31 July 2012
While I prep to watch the latest episode of Breaking Bad, why don't we go for another round of Things This Blog Won't Discuss? You might remember that I did this previously with Ron Paul and Herman Cain — you notice how neither of those guys ended up winning the GOP nomination?
The latest thing this blog is not going to pretend matters is the whole stupid controversy over Barack Obama's "You didn't build that" speech. I mean, forget that it's innocuous in context, forget that Republicans are only getting traction from the quote by dicing up the President's words, forget even that the vast majority of voters open to changing their vote this November are watching Team USA at the Olympics, not campaign commercials. The truth of this is that Americans have this president figured out. If they think he's a decent guy trying hard to get the economy going again, they're going to keep on thinking that. If they think he's an anti-business socialist, then this furore is just gravy. And if they don't spend much time thinking about politics at all, they still have a pretty settled take on the president. Obama has been one of the best known people in America for four years. He is on the news every night. Anyone who was going to develop an opinion on him has developed it by now, and four words clipped from a campaign speech won't change that.
If you're still desperate for a take on You Didn't Build That though, you could do worse than check out David Frum on why the quote rankled business owners so much:
Obama combines two ideas: the familiar and broadly acceptable idea [that your success was made possible by the contributions of others, now you must contribute in turn] — and a second, much more destabilizing idea.
Obama's second idea is that success is to a great extent random, a matter of luck. You think you succeeded because you were smart or hard-working? Listen — a lot of smart and hard-working people don't succeed.
This second idea is not original to the president, obviously. In fact, Friedrich Hayek often made a similar point, suggesting that a big part of capitalism's PR problems originated in the fact that markets did not distribute their rewards according to ordinary ideas of moral deservingness. Yet it's also true that we badly want to believe that success is earned and is deserved. A universe that distributes its rewards randomly is a frightening place — and even worse is the suspicion that success is often seized precisely by the undeserving.
Which is interesting from a philosophical and psychological point of view, but to think that makes it good campaign fodder? The dynamic of this campaign is that the voters up for grabs think Obama is a decent guy, but they're not sure they're happy enough with the economy to risk giving him another four years. They're not wondering if he secretly thinks the government should get all the credit for making the local hamburger joint a success. The idea that they might be is another case of Republicans campaigning to each other, not to the voting public.
31 July 2012
As a vegetarian, proponent of marriage equality and opponent of spicy chicken appearing on breakfast menus I have plenty of reasons of reasons for not eating at Chick-fil-A. Still, it was a little troubling last week to hear Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel publicly state that they would attempt to block the fast-food restaurant from relocating to their respective cities due to the company ownership’s vocal opposition to same-sex marriage. Equally worrisome, was how readily many self-described liberals* celebrated the two men for their comments.
In fairness, Menino admitted he went too far and I’m sure if pressed many people would grudgingly concede that you can’t ban a company simply because you disagree with the politics of the people who run it. Still, none of this excuses such flippant treatment of the First Amendment. When a politician indicates their willingness to subvert free speech rights in the interest of a political cause they should be condemned just as harshly by those who support the cause as those who do not. In this case though, many supporters of marriage equality advocated infringement of one civil right in their defence of another.
This episode illustrates why I find Australia’s failure to explicitly protect these liberties troubling. Majoritarian lawmaking is appropriate in most cases but there are fundamental rights that aren’t up for democratic debate. And, as a citizen, I’d want to know that these rights are guaranteed by something more secure than the mere recognition of a benevolent majority. I’m not an expert on Australian law or politics so if anyone wants to argue the opposite side I’d be happy to hear it. But, it’d be hard to persuade me that it’s appropriate to grant elected officials dominion over the most fundamental rights and liberties.
30 July 2012
I think you're right to mention the animosity a lot of people have for Romney--not just animosity but contempt, at least among a lot of Democratic activists, who have spent a lot of time painting an image of Romney as an absolute joke. (The merits or lack of merits of that image are besides the point.)
That's right, isn't it? One thing underlying the partisanship in American politics over the past few decades is the absolute loathing the out-party has held for the president. The Republican base can't stand Barack Obama, but their loathing is barely greater than that the left held for George W. Bush. Going back further, Republicans despised the philandering, uncultured, '60s-moulded Bill Clinton.
One explanation for this contempt could be that these particular presidents were exceptionally divisive. Clinton represented a new generation of American leaders whose values were decidedly at odds with conservative traditionalism. Bush, meanwhile, won office in an election settled in the Supreme Court, seemed to have found success through nepotism rather than talent, adopted a pugnacious foreign policy approach, and sought to tar his critics as disloyal. And though Obama pitched himself as a conciliator — as Bush had before him — as the first black president, he was always bound to be the target racial animosity.
