Is it just me? Or does anyone else think its a mistake for the Romney campaign to keep public attention focused on those workers thrown out of their jobs by Bain Capital?
It is true that conservatives have been having some justifiable fun with televised remarks by Newark Mayor Cory Booker this week. Mayor Booker certainly provides a better response on behalf of the Romney campaign than anything they have come up with so far. "Obama doesn't understand the free market" doesn't quite do it. For anyone who was sleeping since Sunday morning, this is what Cory Booker said, while ostensibly representing the Obama campaign.
I have to just say from a very personal level, I'm not about to sit here and indict private equity. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital's record, they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this, to me, I'm very uncomfortable with.
He went on to compare his own downsizing with the liquidation of businesses by Bain when Romney was running it.
This is not about what happened at Bain Capital. Heck, I've reduced the employees in my city 25 percent because it's the only way my government would survive. Call me a job-cutter, if you want.
He drew a moral equivalency between criticisms of the Romney record at Bain Capital and attacks on Obama's Christianity.
It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.
As far as that stuff, I have to just say from a very personal level I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity.
In the resulting firestorm, Mayor Booker tried to clarify his remarks. The Obama campaign was justified after all in exploring the Romney record at Bain Capital. Uh huh.
Harold Ford, Democratic candidate in 2006 for Senator from Tennessee, was quick to pile on. He criticized the Booker walk back and agreed with the mayor's original criticism.
The substance of his comments on Meet the Press, I agree with the core of it. I would not have backed them out… private equity’s not a bad thing. As a matter of fact, private equity is a good thing in many, many instances.
Republicans have started a tongue in cheek online petition, "I stand with Cory."
The questions raised by Mayor Booker represent a valid topic of discussion.
The Obama ads are not balanced in their analysis. Certainly the evidence presented by the Obama campaign is not part of the dispassionate examination some purists might insist upon. The presentation is an advocacy for re-election.
The workers, now ex-workers, on camera are not objective jurists. They have lost everything they worked for for decades. They have fully formed opinions about Mitt Romney, opinions not not likely to be affected by campaign advertising.
That back-and-forth is pretty much how public debate is conducted in a democracy.
Still, some tactics are pretty much off-limits. The Romney campaign has taken an attitude of winking and nodding at attacks on President Obama's religion. But they are unlikely to engage in Jeremiah Wright attachments themselves. "He sat for years in the pews while Reverend Wright attacked America" is unlikely to become a direct Romney campaign topic. Similarly, we are unlikely to hear the Obama campaign talk about "Mitt Romney sat for years in the pews while the Mormon church preached that Black people are inferior, judged by God with the Curse of Ham."
The argument is that attacks on Bain Capital fall into a similar class. In fact, Cory Booker was correct to the extent that private equity companies do a lot of good. In many cases, they help finance expansion, or product development, or simple restructuring. A lot of revitalization has happened in Cory Booker's Newark as a result of private equity.
Sometimes private equity takes a darker turn. Companies are purchased, assets sold off, long time loyal employees thrown into unemployment. The streamlined, bare bones company is then sold off for a quick profit. Some corporations specialize in distressed investments. This form of private equity is often viewed with some disdain, even within the financial industry. Jim Cramer, exuberant television host on CNBC almost always supports financial investment groups. He was quite frank this past weekend about Bain's history under Mitt Romney's leadership. He was asked about whether Cory Booker had dome any lasting damage to the Obama campaign.
Romney’s known as a job destroyer, not a job creator. I just don’t think that this will stick. I think Bain sticks. I think the idea that you bring in Bain, which is what happened in the 80s, they fire a lot of people and that’s how they get prosperity for the rich. That is a more resonant theme, I think, than anything Romney’s come up with.
The issue itself would arguably be unfair for the Obama campaign to bring up at all. The Romney public record is well established. He was the Governor of Massachusetts for four years.
The Romney campaign has trumpeted the Bain experience as a predictor of how Mitt Romney would conduct the executive branch if he is elected President. He boasts that he created 100,000 jobs as head of Bain. In previous campaigns the boast was 10,000 but why quibble over mere numbers?
The real question is this. If the Bain record is put forward as a reason to vote for Romney, why can it not be put forward as a reason to vote against him? Here is why the original Booker equivalency falls apart:
Barack Obama has emphatically disowned Jeremiah Wright. And Mitt Romney has never indicated the slightest indication that he shares the position that his church maintained until 1978, that people with Obama's skin color are spiritually inferior to white folks. So religion is considered pretty much out of bounds. When you renounce an association, that renunciation ought to be respected.
If Mitt Romney seriously argues that his leadership of Bain Capital should not be a topic of debate, his case will become compelling the moment he renounces Bain Capital. He can simply turn his back on that part of his record. An apology to those workers Mitt Romney fired would solidify his position.
As a partisan Democrat, I point that out in all sincerity.
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