Jewish World Review June 27, 2012/ 7 Tamuz, 5772
Romney 'Between Fear and Greed'
By Roger Simon
The Romney campaign sends out an email titled, "Not the Week of Headlines President Obama Was Looking For."
Last week, the email contained 13 stories that included:
CNBC: "Job Openings Report Shows Market Is ... Really, Really Bad."
Bloomberg News: "Americans Hold Dimmest View on Economic Outlook in Five Months."
The Washington Post: "Everybody's Moving Into Their Parents' Basements."
The Obama campaign similarly posts negative stories about Romney.
The campaigns like to use the media's reporting under the (possibly dubious) theory that people trust the media more than they trust campaigns.
If so, the last few days have been far rougher on Romney than on Obama. Three major news organizations published major stories calling into question Romney's behavior while running Bain Capital.
Even though, as I pointed out recently, businessmen historically have made lousy presidents, Romney's main qualification to be president rests largely on his performance at Bain, a private equity firm (it bought other companies) that he co-founded and ran for nearly 15 years, making a fortune in the process.
Romney also ran the 2002 Winter Olympics, which he often talks about, and served a single term as governor of Massachusetts. He rarely talks about the latter, largely because of the health care plan he instituted there, which became a model for Obama's health care plan and is today unpopular with Romney's Republican base.
While Romney would like to make the election about Obama's performance as president, Romney must also make the case that he would do better. He tries to make that case by stressing his accomplishments at Bain and all the good he did there by creating jobs for Americans.
"The president's a nice guy, but he's never had a job in the private sector," Romney often says. "He's never created a job. I think it helps to have had a job to create a job."
But did he create jobs? And where did he create them? Here or in Asia?
Last Thursday, Tom Hamburger wrote a story in The Washington Post headlined, "Romney's Bain Capital Invested in Companies That Moved Jobs Overseas."
The story began: "Mitt Romney's financial company, Bain Capital, invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India."
The next day, Michael Luo and Julie Creswell published a story in The New York Times under the headline, "Companies' Ills Did Not Harm Romney's Firm."
The key paragraph in the story stated that of the 40 U.S. companies in which Bain held a majority stake during Romney's tenure, "at least seven eventually filed for bankruptcy while Bain remained involved, or shortly afterward. ... In some instances, hundreds of employees lost their jobs. In most of those cases, however, records and interviews suggest that Bain and its executives still found a way to make money."
Two days after that, Michael Kranish and Beth Healy of the Boston Globe published a story headlined, "The Story Behind Romney and the Junk Bond King."
The junk bond king was the infamous Michael Milken, who headed Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. and ended up being sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $600 million in fines and restitution for securities fraud.
At the time of Romney's financial dealings with Milken, the Globe reported, "it was widely known that Milken and his company were under federal investigation, yet Romney decided to go ahead with the deal ... saying, "It was fun while it lasted."
Romney used the money he got from Milken's company "to turn a $10 million investment into a $175 million profit for himself, his partners and his investors."
The killer quotation in the story comes from Marc Wolpow, "a former Drexel employee who was involved in the deal and later was hired by Romney to work at Bain Capital."
"Mitt, I think, spent his life balanced between fear and greed," Wolpow said. "He knew that he had to make a lot of money to launch his political career."
The Romney campaign has mounted a defenses to these stories, but its greatest luck so far is that the public often does not focus on stories that are both lengthy and deal with complex financial matters.
People often demand that the media dig out the "truth" rather than just deal in "he said/ she said" stories, but the public has to be willing to read, listen and absorb the truth.
You can lead the public to water, but you can't make it drink.
Yet the Romney campaign has to be worried about how many more shoes are going to drop. After a while, the public develops an impression of a candidate, even if it doesn't follow the details behind that impression.
Those people who think this election is going to be determined by the unemployment figure released on the Monday before Election Day are wrong. You can't beat an incumbent president with a statistic. You have to beat him with a better choice.
And if that choice is between Obama and the guy who balanced his life between "fear and greed," then Obama has a real chance.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate