Why Is Everyone Focused on Bain Capital?

The past 24 hours have been abysmal for the Romney campaign. Not only has it scrambled to deal with revelations regarding Mitt Romney’s “shadow years” at Bain Capital, but further digging has led to more serious questions—and accusations—about Romney’s conduct. Put another way, you know you’re in trouble when even a friendly piece—by Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler—has to tackle the question of whether Romney broke the law.

Naturally, this has prompted a vigorous response from the Romney campaign, in the form of an ad that accuses President Obama of lying for political gain. Given recent revelations, the timing of the ad was a little awkward, but that hasn’t stopped the Romney campaign from deploying it in a serious way. As Greg Sargent reports, the ad is currently running in multiple media markets in each of the major swing states: Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, and New Hampshire.

This push has two goals: first, to challenge President Obama trustworthy image—he maintains high favorability ratings—and second, to suggest there’s something illegitimate about the Obama team’s critique of Romney’s time at Bain Capital. The problem with this approach, of course, is that Romney insists we judge him on the basis of his accomplishments in the private sector. I took Romney’s victory speech for the Republican nomination—which he gave after winning primaries in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York—along with his four most recent speeches, and plugged them into a word cloud. Here is the result:

 

 

Massachusetts is nonexistent. Instead, we see references to “business”, “businesses,” and “enterprise.” According to Mitt Romney, it’s his time at Bain Capital that makes him qualified for the presidency. If that’s the case, then it’s only reasonable to ask questions about what came with the responsibility, and whether it’s appropriate experience for public office.

It should be said that it’s not hard to see why Romney would want to delegitimize attacks on his private sector experience at the same time that he touts it as his chief qualification. Americans like businesspeople, but they aren’t keen on business impropriety. Moreover, Romney’s conduct is illustrative of a disconnect between the world of elites and the world of everyone else. The Boston Phoenix’s David Bernstein explains:

It … reinforces the image of Romney as part of the specially insulated corporate overlord class, who get to manipulate the rules so that they always end up the winner. … He apparently was able to make a lot of money (or at least, what seems like a lot of money to most people) for being president, owner, and investor in a company while actually being off in Utah doing a completely different full-time job.

And, of course, he was apparently freely signing off on anything required of the president and owner, without, apparently, feeling like that meant he actually had any responsibility for anything happening at the company. It looks like legal, regulatory, and fiduciary responsibilities don’t really mean anything to super-wealthy executive types—not like when regular people sign employment documents, or mortgage documents, and so on.

For a campaign that needs a critical mass of white working-class voters to win the election, this is the worst possible image to have.

Comments

While I agree that Mitt Romney's private career is certainly an important issue for the electorate to be aware, there are three issues with this post that make it less than impressive:
(1) "you know you’re in trouble when even a friendly piece—by Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler—has to tackle the question of whether Romney broke the law." This was made an issue not by Romney, but my the Obama campaign making a pretty reaching claim of felonious activity. Also, a link not only to the headline but to the actual piece may have made your readers able to have more information.
(2) Using a word cloud to make a point that Romney is business-obsessed doesn't really work if your readers have to search for more than a few seconds to find the words you point out.
(3) It may be the "worst possible image to have," but it's high time people concerned in politics moved past this image-obsessed culture and started talking about substance. Those with a modicum of experience in partnership law understand the difference between multiple partnership corporations, filing regulations and internal business structures, and the ability of maintaining ownership in a private entity without managing it. There are a number of excellent business law textbooks available at most public libraries for this information, and sources that far exceed political pundits in accuracy and relevance.

I'd call this yellow journalism, but it's not journalism.

But you're not talking about his tenure at Bain. You're trying to push-poll a phony meme that only retards with zero understanding of business could possibly believe (i.e., Obama's base).

By the way, you're aware that we're on the brink of a double-dip, right? And that unemployment has been stalled above 8% for 42 months? And that our debt is over $15 trillion? And that Europe is thisclose to implosion?

There IS NO AFFIRMATIVE CASE for a second Obama term.

The best - nay, the ONLY - thing you can HOPE to do, is fling enough crap at Romney and pray that some of it sticks.

Though it may fool the dupes and rubes, the only thing this kind of crack-addled attack-advocacy does is to flip people who were voting against Obama into full-fledged Romney supporters.

So, I suppose I should... thank you?

Okay:

Thank you, Jamelle, for this truly awful piece non-journalism.

No, I'm angrierthanyou. The "affirmative" (Hmmm... loaded word, ya think?) case for reeolection is simple for those who live inn the real world, and who remember August 2008 when the world was imploding, we had already begun to lose the 5 MILLION American jobs we lost in Bush's last year, Lehman Brothers and AIG and Goldman and GM were beginning to panic, and Bush''s response was to flee to Texas and leave Hank Paulson in charge.

The President has brought us all the way back, and the DOW will probably hit an all-time high under his careful stewardship whe we re=elect. You are a moron.

Instead of going "open kimono" and releasing ten years of his tax returns, which his father would have done, Mitt chose to "go rogue" and double down to his initial position of only agreeing to release his 2011 return, "when my accountants have prepared it". You can bet his accountant is not at the H&R Block office down the corner. Clearly, the average voter can see that this entitled son of a millionaire feels he can play by rules that are special to him and his elite class. By refusing to provide evidence that he really had nothing to do with Bain in 1999-2002--the period when some of the worst of Bain's trash and burn takeovers occurred--he has chosen to ensure that Romney-Bain will be the centerpiece of the last phase of this election campaign. Historians will look to this event as the defining moment of the Romney campaign--when Mitt's blind spots about how Americans regard a man of his background cost him the presidency.

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