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The Romney Campaign’s Obsession with Tu Quoque
July 17th, 2012

I mentioned earlier the weirdness of Romney defending his decision to not release more of his tax returns by retorting that Obama hasn’t released Fast and Furious documents–which is a strange argument since Romney clearly believes Obama should release more Fast and Furious documents.

Now the Romney campaign has sent out a press release saying, “If Bain is so bad, why did you take $120,000 in campaign cash [from them]?” The gist of Romney’s argument being that Bain gave $120K to Obama and he took the green, so how bad could Bain really be.

Which is fine; it’s a clever argument. Except for one thing–the Romney campaign has been attacking Obama for taking big money donations from fat-cat businesses who (the inference is) profit by gaming the system. Sample Romney press release:

“If you’re a political donor to Barack Obama, you’re going to do fine because you’re going to get a payoff. If you’re a middle class worker, you’re in jeopardy, you’re facing a layoff. ” (7/15)

Which puts Romney in the same place with Bain that he is with his tax returns. Instead of making a coherent argument on his own behalf, the Romney campaign pounds the table and says, Tu quoque. Which traps them, because either Bain is perfectly admirable and all Americans should be proud of the company, or Bain is just another business looking to buy influence so it can profit by gaming the system. (For instance, I don’t know how credible this story is, but here’s an allegation that Bain was taking taxpayer money in New Mexico for the kind of government program most conservatives probably find wasteful and distasteful.)

My suspicion is that over the course of a long campaign, eventually these sorts of rhetorical problems can catch up with a candidate–especially if he’s not a particularly deft and intuitive politician.

The Romney operation must have better answers than tu quoque. If they don’t, then they’re really rolling the dice on the November vote being a pure up-or-down referendum on Obama. Maybe that will work out for them. But that can’t be a high-percentage play.



Romney’s Stoppage Time at Bain
July 16th, 2012

Last Friday’s revelation that Mitt Romney was technically (or, “technically”) still CEO of Bain Capital from February 1999 to 2002 probably doesn’t mean much. In the grand scheme of things, the fact that Romney was still listed as being CEO and still signing corporate documents will probably fade in the face of the reality that he was professionally checked out from the gig and not doing much more beyond figurehead duties.

That said, the incident does provide another couple datapoints about Romney.

First, why is February 1999 the line in the sand? Is Romney suggesting that everything Bain did pre-2/99 was hunky-dory but that some of the stuff that came after it might have been problematic? If Bain is an admirable outfit and nothing that it did should give voters pause, then what does it matter to Romney? Shouldn’t he be willing to own everything that the company did even when he was only “technically” the CEO?

More importantly, the manner of Romney’s departure from Bain reminds me of how he got started with the company. Romney had the sweetest deal ever for a risk-taking entrepreneur: The idea for the business was not his. The money for the start-up was not his. If the start-up failed, he was promised that he could have his old job back, at an increased salary. And he was explicitly promised that if the start-up failed, his old company would make up a public excuse absolving him from personal failure. This isn’t a criticism–Romney succeeded and his company did great. It’s just worth remembering that even by the standards of successful millionaire entrepreneurs, Romney’s life has been highly atypical. He managed to wind up in a situation where whether he failed or succeeded, he’d do very, very well for himself.

(If I were cutting ads for Obama, I’d argue that this was synecdoche for the entire Bain business.)

In any event, here Romney is in February 1999 and he’s off to save the Olympics and maybe use that to springboard into politics and it’s a dicey proposition. And yet, Romney’s not working without a net. Because he’s still “technically” CEO of Bain Capital and if things don’t work out . . . well, he’ll be okay.

I don’t mean to make too much of this–at that stage in his career (or any stage, really), Romney was going to be okay no matter what. He was connected and wealthy and didn’t need a CEO fig-leaf to provide him with financial/professional security. But I do wonder what this says about Romney’s inherent approach to risk and how that would translate to the presidency.

Bonus Romney: In defending his decision not to release more of his tax returns, Romney decided to go with this approach:

He said his own campaign was happy to compare itself with Obama’s administration on transparency, citing president’s use of executive privilege to withhold documents related to the botched Fast and Furious program.

Wait–so unless I’m translating this wrong, Romney says he isn’t going to release his tax returns because Obama hasn’t released Fast and Furious documents. And two wrongs make a right. Or something.



George Lopez. Mitt Romney. Identity Politics.
July 15th, 2012

George Lopez clearly doesn’t know much about politics in general, or Mitt Romney in particular. Last night he joked (?) that Mitt Romney “ain’t going to get” the Latino vote because he’s “a f–king Latino and he won’t admit it.”

If Romney could credibly claim some significant portion of Mexican heritage for himself, he’d never shut up about it. And the same goes for every other single politician working in America right now. Pols in both parties are dying to cut into the Hispanic vote and catch it before it aligns semi-permananently and, so far, about the only appeal any of them have figured out is identity politics.

What world is Lopez living in where he thinks on-the-make politicians go out of their way to shun identity politics?


In Praise of Mitt Romney
May 15th, 2012

He really lends himself well to Auto-Tuning.

Also, he likes lakes.


