In all the fussing over whether or not CNBC ran a fair debate for Republicans on Wednesday night, some of the actual claims made by the candidates got somewhat lost in the shuffle. (Which is no doubt the reason for the faux controversy about CNBC's moderation.) But now the fact-checkers, who had a hell of a job to complete after the candidates dropped bucketfuls of lies on the audience, are finally getting the hard work of correcting the record done.
One of the biggest lies of the night, unsurprisingly, came out of the mouth of Carly Fiorina, when she let loose with this statement, which has so much falseness that it's hard to unpack it all:
Becky, it is the height of hypocrisy for Mrs. Clinton to talk about being the first woman President, when every single policy she espouses, and every single policy of President Obama has been demonstrably bad for women. 92 percent -- 92 percent of the jobs lost during Barack Obama's first term belonged to women. Senator Cruz is precisely right. Three million women have fallen into poverty under this administration. The number of women living in extreme poverty is the highest level on record.
Every single policy? Oh really? Even setting aside the economic questions, Fiorina's statement assumes that reproductive choice, greater access to birth control, access to health insurance under Obamacare, and increased access to justice if you're sexually harassed or assaulted on campus is somehow bad for women. In the world of demonstrable claims, the opposite is clearly true.
On the economic front, Fiorina was not telling the truth. The fact-checking hardly needs to be done---most readers can guess that the job loss she's talking about is due to the horrible recession that Obama inherited and had to spend most his administration trying to turn around---but Think Progress nonetheless has a careful breakdown of how wrong Fiorina was.
The 3 million figure appears to be made up whole cloth. While it is true that more women (and men) are living in extreme poverty, much of it has to do with restrictions on welfare, which is a conservative policy idea, even though some Democrats have gone along with it. The job loss figures are the result of seriously massaging the statistics:
Employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that women lost 362,000 jobs between January 2009 — Obama took office on January 21 — and March 2012, the timeframe originally cited by Romney and the Republican National Committee to get to the 92 percent figure. There were 303,000 jobs lost overall during that period.
But women’s job loss was following a decline that began under President George W. Bush. Between their peak in January of 2008 and when Obama took office a year later, women lost 1.13 million jobs. The recession, which was causing everyone’s job losses, didn’t begin under Obama’s watch.
If you look at the overall job losses that are due the recession -- which is Bush's recession, not Obama's -- instead of merely assuming that Obama started the recession by entering office, the numbers show that men lost a lot of jobs, as well. So this is a multi-faceted lie that lies by blaming the recession on Obama and by skewing the statistics on job losses to make it look like women were the primary victims when they were not. As Think Progress notes, "women and men have nearly identical unemployment rates — 4.6 and 4.7 percent, respectively, as of September".
But what makes this talking point interesting, beyond just being false, is that it builds off a larger rhetorical strategy that Republicans have been using to deflect accusations that they are waging war on women: Suggesting that it's unseemly and somehow inherently reductive to speak of women's issues outside of economic concerns. For a couple years now, Republicans have argued that if you support a woman's right to contraception and abortion, then you are saying that this is only thing she could possibly care about.
Mike Huckabee used it in 2013, when he argued that being pro-choice means you somehow don't believe women are "far more complicated than their libido and the management of their reproductive system".
Republicans also shamed Mark Udall for being pro-choice in his run against Cory Gardner for Colorado senator by calling him "Mark Uterus."
Dana Loesch of Breitbart frequently equates being pro-choice to "reducing" women to their "vaginas."
Andrea Tantaros of Fox News, upon finding out that the majority of women voted for Democrats, argued that it is because they are "one-issue" voters who only care about "free birth control."
Obviously, it's barking madness to argue that support for reproductive health care access somehow means you don't care about issues. In fact, if anyone is obsessed with women's bodies, it's Republicans, who have spent the past few years obsessively attacking abortion access and throwing nationwide temper tantrums over the idea of treating contraception like it's a normal part of women's preventive health care.
But there's a reason that this talking point makes emotional sense to conservatives, even if it doesn't make logical sense to anyone. The underlying assumption driving this talking point is that there are two kinds of women: Women who have sex for pleasure instead of procreation (or at least admit to doing so) and women who deserve respect. Because pro-choicers take it as a given that women have sex, conservatives assume they are insulting them. To the conservative mind, it's simply impossible to treat a woman like a full, complex human being with many political concerns while assuming she's sexual. This talking point is pure projection, of course, since the only people who can't grasp that a woman might want reproductive rights and a job and an education are Republicans.
This talking point is what Fiorina was eluding to with her weird claim that "every single policy" Clinton espouses is somehow bad for women. Through conservative pretzel logic, defending reproductive rights is somehow bad for women because it assumes that women might be having sex, which is supposedly an insult to women. This talking point also assumes that there's a conflict between wanting women to have reproductive health care and wanting women to have jobs. In the real world, these goals all work together, particularly since being able to choose when you give birth makes it easier for women to plan out their careers successfully. The fact that Republicans keep going to this well, acting like there's some kind of conflict between wanting women to be treated like equals in the workplace and wanting women to be able to have sex on their own terms, says a lot more about Republicans than it does the Democrats they aim to criticize.