Michael Barbaro and Ashley Parker write for the New York Times
Campaign advisers to former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, stung by unexpectedly fierce attacks from Republican rivals on his career as a corporate buyout specialist, are scrambling to avoid a prolonged and nasty battle over his business record before it does lasting damage to the front-runner.
Mitt’s problems is that he wants to run as a jobs-creating businessman, but his actual record at the helm of Bain Capital is secret, and apparently will remain so. So, Mittens is running on bullshit.
The campaign intends to cast Mr. Romney, a founder and a former chief executive of Bain Capital, as a defender of market capitalism, a bedrock principle of Republicanism, and to suggest that those who assail his business background are outside the party’s mainstream.
In his victory speech Tuesday night, Mr. Romney lamented that “desperate Republicans” were attacking the free enterprise system and the very notion of success.
“This is such a mistake for our party and for our nation,” he said. “The country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy.”
But he’s been going around claiming to have created a hundred thousand jobs, sometimes tens of thousands of jobs, sometimes hundreds of thousands of jobs, and he can’t prove it. (The number appears to vary with Romney’s mood; sort of like the number of known communists Joe McCarthy used to claim were in the State Department.) Keach Hagey writes for Politico that Romney’s time at Bain Capital is in a “black box.” Attempts by journalists to get any kind of data whatsoever from Bain have been solidly unsuccessful. Bain won’t even tell journalists where its money is invested.
“Bain, even for a private equity firm, is particularly private,” said Josh Kosman, author of “The Buyout of America: How Private Equity Is Destroying Jobs and Killing the American Economy.” “Most private equity firms are because once you look behind the numbers, there is much they don’t want you to see.”
And the fact is, the number of net jobs Mitt’s work at Bain might have created, or uncreated, might be a figure that even Bain can’t pin down. They keep track of how much money they are making for investors, not whether they are creating jobs.
Some reporters have managed to get information by other means –
Reporters have produced a steady stream of human stories and case studies … such as The New York Times’s report on how Bain squeezed big payouts from medical company Dade Behring even as it headed for layoffs and bankruptcy, or Reuters’s tale of how Bain managed to make money from its purchase of a Kansas steel mill that ultimately had to have its pension fund bailed out by the government.
So, at least some news outlets are trying. And this is a hopeful sign. In 2000, George W. Bush got away with calling himself a successful businessman when he had been anything but. But the GOP was solidly with Dubya, keeping his back and fluffing up his record. Mittens doesn’t have that advantage. And I think it’s also the case that in the past dozen years the rise of political bloggers has made professional media a little more alert.
There is some talk that airing Mittens’s dirty laundry now may help him later, but frankly I don’t see how. If the image of Romney as a vampire squid solidifies in the public mind it would take inordinate charm to overcome that, and Mittens doesn’t have inordinate charm.