It initially seemed that a victorious Romney, however, could break this cycle. Think back a year ago, to the nascent days of the Republican primaries. With ideologues and egotists like Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry prowling the political stage, Democrats didn't worry much about Mitt Romney. A moderate governor of a blue state, Romney came off then as dull and safe. His flip-flopping was something more likely to worry the conservative base than Democrats, and his blueblood background cast him as a Republican more Nelson Rockefeller than Barry Goldwater. Sure, Democrats wanted him to lose the election, but surely they couldn't hate the guy?
Twelve months later, that's all changed. Romney's corporate persona has become a locus for liberal concerns about inequality and frustrations over three decades of Reaganesque economic policy. His flip-flopping has the left convinced, not unreasonably, that no matter how moderately he governed Massachusetts, a President Romney would be a faithful exponent of his party's "extreme" conservatism. And his steady stream of gaffes, his awkward impersonableness, and his inability to capitalise on the weaknesses in the economy Obama presides over has convinced Democrats that he's a laughably inept candidate. The left has learned to despise and dismiss Mitt Romney.
I don't think those feelings will dissipate if Romney wins. Democrats have decided Romney is unlikeable, unsympathetic, and unconscionable. I'm not sure President Romney would be seen by partisans as illegitimate, the way many perceived the past few presidents, but I do think his victory would ensure the continuation of the rancour and division that have characterised American politics in recent times.
A friend who is decidedly not a Dem supporter comments:
If Romney wins (which could be a thin margin for either candidate), I think there will be a perception among Democrats and the Left that he will be an 'illegitimate' upset for what was their projected vision of the Obama-led American utopia. The man who broke the Obama trend may create a very bitter and resentful Democratic base.
Good point. Something I didn't think to mention — but should have — is that lots of Democrats would see a 2012 Romney victory as being the result of four years of determined Republican obstructionism. It would be an election won by Mitch McConnell, not Mitt Romney.
26 July 2012
The tragic killing in Auorra, Colorado was on everyone's mind this past week and both Obama and Romney toned down their campaign's out of respect for the vicitms. Meanwhile, New York City Michael Bloomberg called on the candidates to make gun violence a central issue on the campaign trail.
"You know, soothing words are nice, but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be President of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country. And everybody always says, ‘Isn’t it tragic,’ and you know, we look for was the guy, as you said, maybe trying to recreate Batman. I mean, there are so many murders with guns every day, it’s just got to stop. And instead of the two people – President Obama and Governor Romney – talking in broad things about they want to make the world a better place, okay, tell us how."
Romney left Tuesday on seven-day international tour with stops in Britain, Israel and Poland. Romney and Obama both gave speeches at the Veterans of Foreign Wars conference in Reno, Nevada. The President dismissed the notion that America is in decline and attacked his opponent for failing to provide specifics on his plans for Afghanistan. Romney fired back, criticizing proposed defence cuts and calling for an investigation of national security leaks that supposedly came from the White House.
Morgan Freeman gave $1 million to the Democratic Super Pac Priorities USA.
Around the Web
Five observations about the Romney foreign policy doctrine.
Paul Campos says we "shouldn't be surprised" by the shootings in Auora and ponders the lessons we should draw.
"Among other things, this kind of crime highlights the absurdity of “security theater” – the almost wholly symbolic rigmarole to which Americans subject ourselves in a few symbolic places, such as airports, government buildings and the like. Anybody in this country who wants to kill a lot of people in a crowded public space can do so fairly easily. The fact this almost never happens – and that when it does happen the act almost never has a political motive – indicates how wildly overstated the threat of terrorism is in America today."
Andrew Sullivan tells Obama to to be careful to avoid future blunders on the campaign trail.
Romney will be at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies tonight, arrive in Israel on Saturday and get to Poland on Monday.
Trivia: What was the nickname of the short lived Progressive Party that was founded in 1912?
Answer to Last Week's Trivia: Thomas Paine
Fun Fact: Who is the only US president to serve non-consecutive terms?
25 July 2012
The killing of twelve people at a midnight screening of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, early this past Friday has united a nation in grief, yet also divided Americans along predictable lines.
The shooting was made all the more shocking by the everyday nature of the setting: a suburban multiplex on a summer night, showing the latest in a blockbuster franchise — a special treat for holidaying kids, their parents, and twenty-something fans of the superhero series.
A number of movie-goers were in Batman-themed fancy dress, so the tall young man who left the cinema then came back through an emergency exit dressed like a member of a SWAT team didn’t look completely out of place.
