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Thursday, October 18, 2012

\'Binders Full of Women\' Now Has a Binder Full of Jokes

Mitt Romney's comment about having received “binders full of women” while searching for members of the Massachusetts cabinet has become an instant punch line - and a fresh line of attack for President Obama's campaign.

Mr. Romney used the phrase in the debate on Tuesday night as he tried to explain his recruitment efforts after becoming governor of Massachusetts. But the awkward phrasing - conjuring up the image of a three-ring binder stuffed with female job seekers - drew immediate attention.

On Twitter, the phrase took off quickly, with many people mocking Mr. Romney. One said, “Thank you Romney for putting the LOL back into politics.

Another said, “LOL, Check out who else has a #binderfullofwomen.” It linked to a picture of Playboy's founder, Hugh Hefner.

The phrase immediately became a “meme” on the Internet, inspiring jokes that mar ry Mr. Romney's words with all sorts of funny pictures. One showed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reading her BlackBerry with the added words “Romney still uses binders? LOL.” Another wrote that “binders are so like 1990s.”

The Facebook page “bindersfullofwomen” had nearly 300,000 “likes” by noon.

Even the Republicans got into the act - in a way. A Web page put up by the Republican National Committee on Wednesday afternoon was headlined “Obama's Second-Term Agenda.” Under it was an empty binder.

Joking aside, Democrats seized on the phrase and Mr. Romney's answers during the debate as evidence that his policies would be worse for women than the president's.

In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday afternoon, the Democratic National Committee criticized Mr. Romney's “binders” comment as proof that he does not understand the economic issues that women face.

Lilly Ledbetter , who fought for a law, which bears her name, that made it easier for women to sue in equal pay cases, said she was offended by the binder comment, charging that Mr. Romney did not say anything that would have helped her.

“That binder didn't help me at Goodyear, and it's not helping the woman across this country making 77 cents for every dollar that a man gets,” Ms. Ledbetter said.

Jesse Mermell, who ran MassGAP, the nonprofit women's advocacy group that compiled résumés of potential female employees for Mr. Romney in Massachusetts, said he should not have needed the group's research.

“Why did Mitt Romney need binders full of résumés?” Ms. Mermell said. “Were there no women in his 25 years of experience that he had worked with who he thought might be qualified?”

Ms. Mermell said that Mr. Romney appointed women to 42 percent of his cabinet posts in his first year in office, but that later appointments of women dropped to 25 percent.

Mr. Romney's campaign called that kind of criticism nonsense. They said Mr. Romney's comments demonstrated his interest - and his success - in expanding the number of women in high positions in state government. And they said his use of the “binders” was not different from efforts by Mr. Obama's administration to encourage gender diversity in hiring.

“Absent a vision or plan for the next four years, President Obama's campaign has little to talk about beyond senseless political attacks, such as criticizing Gov. Mitt Romney for increasing the number of women in Massachusetts state government,” said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. “Women across the country are supporting Governor Romney because he will turn our economy around, strengthen the middle class and create 12 million new jobs.”

Republicans also noted that officials at MassGAP praised Mr. Romney in 2006, at the end of his term. They pointed to the followi ng quote from the group:

“I think he put more terrific women into high-level jobs because of our project,” the group's chairwoman, Liz Levin, said in 2006, according to an article in The Boston Herald.