Obama. Wilson. Romney.
March 23rd, 2012

Ben Domenech lays the wood in the Transom this morning:

Barack Obama is a Wilsonian. Not in the progressive policy sense, though that argument can certainly be advanced. I mean in method: he is a lecturer. He is best before a crowd, prepped with soaring rhetoric and planned oratory, adopting the role of the inspirational academic, the professor who made everyone love learning as a freshman but who, upon reconsideration, didn’t actually teach you that much. You see the continued faith in this method of politics as extended book tour illustrated in Obama’s response to the near-crisis price of gas: another speaking tour in front of varied photo ops to make the argument that yes, we are drilling, and no, if we drill more it won’t solve anything, and anyway it’s not my fault.

It’s a reminder that this White House has more profound faith in a president’s personal ability to advance any cause than any since Wilson himself. The problem is that the history of this high opinion of onstage magnetism is very uneven, and it ultimately proved Wilson’s undoing. Consider September 1919, as described by David Pietrusza: “Wilson had once admitted that though he had trouble speaking one on one with anyone, he could convince virtually any crowd, and indeed had accomplished that throughout his career – as a teacher, university president, governor, and president. When he could not spellbind an audience – as he could not at Versailles and with small groups of senators – failure beckoned. Wilson decided to orate the League of Nations into existence, circumventing opposing senators, embarking on a grand whistle-stop tour designed to directly sway tens of thousands of their constituents… he commenced a grueling 22-day 9,981 mile speaking tour designed to save his League. He was not up to it.” Wilson’s health gave out, his speeches fell flat, and he went from someone likely running for a third term at the beginning of the tour to the sickbed by the end of it. At some point, the people tire of the lectures, and they become an ineffectual drag (as Clemenceau said of Wilson, he “talks like Jesus Christ, and acts like Lloyd George.”)  But the American people did re-elect Wilson before they tired of him, in 1916, by the narrowest of margins (277 electoral votes, 3,800 votes in California being the difference). He was helped by the fact that his Republican opponent, Charles Evans Hughes, was a politically unskilled prevaricator of the first order who attempted to be all things to all people, always on both sides of an issue depending on which audience he spoke to – to the point that the press gave him the nickname “Charles Evasive Hughes.” He was rather like an Etch a Sketch.

Just go ahead and subscribe already.

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Mitt Romney: In the general election, I’m not going to do all that negative stuff that I haven’t been doing for the last six months.
March 6th, 2012

I’m not quite sure how to interpret this statement from our new insect overlord:

I’m not going to say outrageous things about the president or about my opponents. It gets headlines and a lot of excitement, and it gets you, by the way, a number of days in the polls to get a nice little bump. But I’m going to talk about the real issues Americans face and talk with respect about people who have differing views. I’m not going to attack them personally. I mean, I know that’s fun, but it’s just not productive.

On the one hand, maybe this is a promise that, as I’ve long suspected, Romney won’t be willing to take after President Obama the way he was, say Rick Perry. Or Newt Gingrich. Or Rick Santorum.

But on the other hand, he’s suggesting that his campaign of the last half year never actually happened. Does he really think so little of the intelligence of voters? (Yeah, yeah, I know. If “the voters” were as smart as Mitt Romney, then they’d be worth $250 million, too.)

Then, on the third hand, it’s just politics and politicians–including Mitt Romney and a bunch of guys both better and worse–will say anything. That’s what they do. But on the fourth hand, most good politicians try not to be so obvious about it.

But hey–lots of Smart Analysts keep telling us that Romney is the best chance to win in November.

You know it would be great if someone was keeping a clip file for recriminations on the off-chance that Romney is the nominee and loses the general election. . .


Romney. Superman. Batman.
February 10th, 2012

I’ve never met James Pethokoukis. I only know him by his work, which I generally admire.

But it would be nice if he would get out of my head.

Seriously. It’s kind of creepy.

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Romney Pivots to Santorum
February 10th, 2012

The new graphic is not to be missed.

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Romney 2016!
January 24th, 2012

Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that Mitt Romney is not elected president in 2012–either because he loses the nomination or wins the nomination, but loses to President Obama. What would you guess the odds are of him putting himself forward again in 2016? Here’s Galley Reader D.R. laying down an early line:

Odds he runs again if Obama is the lame-duck incumbent?  2:1

Odds he takes on an incumbent President Gingrich for the nomination (while labeling him a “career politician who’s spent the last 4 years in Washington”)?  Even money.

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Romney. Bain. Vanity Fair.
January 20th, 2012

Amidst the attempted hit job is a story which, if accurate, is an interesting lens through which to view Romney’s political career.

P.S. On Laura Ingraham’s show this morning, Romney said the following about Gingrich:

“[Gingrich] has a message that he’ll carry,” Romney said. “I think the great difference between the two of us is that he spent the last 30 or 40 years either being an elected official in Washington or being a person that connects people in Washington—a lobbyist, if you will. And I just can’t imagine that the United States of American is going to replace a Washington politician with another Washington politician.”

It’s completely fair to characterize Gingrich as a “Washington politician,” but it’s much less accurate to label Obama as the same. Obama is actually a counter-example of what can happen when you drop a true political outsider into the presidency.


Romney as Skrull King
January 19th, 2012

I recommend this Peter Suderman piece on Romney not (just) for the text, but for the clever picture embedded. There are levels.

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Romney in the Morning
January 7th, 2012

Experience the excitement of a Mitt Romney rally at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday–without having to be there.

It’s called “service journalism.”

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