The attacks on Mitt Romney’s business career from his Republican opponents are getting nastier. The knives are out as supporters of Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry are trying to label Romney as a “predatory capitalist” who looted companies and put people out of work while making millions at Bain Capital. The spectacle of right-wingers blasting a venture capitalist they also deem insufficiently conservative as unfit for office because he oppressed the working class in the service of wealthy investors is comical if not ironic.
The charges are largely false. Romney’s efforts to build new companies and resuscitate dying ones created more jobs than were lost. But conservatives justify these absurd attacks because they claim the Democrats will say even worse about Romney this fall, rendering him unelectable. Yet the reasoning here is faulty. It is true President Obama’s campaign staff will do their best to demagogue Romney on his business record. But do Republicans think this issue, which allows Romney to highlight his success as a job creator and expertise on an economy that Obama can’t match, makes the GOP any more vulnerable this fall than the even more glaring weaknesses Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Perry possess?
As the Wall Street Journal reports today, Romney’s record at Bain is eminently defensible. While it is true Obama will bash Romney endlessly as a quintessential Wall Street capitalist, surely even the frontrunner’s GOP critics understand that any Republican will be skewered as the handmaiden of Wall Street. The president has clearly signaled he intends to run to the left this year by attacking Congress and big business in the name of the 99 percent the Occupy Wall Street protesters talk about. So it’s no secret Romney’s actions at Bain will be depicted as indicative of the heartless capitalism Democrats supposedly deplore. But contrary to the claims of those conservatives who claim Romney is especially vulnerable to this line of attack, the former venture capitalist is actually far better equipped to fight back against left-wing demagoguery than any of his opponents.
Unlike Gingrich or Santorum, let alone Perry, Romney actually can explain to the voters why some companies fail and others succeed. Rather than his business career being an electoral liability, it provides him with the intellectual wherewithal to put forward a coherent position on economic issues that no other Republican or President Obama can match. If the election this year is to be decided via a clear choice between a man who created wealth and one who is merely interested in scapegoating wealth creation, then Republicans should feel fairly confident they would come out on top.
The attacks on Romney’s record being financed by wealthy Gingrich supporters are not about vetting a would-be Republican candidate but an effort at exacting revenge for the negative ads published about the former speaker. Unlike the squeaky-clean Romney’s record, Gingrich’s troubling past is an insurmountable obstacle to his election.
Conservatives do have some points they can pound Romney on. He’s vulnerable on health care and social issues which, were he facing stronger opponents, would have ensured his defeat. But for Gingrich’s friends to be playing the “predatory capitalist” card in a vain effort to smear Romney is both hypocritical and absurd. The idea that conservatives would seek to destroy a candidate because he is someone who took in a free enterprise capital venture is the stuff of satire. It won’t help Gingrich or, I suspect, even damage Romney much. But it is testimony to the depths some Romney-haters will sink in their futile effort to destroy him.