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Is Gingrich taking Bain off the table for Romney?

danps's picture

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

Newt Gingrich's recent (and apparently brief) flirtation with attacking Mitt Romney for his time at Bain Capital is already being discussed in traditional election year terms. Some on the right are spinning it as a benefit to Romney because it will inoculate him against those attacks in the general election. Conventional wisdom fonts like Joe Klein are making similar noises (via) as well.

The thinking goes like this: There's some bad bit of news about a candidate out there. Ideally it stays buried and no one ever talks about it. But if it's going to come out, better that it comes out early; that way the candidate can address it when there is a smaller audience than in September or October. It also gives the candidate the chance to develop a politically effective canned response, usually ending with something like "this is old news, we've already discussed it extensively, and only a desperate campaign or an irresponsible news outlet would keep flogging this dead horse."

That works best with something like a personal frailty or a relatively minor but inconvenient political position. In Gingrich's case, reconciling his multiple divorces with the moral expectations of GOP primary voters is an example. It looks bad, so he goes on TV with a televangelist and says he cheated a lot because of his boundless passion for America, problem solved. Sure his opponents might bring it up again, but he can say he's already covered it, pivot and counterattack them for being craven opportunists. Textbook political strategy.

There are some cases where the textbook gets thrown out the window, though. Not all political missteps can be dismissed with a little boilerplate on the hustings. Some votes are iconic; just ask Bob Bennett or Hillary Clinton. A big enough vote - a vote on something that has lasting impact or that touches on something considered of fundamental importance - can become very firmly attached to a candidate and resist all attempts to shake it off.

Romney's career at Bain is more like that than it is some minor gaffe. Libby Spencer thinks it's a line of attack that will stay relevant through election day, and I agree with her. (More from Libby here.) It will remain fresh because Romney's tenure at Bain literally personifies exactly the kind of soulless and greedy big money capitalism that has increasingly suffocated communities around the country.

One of the great domestic anxieties of the last few decades for most Americans is the specter of some high finance vampires swooping in, extracting the lifeblood of a perfectly good company, and leaving some dangerously weakened remnant to fend for itself. For an awful lot of people that is the central economic narrative of our time; anyone who thinks it will go away because some candidate mouthed some words about it is crazy.

And of course, it also won't go away because Mitt Romney is Mitt Romney. His entire life has been so thoroughly steeped in wealth and privilege that he cannot speak off the cuff for very long without saying something that reveals just how wildly, offensively out of touch he is with the lives of citizens he aspires to lead. Even if he would like to put the subject behind him, all a reporter needs to do is stick a microphone in front of him and say "Mitt, say some stuff." You don't need to do much digging to get some gold from that one. (I could save the old boy a fortune in consulting fees. My plan: Have someone type up a long list of bland talking points, put them in a three ring binder, and hand it to him with a note reading "you may recite any of the enclosed verbatim during a debate. In all other circumstances keep your mouth shut.")

Now, the attacks may go away or soften for other reasons. In noting the milder attacks coming from Democrats mistermix wrote Gingrich is "putting Bain in the same boat as the rest of the hated Wall Streeters who almost took this country to ruin and haven't been punished for their actions." But the president has actually outraised Romney at Bain, and if 2008 is any indication he will once again receive lavish funding from the likes of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley. So if the president decides to lump Bain in with Wall Street that might mean taking it easier on them. But that isn't relevant to whether Romney is somehow protected from those attacks by virtue of facing them now. It's still a hell of a punch, a haymaker, should someone want to throw it.

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scarshapedstar's picture
Submitted by scarshapedstar on

Horseshit. Far too cute, even for these guys.

Two words for this line of "undermining a candidate's strengths only enstrongens them!" wishful thinking: swift boats. 'Course, this critique of Romney has the fatal flaw of actually being true, so it lacks the real strength of a good Rovian bitchslap, which is that it's more fun to simply lie about people you hate.

Speaking of, I hear there's a whisper campaign that he has eight wives in Mexico, and I think it's appalling to make such claims about a man just because he's a Mormon who wears hilariously ugly magic underwear and thinks that Joe Smith will send everyone else to hell for drinking coffee.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

when Newt complained of being Swift Boated. The reason Swift Boat Veterans was notorious was because they were dishonest, not mean. What they were selling was a pack of lies. The ads against Newt (the ones I saw anyway) were definitely mean, but also true.

tom allen's picture
Submitted by tom allen on

"there's a whisper campaign that he has eight wives in Mexico" LOL Thing is, that would get him ten votes for every one he'd lose. Dude, eight Mexican wives? I'm gay, and even I think that's sexy. Well, but only if he were the bottom. (I'm imagining them with whips and Mitt in handcuffs. OMG -- I might go straight. :-O)

But then you said "Rise up with fists" and I turned back gay. :-P

techno's picture
Submitted by techno on

Is actually an embarrassment for Obama and the rest of the Wall Street Democrats. I could easily see Obama run a whole campaign against Romney and never bring up Bain at all.

