Robert Costa reports more details on Mitt Romney’s plan to counter attacks on his Bain Capital record:
On an afternoon conference call, Ed Gillespie, a senior Romney adviser, echoed that message. “We’ll make sure the facts get out there,” he said, including the fact that when GST Steel declared bankruptcy in 2001, Romney was two years removed from Bain Capital and running the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“There were successes and there were failures; that’s the nature of the private marketplace,” Gillespie said, reflecting on Romney’s role. He acknowledged that some employees may have lost their jobs due to Bain’s management, but only because the firm wanted to grow and sustain the business — not because it wanted to fire workers.
“This White House and president don’t really understand the nature of the private sector,” Gillespie said. Instead of backing away from Romney’s time at Bain, he continued, the campaign will highlight Romney’s successes in the coming weeks, from his leadership at Staples and the Sports Authority to his involvement with Steel Dynamics, a company that, Patrick Brennan reports, grew under Bain Capital’s supervision, building new plants in the late 1990s.
The Obama campaign is starting to roll out its attacks on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, including the predictable emotional testimony from workers who were laid off by companies Bain was trying to save from collapse. The campaign’s newest ad is powerful, though it’s already old news if you followed Newt Gingrich’s nearly identical attacks on Romney during the primaries.
But while Romney seemed blindsided by Gingrich’s (unsuccessful) anti-Bain assault, he’s clearly ready for this attack line from Obama. There are already doubts being raised about the facts in the ad, which implies that Romney was at Bain when GST Steel went under. But as the Christian Science Monitor reports, he had already left the company:
Plus, the ad elides some facts: Romney left Bain shortly after it acquired GST Steel, though he continued to receive profits from Bain payouts. He wasn’t around when GST went under. Also, it was an era when cheap foreign imports were hitting U.S. steel firms hard, in general. It’s not clear whether GST would have survived in any case.
And some conservatives say the Obama team rolled out this line of attack too early. It gives the Romney camp plenty of time to respond prior to November.
Today’s New York Times story on Bain Capital and China is a perfect example of how Mitt Romney’s ties to the firm will continue to be a headache for him, even when everyone agrees he has done nothing wrong and is not responsible for any questionable behavior.
That is the case with this story, in which long after Romney left Bain, a company fund purchased a Chinese company that supplies the Chinese government with cameras that are almost certainly being used, in part, to monitor and suppress dissidents. This particular story, however, is not about protecting dissidents but rather tying Romney to Bain’s activity. Romney’s family has a blind trust that has holdings in the fund that bought the Chinese company, though by definition the family had no say in the investment. Though the headline targets Romney, here are a few quotes from throughout the story that Romney’s detractors should keep in mind:
I don’t care how many Cadillacs Mitt Romney owns, how many earmarks he requested, or how many individual mandates he approved. This is an extraordinary man.
We first heard about it in the 2008 campaign: how Romney saved the teenaged daughter of a Bain Capital colleague in 1996. Here’s what Mitt did when he learned the girl had gone missing after sneaking from her home in Connecticut to a party in New York City: he shut down the whole office and flew the staff from Boston to New York; he had fliers printed up and got employees at Duane Reade (in which Bain invested) to stuff one into every customer’s bag; he set up a phone hotline; he personally, along with his Bain people and their New York accountants and lawyers, pounded the city’s pavements looking for the girl and asking teenagers if they’d seen her. After a few days of all this – and the publicity it generated – they traced the hotline call of someone asking for a reward and found the girl, who had overdosed on Ecstasy, in the basement of a New Jersey home.
Here are two sentences that buttress the argument of those of us who said Newt Gingrich was temperamentally unfit to be president by virtue of his chronic indiscipline, erratic style and lack of philosophical grounding. It comes from Michael Moore, perhaps the most visible and harshest American critic of capitalism in the last couple of decades.