Until he set off gas canisters and the shooting on the screen was interrupted by dozens of horribly real gunshots.
Equally disturbing was the meticulous planning by the alleged gunman, 24 year old James Holmes — a high-achieving honours student until a few months ago, when something apparently went very wrong.
Holmes had been a PhD candidate in neuroscience and applied that intelligence to acquiring deadly weapons, armor, a gas mask, and canisters to execute his deadly attack.
He also rigged his apartment with booby traps and reportedly set loud music to a timer — presumably to lure neighbors or police into another deadly ambush.
When he was apprehended, he told the arresting officers he was the Batman character The Joker. His hair and beard had reportedly been dyed red.
While James Holmes is almost certainly suffering from a major mental illness, he is generally being portrayed by the media as a sinister, highly intelligent villain: someone who is evil rather than someone suffering a sickness over which they have no control.
While both President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney cancelled campaign events and have suspended election advertising in Colorado, the politics of such a tragedy are inescapable.
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said that "soothing words are nice" but immediately called on the candidates to "stand up and tell us what they’re going to do about" preventing such shooting incidents.
On Sunday, President Obama travelled to Aurora to meet with some of the victims' families and survivors.
The President asked that Americans focus on the victims and the survivors rather than the perpetrator. "I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, next several months we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country, but also reflect on all the wonderful people who make this the greatest country on earth."
Its difficult to see, however, that this mass shooting will jolt a divided nation into agreement on gun control any more than last year’s Arizona shootings, which claimed six lives and so nearly the life of Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
The massacre at Fort Hood in 2009, which took a dozen lives, and another at Virginia Tech, which claimed 32 lives in 2007 both failed to bridge the fundamental disagreement between those who see guns as the problem and others who see them as their best hope for protection in a violent world.
Although, after Virginia Tech, state laws to try and prevent mentally ill people purchasing guns were tightened.
Ultimately the issue should perhaps be on mental health services to identify and treat those in danger of becoming so removed from reality that there is no longer a barrier to such terrible actions.
But, of course, health care is an even more contentious issue in America these days than gun control.
24 July 2012
The mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, this past Friday was horrific and shocking, but it was also an event that occurs with uncomfortable frequency in American life. The past few years have seen killing sprees committed by lone gunmen in Tucson, Arizona and Fort Hood, Texas, and Blacksburg, Virginia; mass murder in the United States has become something unexpected yet hardly unthinkable. Whatever it is about America that causes the country to experience such tragedies on this recurrent basis — its lax gun laws, its culture, or simply its vastness — it seems to tough to deny that massacres like the one in Colorado have become the kind of awful event that the country cannot expect to be permanently free from.
And yet, of course, mass killings are a terrifying rupture of reality. American life, for most people, is dully peaceful. Most citizens of the United States don't expect to visit the movies and become the target of a crazed gunman, just like others didn't expect to find such violence on a university campus or while meeting their congressional representative. And nor should they. Despite stubborn reminders to the contrary, killing sprees aren't a part of American life.
At times like these, discussion sputters briefly and inevitably to the question of gun control. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg kicked it off this time, saying after the shooting, "Maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it." The same murmurs sounded after Jared Lee Loughner shot — and nearly killed — Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona last year, but not even the near death of a politician could rouse federal representatives to tighten American access to guns. Recriminations flew — as they are flying now — about whether one side or another was "politicising tragedy," gun rights advocates dreamed up macho fantasies in which they could have prevented the situation through superheroic force, and any reforms that might once have occured disintegrate before they get a chance to build up momentum.
Non-Americans in particular watch this process in bemused dismay. Elsewhere in the Western world, people wonder how a society could watch such violent attacks occur again and again without taking what they see as obvious legal remedies to prevent them. Nick O'Malley capably explains the political landscape that prevents gun control measures from taking hold:
If you can't grasp the geography you look to the landmarks. In 1994, Congress approved a 10-year ban on 19 types of military-style assault weapons, a few months later some Democrats blamed the laws on their loss of the House of Representatives.
Five years later, Al Gore, then the vice-president, cast a tie-breaking Senate vote on legislation to restrict sales at gun shows.
Gore lost the 2000 election. Still, since then both Obama and Romney have shown some resolution on guns.
Before the last election Obama advocated closing the loophole that allows for gun purchases without background checks at gun shows, and for reinstating the assault weapons ban.
In April 2008 he described some angry voters of small town America as people who ''cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them as a way to explain their frustrations''.
Bad move, it confirmed the worst for his gun-advocate opponents.
As governor of Massachusetts Romney banned assault rifles in his state. But he has had a change of heart since.
