The Right, Wrong Way to Attack Romney

Regardless of how they feel about the candidate himself, I’d be willing to be that most on the American political right are okay with Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, in spite of attacks on that record sparked and parroted by those trying to chip away at his status as frontrunner for the GOP nomination.  After all, capitalism is as capitalism does — you win some, you lose some, you take and manage risk in order to gain and reinvest reward.

It’s a numbers game.  It doesn’t always work out for everyone, but those with a solid work ethic and business savvy rarely get left behind.  Neo-conservatives, paleo-conservatives, regular ole’ Republicans … how could we begrudge someone for practicing what they preach and being enormously successful in doing so?

Jim Pethokoukis, CNBC contributor and columnist for the American Enterprise Institute, insists in a great piece of writing that Mitt Romney has nothing to apologize for.  Others who worked with Romney in his capacity as Bain CEO seem to believe that, in fact, it is Romney’s GOP critics that should be apologizing.  From The Corner at National Review Online:

Jack Smith, founder of Sports Authority, calls the attacks “a terrible slap against a brilliant guy’s record.” Bain was one of the original investors in the sporting-goods store, and Romney served as a director on the company’s board. Smith says he would consult Romney on “anything and everything.” “He provided guidance and direction,” he adds.

“I heard [Newt] Gingrich talking about how they eliminated jobs and the money they grabbed, that’s baloney,” Smith insists.

Tom Stemberg, founder of Staples, agrees, calling Romney “the single best corporate director I’ve ever worked with.” Asked about Rick Santorum’s contention that Romney’s experience as a CEO isn’t the best preparation for the presidency — because a president can’t boss Congress around — Stemberg retorts, “That’s an absurd analogy.” As a member of the board of directors, Stemberg notes, “You can’t boss anyone around. You’re only a shareholder. You’ve got one vote.”

Similarly, new media types on the right have circled the wagons.

RedState blogger and video producer extraordinaire Ben Howe expressed his frustration with the nature of the attacks, asking a relevant question yesterday evening on Twitter:

So, we have a frontrunner that is a successful capitalist and a big government type … and we attack him on capitalist stuff?

CNN contributor and editor Dana Loesch asked a similar question:

There are a frillion other things to look at with Romney: MA ‘fees,’ budget deficit, health care, judicial appointments, but Bain?

Newsmax columnist Jedediah Bila went so far as to say that Romney’s role and record at Bain was not among his weaknesses at all:

Romney has weaknesses. Inconsistency with respect to both policy and his stand on the issues is one of them. His work with Bain is not.

While I disagree wholeheartedly with Ms. Bila, in that the very nature of Romney’s work for Bain Capital is a perceptional nightmare considering that the left feasts upon any chance it has to tug at heartstrings and foment class warfare and wealth envy, I do understand where Ben and Dana are coming from.  Romney has shown electability problems, he has myriad problems above and beyond RomneyCare, and his marquee legislation is being mimicked on the federal level as Step No. 1 toward a single-payer system.  During his tenure as Massachusetts governor, he took an already left-leaning state further left.

That being said, there is a right way and a wrong way to make the Bain Capital argument against Mitt Romney.

Assailing capitalism is the wrong way.  Bemoaning success is the wrong way.  Abandoning the very foundation of the conservative message in an attempt to achieve short-term political gain is the wrong way.  Certainly, there is some merit to “putting the skunk on the table” by addressing an inevitable Democratic Party talking point on our own terms now in January rather than on Obama For America’s and the media’s terms in October.  However, attacking Romney’s success as a capitalist at Bain undermines arguments in favor of free market solution to our nation’s problems and leaves the purveyors of such attacks on Romney unable to credibly defend Romney’s record at Bain should the former Massachusetts governor acquire the nomination and face the inevitable Bain-related sob stories already locked and loaded by a sycophantic left-wing mainstream press.

When the New York Times runs a late October, top-of-fold, front page story about a small midwestern town that suffered through the closure of a medium-sized manufacturing facility at the hands of Bain Capital, how will Newt Gingrich be able to explain that success, failure, risk and reward are all hallmarks of capitalism when, on January 8, 2012, he was quoted by the Times as saying that Romney’s work  for Bain was comparable to “rich people figuring out clever ways to loot a company”?

As we near Election Day, when MSNBC once again lends unnecessary credibility to a rejuvenated #Occupy movement, freshly invigorated by the inflammatory class warfare rhetoric spewed daily on the campaign trail by Barack Obama, how will Rick Perry dismiss the cries of inequality as merely the disaffected outcry of the entitled taking class when, on January 9, 2012 in Anderson, South Carolina, he stated the following:

I had to shake my head yesterday when one of the wealthiest men ever to run for president, the son of a multi-millionaire, Mitt Romney, said: ‘I know what’s it’s like to worry whether you’re going to get fired. There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip.’

I have no doubt that Mitt Romney worried about pink slips. With as many jobs as Bain Capital killed, I’m sure he was worried he would run out of them.

That’s the wrong way to address Mitt Romney’s role and record at Bain Capital.  It runs afoul of the message conveyed and values espoused by conservatives for decades, and it undermines a unified Republican Party’s ability to effectively and credibly defend against inevitable attacks from the left.

The right way to make the Bain Capital argument against Mitt Romney is to use the perceptional qualities and consequences of his tenure at and work for Bain as a referendum on his electability in the general election.  The right way is comprised of a frank assessment of the capabilities and condition of the American voting populace and the mainstream press.

