy from Stanford, and then she went to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, where she earned a doctorate, also in public policy. And, she is an actual professional journalist as well.)


    RACHEL MADDOW: Policy. It should be about policy. And all of our best debates are always about policy. And it should be about policy that affects women specifically. The Romney campaign wants to talk about women and the economy. Women in this country still make 77 cents on the dollar for what men make. So if–

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: Not exactly.

    RACHEL MADDOW: Women don't make less than men?

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: Actually, if you start looking at the numbers, Rachel, there are lots of reasons for that.

    RACHEL MADDOW: Wait, wait. No.

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: Well, first of all, we–

    RACHEL MADDOW: Don't tell me what the reasons are. Do women make less than men for the same work?


    ALEX CASTELLANOS: –because.

    RACHEL MADDOW: No? (LAUGH) Okay. No.

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: Well, for example—

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: –men work an average of 44 hours a week. Women work 41 hours a week. Men go into professions like engineering, science and math that earn more. Women want more flexibility–

    RACHEL MADDOW: Listen, this is not a math is hard type of conversation.

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: No, no. Yes, it is, actually.

    RACHEL MADDOW: No, it isn't.

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: We're having to look–

    RACHEL MADDOW: No, listen–

    DAVID GREGORY: All right, let Rachel–

    RACHEL MADDOW: Right now women are making 77 cents–

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: And litigated–

    RACHEL MADDOW: –on the dollar for what men are making, so–

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: Well, that's not true.


    ALEX CASTELLANOS: If so every–

    DAVID GREGORY: All right, let Rachel make her point.

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: –greedy businessman in America would hire only women, save 25% and be hugely profitable.

    RACHEL MADDOW: I feel like this is actually–

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: That's it.

    RACHEL MADDOW: –and it's weird that you're interrupting me and not letting me make my point, because we get along so well. So let me make my point.


    RACHEL MADDOW: But it is important, I think, the interruption is important, I think, because now we know, at least from both of your perspectives that women are not faring worse than men in the economy. That women aren't getting paid less for equal work. I think that's a serious difference in factual understanding of the world.

    But given that some of us believe that women are getting paid less than men for doing the same work, there is something called the Fair Pay Act. There was a court ruling that said the statute of limitations, if you're getting paid less than a man, if you're subject to discrimination, starts before you know that discrimination is happening, effectively cutting off your recourse to the courts. You didn't know you were being discriminated against. You can't go.

    The first law passed by this administration is the Fair Pay Act. To remedy that court ruling. The Mitt Romney campaign put you out as a surrogate to shore up people's feelings about this issue after they could not say whether or not Mitt Romney would have signed that bill. You're supposed to make us feel better about it. You voted against the Fair Pay Act. It's not about–whether or not you have a female surrogate. It's about policy and whether or not you want to fix some of the structural discrimination that women really do face that Republicans don't believe is happening.

    DAVID GREGORY: It's policy is the argument.

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: It's policy. And I love how passionate you are. I wish you are as right about what you're saying as you are passionate about it. I really do.

    RACHEL MADDOW: That's really condescending.

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: For example– no.

    RACHEL MADDOW: I mean this is a stylistic issue.

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: I'll tell you what–

    RACHEL MADDOW: My passion on this issue–

    ALEX CASTELLANOS: Here's a fact–

    RACHEL MADDOW:–is actually me making a factual argument–

The next day, on her own show, Dr. Maddow asserted (using commonsense logic and actually true facts) that men get paid more, even in  female-dominated occupations:

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Extra! [October 31, 2012] Speaking of attack ads and the War on Women, here is an effective one put out by a PAC called American Bridge 21st Century, utilizing several deplorable  but all-too-real anti-woman soundbites from various Republicans including Willard M. Romney & Paul Ryan:

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