In commenting on Newt Gingrich’s assault on Bain Capital specifically and capitalism more broadly, here is what Mr. Moore said: “I wondered who they stole from my crew. It was fun to hear what I have been saying for 20 years, not just by any Republican candidate, but Newt Gingrich.”
Say goodnight, Newt.
I’ll be very interested in tonight’s GOP presidential debate, in part to see if Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry go after Mitt Romney based on his association with Bain Capital. I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to avoid the topic (Gingrich did during his appearances in South Carolina on Sunday). Why? Because it’s clear the attacks on Bain — which conservatives rightly understood as an assault on enterprise and democratic capitalism — backfired badly on both men. They’ve been pounded by non-RINOs like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Michelle Malkin, James Taranto, Charles Murray, Mark Steyn, National Review, Club for Growth, and many more.
The tack taken by Gingrich and Perry qualifies as one of the more inexplicable campaign decisions I can recall; the product, if one wants to be generous, of desperation. (The “King of Bain” video may be the most comical piece of campaign propaganda I have ever seen, something you’d expect from a person with Michael Moore’s views and one-tenth of his talent. It has been utterly destroyed by fact checkers.)
Does this serve any practical purpose, beyond a face-saving move for Newt Gingrich? The ad has already been running in South Carolina since Thursday, and even if “Winning Our Future” agrees to take it off TV, it’s still enshrined on the internet for the rest of time. I guess it takes the force out of the charges now that Gingrich is conceding a lot of them are inaccurate – but is it enough to make much of a difference between now and the primary?
On a related note, check out the New York Times’s lede on this story. What’s the chance they would have published a story this sympathetic to Mitt Romney if the ad was put out by “Priorities USA” instead of a pro-Newt group?
Something seems to be chipping away at Romney’s poll numbers in South Carolina, but right now it’s still anybody’s guess what that is. The anti-Bain ads should be a top suspect, but several media outlets trekked to the South Carolina town that was apparently devastated by Bain’s “vulture capitalism,” and found that most people they talked to barely even remembered the company. The New York Times reports:
In a new barrage of political advertisements and speeches here, three of Mr. Romney’s opponents in South Carolina’s primary on Jan. 21 have used Gaffney and Bain’s business practices in other communities across the country as a kind of battering ram to portray him as a job-destroying robber baron. …
There is a problem, though. Here in Gaffney, where deeply held Christian beliefs often matter more than jobs, few remember the Holson Burnes photo album plant, let alone the devastation its closing is alleged to have caused back in 1992. …
At The Gaffney Ledger, a newspaper established in 1894 that seems to cover everything from stolen mopeds to the Y.M.C.A. basketball league, the publisher, Cody Sossamon, looked through old microfilm to refresh his memory. He could not find one drop of ink that was spent on the factory closing.
“Nobody here really cares about that. It wasn’t a big deal,” Mr. Sossamon said. “We’re looking for a new school superintendent. That and the economy are what people really care about right now.”
After a week of increasingly harsh attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record, Newt Gingrich may have finally recognized he has gone too far. According to Politico, when asked to reconsider his attempt to brand the Republican frontrunner as a “predatory capitalist” by a Rick Santorum supporter at a South Carolina event, Gingrich admitted it was a mistake:
“I’m here to implore one thing of you. I think you’ve missed the target on the way you’re addressing Romney’s weaknesses. I want to beg you to redirect and go after his obvious disingenousness about his conservatism and lay off the corporatist versus the free market. I think it’s nuanced,” Dean Glossop, an Army Reservist from Inman, S.C., said.
“I agree with you,” Gingrich said. “It’s an impossible theme to talk about with Obama in the background. Obama just makes it impossible to talk rationally in that area because he is so deeply into class warfare that automatically you get an echo effect. … I agree with you entirely.”
But it remains to be seen whether supporters of the former speaker will get with the program.