As he prepared for his first presidential run in 2006 Romney became a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, and this year he told the NRA national convention: ''We need a president who will enforce current laws, not create new ones that only serve to burden lawful gun owners.''
Some of this — the vaunted power of the NRA; the willingness of swathes of voters to change their vote over gun rights — might be politicial superstition, but political superstition causes real life paralysis. American politicians have convinced themselves voters will not stand for gun control, and so they will refuse to risk trying to convince those voters they should. But voter backlash isn't the only reason America won't embrace gun control, even when many other countries would.
The other reason is the extent to which gun ownership — legal, unremarkable, and non-controversial gun ownership — is a part of American society. I like to ask Americans after I have met them whether they have ever shot a gun. (I have not.) An unexpected number say they have — and the sorts of people who say they have is unexpected too. Gun owners or users aren't the unhinged hicks of foreign stereotype. A lot of Americans, particularly those out in Western states like Colorado, see gun ownership as part of harmless recreational activity. They're not interested in walking down the street with a Glock strapped to their side; they just like going off into the woods every now and then with their buddies and bagging a few deer.
Whatever my thoughts on hunting, I can't really see the sense in making criminals out of people like this. Nor am I convinced the American populace would believe such people have anything in common with murders and outlaws. In Australia, we could effectively outlaw most firearms because our gun culture was so marginal to our predominantly urban population. The United States is not the same — not yet, anyway.
Which doesn't mean there are not gun control measures it could take, if it wanted. The debate over gun rights in the country has been torn between people who would like to stereotype all gun owners as dangerous ignoramuses and a coterie of vocal Second Amendment true believers, who imagine their right to bear arms should extend limitlessly and that the state's monopoly on force is both oppressive and incompetent. A great many Americans belong to neither category. Perhaps these people might accept the state requiring more stringent background checks on gun owners, stricter licensing laws, or bans on the most destructive weapons. Perhaps such laws might make it harder for alleged killers like James Holmes to inflict their mayhem on the world. They certainly wouldn't deprive any single law-abiding American of the right guaranteed by the Constitution to own and carry a firearm.
19 July 2012
Despite the lousy June job's report Mitt Romney's been the one under intense media scrutiny over two issues.
1. The Obama campaign has been hammering Romney over Bain Capitol's outsourcing of jobs in the late 90's and early 2000's and Romney advisor Ed Gillespie didn't help things with his explanation that Romney had "retroactively retired" before most of the outsourcing occurred. The whole controversy is puzzling to Matthew Yglesias who can't understand why Team Romney isn't seeking to re-frame the debate:
"Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign spent the weekend mired in a tortured dispute over a seemingly absurd question: When is the CEO and sole shareholder of a company he founded not responsible for the actions of the company? The Romney camp’s answer is that it’s unfair to criticize him for offshoring, outsourcing, and layoffs at Bain-controlled companies between 1999 and 2002 because in practice he was on a leave of absence running the Salt Lake Olympics.
These efforts to wriggle out of accountability for a business career that Romney has cited as a key qualification for the presidency are fundamentally lame. The timing of the kerfuffle distracts from the actual substantive question about Romney’s Bain tenure: Did Bain’s management team do anything wrong by shipping jobs overseas when they thought doing so would be profitable? The answer is almost certainly no. Nothing that occurred during the Bain transition period was out of step with the fundamental orientation of the company Romney created and hadn’t yet left. If Romney were a less pathologically risk-averse politician, he would defend what Bain did after 1999 and point out that there’s nothing wrong with companies shifting production offshore."
2. Romney has released his 2010 and 2011 tax returns but has bucked the political norm by refusing to make public a more comprehensive tax record. A growing number of Republicans have called on Romney to release more returns in order to put the political controversy to rest. The controversy has led to speculation over what in Romney's returns is politically damaging enough to warrant such a secretive stance?
Conservatives are jumping on Obama for his statement that the rich claim too much credit for their success.
Around the Web
Norman Ornstein & Thomas Mann present five misconceptions about what's ailing the American political system. Here's the cliff notes.
1. We can't count on the system to fix itself
2. Third parties aren't the answer
3. Ditto for a balanced budget amendment
4. Term Limits won't solve anything
5. Full public financing of elections is not a magic bullet
Ramesh Ponnuru chides his fellow conservatives for their hypocrisy on defence spending:
"The Republican position on federal spending could not be clearer: It doesn’t create jobs. Except when it goes to defense contractors."
I voice my own frustration with fair weather fans of limited government.
Could a technicality undermine the implementation of Obamacare?
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will reportedly be giving the keynote adress at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Trivia: Which political figure is pictured below?
