Mitt Romney went on the Today Show yesterday to defend himself against Newt Romney’s scorched-earth attack on Bain Capital, and while talking with my long-ago colleague Matt Lauer, suggested that all this talk about his record at Bain is just so much jealousy from folks who are envious of his success.
Greg Sargent provides the transcript:
ROMNEY: You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare. When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent, and those people who have been most successful will be in the one percent, you have opened up a wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God. The American people, I believe in the final analysis, will reject it.
LAUER: Are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though?
ROMNEY: I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like. But the president has made it part of his campaign rally. Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It’s a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach and I think it will fail.
As Paul Krugman said, “Trickle-down economics has now become shut-your-trap economics.”
I’m just a filthy unwashed blogger, so I can say what Matt Lauer can’t.
Who the fuck are you, Mitt, to say what we can and can’t talk about in a fucking presidential campaign?
I know it would be great if people just worshipped you for your very real managerial and analytical skills (which, by the way, I have previously acknowledged) without getting into all that uncomfortable stuff about how you made money off of companies where your managerial decisions were, shall we say, not optimal for the long-term survival of those companies. But that just ain’t how it works.
People are still pissed off that Wall Street crashed our economy, got bailed out, and acts as if we should be grateful they deign to allow us to live here still, and your wealth comes, in quite a few cases, from deals which wound up with everybody but Bain suffering. You may think that’s a subject for quiet rooms, but I guarantee you that’s not how it’s going to play out.
Mark Halperin (America’s worst pundit!) suggests this morning that Mitt Romney’s ability to kill off the lilliputian opponents who have dared oppose him in the GOP Primaries suggest that he is a far more formidable opponent than Democrats, or Obama, give him credit for.
[Romney’s] team has spent the better part of a year gathering material to use against the President once the primaries are over. Among the most promising: putting a human face on the nation’s grim economic statistics.
Wow – what an original concept. I’m sure David Axelrod will be paralyzed when he hears about that cunning tactic.
This is going to be a close election, although Halperin, who, as Alex Pareene archly notes, “…is so dedicated to being wrong about everything that, upon his return to the airwaves, he actually made a point of mentioning that, had he been on TV during his suspension, he would’ve been wrong about something,” makes me feel more confident about Obama’s chances the more he puffs up Romney’s political bona fides. But a discussion of capitalism’s excesses was already underway, thanks to Occupy Wall Street, and now legitimized by Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. E.J. Dionne:
…Romney’s defense of his work as a venture capitalist is one of the truly authentic parts of an otherwise heavily scripted campaign. He speaks with genuine passion when he accuses his conservative opponents of putting “free enterprise on trial.”
But that goes to the heart of the matter: “Free” for whom and under what circumstances? Capitalists of Romney’s sort never want to acknowledge how much their ability to make money depends on what government does. How does it structure the laws related to property, taxation and debt? What rules does it write on how companies can be acquired and how power within firms is apportioned among shareholders, employees, managers and other stakeholders? These are not natural laws. They are the work of politicians and the lobbyists who influence them.
Which leads to this observation from Gingrich: “I think there’s a real difference,” he said, “between people who believed in the free market and people who go around, take financial advantage, loot companies, leave behind broken families, broken towns, people on unemployment.”
Steve Jobs was, when he died, far richer than Mitt Romney, and people weren’t envious of his wealth, because they understood where it came from and what it was he got paid for. Romney got rich in what people will come to understand was a rigged game – rigged in the same way the investment banks rigged their world in the run-up to the 2008 financial collapse. Those wounds are still fresh, and that unfairness will be tattooed on Mitt Romney’s forehead by a competent political campaign, and trust me, Barack Obama’s got one of those.
There will be no quiet rooms for Mitt Romney on his history at Bain Capital. Only the cacophony of a presidential campaign, where he won’t be defending vulture capitalism to those who are inclined to accept it, but to voters he needs who are deeply suspicious of it to begin with.