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mike Huckabee, who rushed to John McCain’s defense in the flap over Mitt Romney’s position on an Iraq withdrawal date and bashed Romney this morning, is in a head-to-head battle now with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for the VP slot. A quick look at the Florida papers this morning shows that aside from the “Obama Clubs Hillary” stories, it is the Crist endorsement news that grabs the big headlines. The Miami Herald goes with that headline as well, and comments that by raising the Iraq timetable issue McCain “succeeded in putting his opponent on the defensive.” The St. Petersburg Times added its endorsement.
I would agree for reasons stated here that the Crist endorsement is very meaningful, even though many voters have already cast ballots. Whether warranted or not, the McCain team thinks their man has the momentum. Unfortunately for the poll-obsessed among us, polls at this stage may not shed much light on where the race is heading. As we saw with the weekend debate before New Hampshire’s primary and the Hillary big cry, the impact of significant news happenings a day or two before election day generally don’t show up in final polling.
Meanwhile, on the economic front, the Boston Globe offers up this piece on the realities of the turnaround efforts of Mitt Romney’s multi-billion-dollar firm Bain Capital, which unsurprisingly focused on profits and efficiency, not jobs. The story includes this John Edwards-esque comment from a Romney spokesman: “Governor Romney is not critical of companies that have to reduce their workforce in order to remain competitive. He is critical of Washington politicians who throw up their hands in despair and say there’s nothing we can do about it . . . Governor Romney can’t promise that he will bring back lost jobs, but he can guarantee that he will fight for every job.” Because “fighting” is what really matters, I suppose.
At first blush, this seems like a genuinely great campaign ad — the story of how Mitt Romney basically closed down his business, Bain Capital, in 1996 when the daughter of one of his partners went missing in New York City and Romney sent dozens and finally hundreds of employees to New York to engage in a massive search through the streets for her. It was indeed a selfless and noble thing to do. However, the ad implies Melissa Gay had been kidnapped or something equally sinister, and that is not what happened. As a quick search of the New York Times and Boston Globe archives reveals, she went missing after she traveled to New York from Ridgefield, Conn., on her own, took Ecstasy at a concert on Randalls Island, ended up at a party under the Whitestone Bridge in The Bronx, met a boy there who took her to his house in New Jersey, and stayed with him for a few days, too embarrassed (I would wager) to call her parents and have them come get her. No charges were filed against the boy, which suggests her presence in his house was consensual. I’m sure it was a nightmarish time for her parents, and it was unquestionably was a noble thing Romney did to step in and direct the resources of his firm, including its employees, to search for her. But a) she wasn’t in need of “saving” in the way the ad’s narrative implies and b) there’s no evidence in the open record that the Bain Capital search, wonderfully well-intentioned, was responsible for Melissa’s safe return to her family. UPDATE: There is some contention in the comments below that indeed Melissa Gay was in danger from an Ecstasy overdose. That does not comport with the contemporaneous record. According to the Boston Herald on the day after she was found, “The hunt went on until a family in Montville, N.J., heard of it and called police later to say Missy was with them and fine.” An overdosing teenager is not “fine,” but Melissa evidently was, and probably knew her parents’ home phone number. And, for the record, I am not, nor have I ever been, an adviser to the Giuliani campaign, paid or unpaid.
On Friday, 3Com announced that it had agreed to be acquired. Bain Capital, the Boston-based private-equity firm, will take about 80 percent of the struggling computer networking pioneer. China’s Huawei Technologies is slated to purchase the remaining portion.
The deal faces a national security review in Washington by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States. CIFUS should turn down the proposed transaction on general principles. Huawei, which Newsweek once described as “a little too obsessed with acquiring advanced technology,” should not be allowed to make any sizable acquisition of sensitive American assets.
3Com’s technology, if shared with Huawei, would help China eavesdrop on U.S. domestic conversations. Moreover, the American company’s encryption technology would make China’s networks less vulnerable to foreign surveillance. Just last year 3Com ended its joint venture with Huawei. Now the Chinese company wants the 3Com technology that it does not already possess.