Consider the debate last Saturday night in New Hampshire.  With the focus on darling-of-the-day Rick Santorum, the wonderfully objective folks at ABC were looking for every opportunity to bring up controversial statements about such consequential issues as birth control, gay marriage, and adoption of children by gay couples, all the while doing everything in their power to avoid any mention whatsoever of Barack Obama’s abysmal ecomonic record.  Do you think that things will be any different once Romney, or anyone else, garners the GOP nomination?

Of course not.  The bias will only become more obvious, overt and alarming.  The GOP nominee will be blasted by the mainstream press with regard to any and all personal baggage, and where the Obama-friendly media cannot find baggage, baggage will be imputed to the candidate whether true or completely fabricated.

Don’t believe it?  When’s the last time you heard from any of the women who made allegations of inappropriate sexual advances against Herman Cain?

While there may indeed have been “net-net 100,000 jobs created,” as Romney is fond of saying, during the former Massachusetts governor’s tenure at Bain, gains such as those in Staples and The Sports Authority will be overshadowed by any losses by a media just waiting for an opportunity to do so.

In fact, it has already started.  From Reuters on January 6, 2012:

The young men in business suits, gingerly picking their way among the millwrights, machinists and pipefitters at Kansas City’s Worldwide Grinding Systems steel mill. Gaping up at the cranes that swung 10-foot cast iron buckets through the air. Jumping at the thunder from the melt shop’s electric-arc furnace as it turned scrap metal into lava.

“They looked like a bunch of high school kids to me. A bunch of Wall Street preppies,” says Jim Linson, an electronics repairman who worked at the plant for 40 years. “They came in, they were in awe.”

Apparently they liked what they saw. Soon after, in October 1993, Bain Capital, co-founded by Mitt Romney, became majority shareholder in a steel mill that had been operating since 1888.

It was a gamble. The old mill, renamed GS Technologies, needed expensive updating, and demand for its products was susceptible to cycles in the mining industry and commodities markets.

Less than a decade later, the mill was padlocked and some 750 people lost their jobs. Workers were denied the severance pay and health insurance they’d been promised, and their pension benefits were cut by as much as $400 a month.

The attacks are going to be relentless.  And, while the actions of the unshowered masses in the #Occupy movement may have soured many independents on those who sow the seeds of class warfare, by November a whitewashed #Occupy movement will be seamlessly intertwined in an Obama-approved message pitting the “haves” against the “have-nots” — and, in this economy, “have-nots” aren’t that hard to come by.

The GOP contenders absolutely must make the Bain Capital argument against Mitt Romney, and they must make it in the right way.  The Bain Capital argument is necessary in that its perfect juxtaposition against the backdrop of the class warfare message honed by the left over the past two-plus years could mean disaster for a Romney candidacy come the general election, so it’s better that Romney either survive the attacks now or succumb to them now rather than in November.  Further, it is crucial that the GOP contenders make that Bain argument in the right way,  as a referendum on Romney’s electability rather than an attack on capitalism, because in doing so they will either (a) force Romney out of the primaries as an also-ran or, should he gain the nomination, (b) preserve the contenders’ credibility so as to defend against the inevitable Bain-related attacks from the left come summer and fall.

The primary is a time to separate the wheat from the chaff.  It is also a time to steel the eventual nominee against the rigors and scrutiny of a general election presided over by a sycophantic, left-committed mainstream press, and to do whatever is necessary to enable the GOP as a whole to come together in favor of the eventual candidate.

Instead of being “rich man Romney enjoys making millions on the backs of laid off workers,” the offensive taken by GOP contenders should sound more like “because of the bias inherent in the press and the emotional left’s inability to understand the relationship between capitalism and success, Mitt Romney is not the right candidate because his record at Bain, though impressive, is easily misunderstood by largely uninformed voters preyed upon by an Obama-friendly media.”

The Bain Capital argument against Mitt Romney should not be an indictment of capitalism, but rather an assessment of Romney’s own electability with naive voters easily manipulated by a mainstream press more than willing to carry the water for Barack Obama.  In attacking Mitt Romney in the way they have, however, the GOP contenders have handcuffed everyone involved, now and in the future, and in the process have managed to undermine the conservative message as a whole.  Doing it correctly will enable someone like Newt Gingrich to do what he does best — indict the mainstream press for its obvious bias, and use that indictment as a way to gain an advantage over a seriously disadvantaged Mitt Romney.





  1. Bob Upton says:

    The political animal of today is not the same species as those that once roamed the American landscape. That bygone period of history saw our land replete with the magnificent creature known as “foundationus firmi”. This animal was renowned for it’s ability to set aside minor individual differences and take strong collective stands against seemingly insurmountable opposition. Sadly, that species is all but extinct and the land is overrun by new creatures dubbed “pointi fingerus”. This pitiful pestilence is a small, sneaky, self-serving thing that infests every area of our once great country from the halls of learning to the halls of business, news and labor to the halls of congress. This animal is loathed for its’ short-sighted voracity, instability of character and the habit of pointing out other’s faults and failings while never taking a consistent stand for anything themselves.

    It’s up to most numerous of all the indigenous species, “takebackus americanus”, the natural enemy of “pointi fingerus”, to eradicate this plague and see to it that “foundationus firmi” can resume their predominance over our landscape.

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