Friday, July 13, 2012


Mitt Romney's rationale for the presidency comes down to two propositions: he's not Obama, and as a successful business executive he knows how to create jobs and right the economy.  On that first proposition he's unassailable.  He is no Barack Obama.  But he's been relentlessly if gradually damaged on the second, as stories about his tenure at Bain feed Obama campaign ads in swing states to show that as a "vulture capitalist" (in the words of Cowboy Rick Perry) he made massive profits from the misfortune visited upon working class Americans.   His job was to make profit, which he did from companies that did well and companies that went bankrupt, fired workers and sent jobs overseas.  That's a fundamentally different job than being President (as illustrated in this handy Doonesbury narrative.)

Then the stories became more directly focused: on Bain as a pioneer in sending American jobs to workers in other countries, and on Romney's finances, the glimpses of Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island funds, raising questions that Romney will not answer, in particular by releasing past tax returns.  The Obama campaign dutifully followed up each revelation with new ads.  Polls began showing that all of this was possibly having an effect.

But on Thursday the Mitt really hit the fan.  The Boston Globe added some original reporting to previous revelations by David Corn at Mother Jones and Josh Marshall at TPM, to show that Romney was officially listed on SEC filings as CEO, President, Chairman of the Board and sole stockholder of Bain in 2002--several years after he has been saying he left the company.  That's important because he's been denying responsibility for some of the bankruptcies and layoffs and outsourcing etc. that happened after 1999.  These filings also show that he was paid a minimum of $100,000 a year (and it could have been much, much more) in salary, in addition to profits of the company.  These were listed as his principal occupation.  Moreover, he didn't always claim that he'd "retired" in 1999.  He told Massachusetts officials in 2002 that he had taken a leave of absence (to run the Olympics) with the intention of returning.

There are serious legal implications as well as credibility questions in all of this, and so this story will continue for awhile.  But there was another story that also broke on Thursday--David Corn in Mother Jones found that in 1998, when Romney doesn't dispute he was in charge, Bain invested in a Chinese company that made money by taking American jobs to China.

The Romney campaign and allies quickly pushed back on the Globe story, offering other paper trails that don't name Romney as executive in charge.  The relevance of these claims was quickly disputed.   The Romney campaign employed two other tactics.  As they've done before, they demanded apologies and retractions.  None were forthcoming, so they seem to be counting on the news headline of demanding them to signal to some that there might be some merit in their demand.

The second technique was identified and named on this site some time ago: the schoolyard "That's what you are, what am I?" which has been taken up by others now, notably TPM and Lawrence O'Donnell.  To combat the outsourcing charge, they put out an ad that called Obama an outsourcer.  To combat both the Bain charges and the general charge that Romney lies with almost every breath, they made a big ad buy accusing President Obama of lying as a campaign tactic.

 But the Mittstorm on Thursday suggested to me the real possibility--though just the possibility---that Romney could be so defined that he's essentially disqualified as a presidential candidate even before the GOP convention.

He has two main hopes.  First that the economy suffers to the extent that the rising optimism expressed in polls severely sours, and the "I'm not Obama" proposition becomes persuasive.  Second, that if the economy simply doesn't improve, his Mittblitz of ads that his accumulating millions can buy will substitute his lies for any reality, and he will move perception away from President Obama to the figure that Romney will destructively create as President Obama, Vampire.

And then there's voter suppression, particularly now in Pennsylvania, which could become the new Florida if GOPers there have indeed successfully disenfranchised nearly 10% of the voters in the state, nearly all of them non-suburban non-Romney voters.  On this front, Attorney General Eric Holder told the NAACP that these voter ID laws constitute poll taxes, which are unconstitutional.  That may mean federal action.

Update: Another intent of the Romney strategy of demanding that President Obama apologize occurs to me--it deflects attention from the stories reported by news organizations and attempts to suggest that these are simply politically motivated charges by the Obama campaign.  (Of course, President Obama is no more responsible for these campaign ads--managed by other people--than Romney is for all the lives deformed when he was merely the CEO, President, Chairman of the Board and sole owner of Bain Capital.)

A further attempt at deflecting attention by the Romney campaign was the trial balloon stating that Condi Rice is being considered for v.p. nomination. But there is nothing to see here. That will never happen.  Even if the Dick himself showers praise on Romney as he did at his fundraiser.

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