Rick Perry, a guy so dumb he makes W look like Edison, weighed in yesterday about knowing the difference between venture and vulture capitalism. In his thick head, he still can grasp the difference between up and down. I find this profoundly depressing because I have met but few Democrats in life who could articulate the difference between the free enterprise that enriches everyone, and that which enriches a few and destroys the lives of everyone else. And how do I know that? Because I have watched how my "liberal" friends invest the nest eggs of the NGOs they manage.

Of course, maybe it was to be expected that such a solid critique of Bain would come from conservatives. Lefties have this nasty habit of ignoring how society's machinery actually works and on those odd occasions when they do look, it is to come up with some variation of "capitalism bad" and screw the nuances. Among the Bain's victims are a bunch of lifelong Republicans who ran the industries that were trashed, or were small investors, or lost their real estate nest eggs when their town went bust.

No, I do not think the subjects of Bain and pirate capitalism are going to go away anytime soon. But I also think Obama and the Wall Street Dems are NOT in any position to exploit this issues and will do their best to bury it.

Submitted by jawbone on

situation. No matter who wins, there will be no political or legislative actions which go after Banksters, Big Money, unfair wealth distribution through tax manipulations, etc.

And Obama is still taking actions which will essentially maintain Big Money. And not upse t the One Percenters.

Meanwhile, he's using some Words to try to bamboozle the Dem voters, the muddled middle, the "independents": but his actions will continue to be to not rock the One Percenters' boats.

Submitted by jawbone on

Newt Super Pac's movie about Bain was all or mostly lies, I figure the MCM (Mainstream Corporate Media) is going to play Romney's actions as just "doing business" a "savvy businessman." (88 to 90% returns??? How likely is that in an ethical company?)

Also, until regular people can begin to discuss what Bain under Romney did in phrasing which people really can understand, and repeat to one another, it's unlikely it will become an issue which stalls Romney's advance on the nomination and perhaps the presidency. "It's complicated" is a major way the Banksters flummox their marks and the public.

There needs to be a narrative that even elected officials can't ignore -- and the voters can understand.

techno's picture
Submitted by techno on

Have you actually watched it? Have you actually fact-checked it?

The problem with Newt's piece is that it is mostly or all true and the facts on the ground will not go away because paid liars want them to go away.

There are literally millions of people in USA who have been directly victimized by the likes of Romney and Bain. A whole bunch of these people were natural Republicans—small-time investors, business owners, medium-sized industrialists, farmers, petty real-estate speculators and understanding that makes this documentary considerably more powerful that anything Moore has ever done.

But hey, if you think the pirate capitalism debate will go away because of some two-bit political fact checking organization, enjoy your opinion.

Submitted by Alcuin on

Since I don't have a TV, I'm in the dark as to who Scott Paley even is. It is clear enough to me, though, that Jawbone didn't say that the movie was full of lies. I don't think it is necessary for people to know all the details about Bain Capital - all they really need to know is that Romney destroyed far more jobs than he created. But given the abysmal level of education of most Americans, I don't expect them to understand that Romney did in fact destroy more jobs than he created. They also won't understand that Bain Capital is only one of hundreds of similar companies out there.

Having said all that, I really do think that Newt Gingrich is keeping company with some very strange people. After watching the movie, I came away thinking, "what is a Republican doing endorsing this movie?" Even though the movie is blatant propaganda, it does have an element of truth and that truth is straight out of a progressive playbook. Why is Gingrich doing that? Oh, yes, he is demonstrating that he is nothing but an opportunistic politician who will say and do anything to get elected. Like Obama.

Thank goodness I don't have a TV!!!

gizzardboy's picture
Submitted by gizzardboy on

I got this link in an email. It goes to a half-hour video paid for by "Winning Our Future" which is quite devistating to Romney and his actions at Bain. I suppose Winning is a right wing super pac, but if Romney ends up the Rep. to face Obama, this thing could have a life of it's own.