Tuesday, November 13, 2012

For Romney It Was All About Character

For those who watched Mitt Romney's concession speech, it is easy to understand how even one of his biggest detractors like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Morning Joe said in the most positive way that his speech was “a piece of wonder.”  His words were magnanimous and kind to the president without the smallest trace of partisan rancor we have so often seen in his campaign.  In short, Romney came across as a man of character. It’s just too bad that none of this character was on display during the campaign!

In my view, Romney could (and should) have been disqualified from ever being president based on character issues alone!  Where to begin?

Back in February of this year, I posted Is Mitt Romney a Vulture Capitalist? seeking to answer questions about how much harm Romney and Bain Capital may have inflicted on companies and their workers while lining their pockets through their leveraged buyouts.  Yes, there were the videos on display during the Republican primaries where workers told their stories on how they lost their jobs when Bain took over their companies.  But I couldn’t find any writings that really did a good job to explain the workings of these leveraged buyouts and how they hollowed out these companies.

But then a friend sent me a link to Matt Taibbi’s 8/29 Rolling Stone feature article Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.  And after taking the time to read this rather lengthy article, I was (and still am) mad as hell!

I am convinced that Taibbi has done the best job of all the articles I have read in explaining the workings of the leveraged buyouts (as opposed to startups like Staples) that Romney along with Bain specialized in.  If you haven’t already, I hope you will take the time to read it.

If Taibbi is right, Romney and Bain come across as little more than merciless predators to the companies they took over.  The usual M.O. cited by Taibbi was that Bain first bribed the upper management of a company with lucrative bonuses to step aside and cooperate with the “friendly” takeover. Then Bain would saddle the company with massive debt and management fees which forced the companies to do massive layoffs to try and survive. The sole purpose of all of this was to make money (which Bain seemed to do whether the company survived or not) with the welfare of the workers not even the least of their concernsSo much for being a job creator! But the icing on the cake is the assertion that without the preferential tax treatment these transactions received, Romney and Bain would have had a much harder time making a profit from all of this.  Of course, it was more difficult to see what happened in detail along with how Romney profited from all of this since he refused to release his tax returns from those years.

If the Bain experiences aren’t enough all in themselves to prove a lack of character, then there are the many and legendary flip-flops in his positions through the years.  While running for senator and later governor in a liberal state like Massachusetts, he had to persuade the electorate that he was a moderate (if not liberal) Republican to have any chance of being elected.

And while Romney clearly had strong ambitions for the presidency, he was faced with a dilemma.  He was a moderate but the litmus test for securing the Republican nomination in 2012 was to be as hard-right of a conservative as possible.  So the only choices were either to do the honorable thing and bow out like Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and others who were literally begged to run but didn’t because they knew they were not hard-right enough.  Or make wholesale changes in his political positions to try and fit in with the hard-right.

So this begs the question of whether Mitt Romney’s true core beliefs (assuming he has any) are more like the moderate Mitt from Massachusetts or the severely conservative Mitt he claimed to be during this presidential campaign.  Perhaps the best clue to an answer comes from Mitt’s father, George W. Romney a moderate (and sometimes liberal) Republican governor and presidential candidate who by all accounts served as a role model for Mitt.

If this is so, then the only conclusion is that Mitt Romney essentially won the Republican presidential nomination by pretending he was someone he was not no points for character here!

Perhaps the clincher on the character issue is the amount of deception Romney used in his campaign.  While deception and political campaigns are hardly mutually exclusive, many long time political observers feel that Romney was in a class by himself when it came to deception.  When numerous fact checking organizations pointed out the outright deception in some of the ads, the Romney campaign not only refused to pull the ads but often doubled down on what they said.  While the avid political junkies may follow the fact-checking columns, the Romney campaign likely figured that the person without the time or inclination to study the issues wouldn’t know – or care.

But late in the election and losing in the polls of the all-important swing state of Ohio, a desperate Romney campaign resorted to intentionally misleading ads on the Obama auto bailout and whether Jeep was preparing to relocate jobs from Ohio to China as reported by The Christian Science Monitor article, Is Mitt Romney ad on Jeep jobs misleading?  
[Reaching] the crux of the matter. “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.”

Here’s the clever aspect of this: Taken apart, each clause in those two sentences is true, or at least defensible. But put together, they’re implying that Mr. Obama’s actions have led to Jeep jobs jumping to Beijing. That’s not true. It’s an assertion that the fact-checking website Politifact says “throws reality into reverse.”
This was so outrageous that even the Chrysler/Jeep CEO took the rare step of entering the fray by personally refuting the Romney campaign ad.  But the ad was never retracted.  At that point, it didn't really matter. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Perhaps the electorate of Ohio could be misled on a number of issues but on the vital issue of automotive industry jobs, nobody was fooled and Romney was toast in Ohio which sealed his fate in the overall election.

So even though I disagreed with Mitt Romney on most policy issues, I still based on character issues alone feel that he had no business even getting close to being in the White House – unless he has a ticket to take the tour!

So the reader may ask why we should made a big deal of all of this.  After all, Romney did lose and this can be seen as just piling on.  But campaign managers tend to be copycats.  Whatever worked before will surely be worth trying again.  If Romney’s campaign of lies and constant position changes had succeeded, it may well have served as the blueprint for future campaigns on both sides of the aisle. Now that is a scary and depressing thought! 

Post Script - November 15, 2012

So now it looks like that gracious concession speech Romney made wasn't for real either when in a conference call to some of his donors, he essentially accused Obama of bribing voters to secure his victory.

Check out this NYT op-ed by Andrew Rosenthal Romney Blames Loss on Obama 'Gifts' which I think sums things up pretty well.

Now we know that Mitt Romney did not “misspeak” when he whined to a big-money crowd that 47 percent of Americans mooch off government and “believe they are victims.” He meant precisely what he said.
In a post-mortem call with his biggest donors on Wednesday, Mr. Romney said his team ran a “superb” campaign...and that he lost because President Obama showered voters with “gifts.” By voters he meant black, Hispanic, female and young voters. And by “gifts,” he meant government money that is not spent on tax breaks and other incentives for big companies and rich people.