Answer to Last Week's Trivia: Everett Dirksen
Fun Fact: One lucky Republican senator gets to sit in a desk filled with candy.
19 July 2012
Reason TV has an amusing interview with Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn in which he defends a "judicial philosophy" in which laws are upheld or struck down based on seemingly little more than the Senator's own political preferences.
Coburn spends much of the discussion providing a laundry list of federal programs he thinks are unconstitutional; Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, certain department of education programs etc. But then, at 19:30, the interviewer brings up an instance where Coburn is fully onboard the big government bandwagon.
"You were one of the original authors of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act and you cited the Commerce Clause as a justification of that, how does that apply?"
Coburn is now put in the unenviable position of explaining how government regulation of the $2.6 trillion healthcare industry is unconstitutional yet Congress has authority over a minute subsection of that industry.
In an argument that would make even the most ardent living constitutionalist blush, Coburn refers back to the protection of “Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” in The Declaration of Independence.
In other words, he favours a very narrow reading of the Commerce Clause unless it’s protecting some abstract right that he happens to favour. This isn’t a principle defence of limited government; it’s having your cake and eating it too.
It's worth noting that a vaguely similar defence of federal power has support amongst some constitutional scholars. Akhil Amar and Jack Balkin have both argued that the 14th Amendment gave Congress “sweeping powers” to pass laws that according to their discretion protected basic human rights. If this is the type of claim Coburn wants to make there’s plenty of historical evidence to draw on. Of course, doing so would concede that the same argument also justifies a universal healthcare system
19 July 2012
We know how much I love to talk about centrism, right? (And, let's face it, I usually do so in terms not so favourable to centrists.) I have my reasons, however: it's because, in politics, people love to talk about centrists, and their partisan equivalents, independents, but so rarely talk about these creatures accurately.
Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein are spot on, however:
While sizable majorities of survey respondents typically voice antiparty sentiments in response to pollsters’ questions, roughly 90 percent of voters identify with or lean to one of the two major parties. Most self-identified independents are closet partisans. Moreover, these voters view the political and policy worlds through their partisan lenses and loyally support their party’s candidates at the polls. The public has not been immune to the polarizing dynamic that created the wide gulf between the two parties over the past several decades. Pure independents or swing voters make up barely a tenth of the electorate, and their presumed centrism or pragmatism in most cases reflects political disengagement and a lack of knowledge about the parties, candidates or policy choices rather than a considered position in the center. They are classic referendum voters: When times are bad, their instinct is to throw the bums out, not to carefully attribute responsibility or parse alternatives.
I've said such things in this space many times before, but it's worth repeating. It's got to the point where, when I see polls claiming to reveal insight into the minds of "independent voters" I just skip over the results. Little is less useful in determining the state of the electorate.
Meanwhile, David Roberts has some less temperate words on the tribalism of centrists:
My theory is that centrism is a powerful psychological and social temptation, even in the absence of d-bag pundits pushing No Labels. Like I’ve often said, I think of centrism not so much as an ideology — how could it be ideology when it’s defined in relation to two moving targets? — as a temperament, a cultural identity. It springs from the (not entirely unreasonable) sense that partisanship is a kind of psycho-cognitive impairment that causes the sufferer to see only one side of an issue, to seek out only pleasing facts, to engage in motivated reasoning. It renders partisans unable to draw fair conclusions based on evidence. By transcending tribalism, centrists see more clearly.
Or so they like to think. And it’s not hard to see why: It’s a flattering and noble story to tell about oneself. Identity centrists are, nonetheless, human beings, and as such they are as subject to human foibles as the rest of us. Centrists can be as clubby and tribal as anyone. And they are just as prone to motivated reasoning. If you approach every question as a binary to be transcended, you can always find two “sides” to serve the purpose. This frequently manifests in unintentionally hilarious ways around climate change: One side says the Earth is flat, the other side occasionally exaggerates or insufficiently hedges, and the internet is choked with people claiming to be in the “reasonable middle” of that debate, despite sharing 95 percent of the substantive commitments of the latter side. They bend themselves into pretzels to avoid the obvious conclusion that all the reasonable debate is within one side — and they’re in it. Not above. In.
As wary as I try to be of amateur psychoanalysis, this seems pretty accurate to me. The key when talking about centrism and moderation is to remember the difference between ideological extremism and tactical extremism. (I wish I'd enunciated this dichotomy back when I first began talking about this.) The Republican Party is currently overrun by ideological extremists, yes, but the reason they're having such a deleterious effect on the functioning of American government is because they're willing to be tactically extreme: they buck norms, filibuster almost everything, and reject even compromises that give them ninety per cent of what they ask for. In such an environment, its understandable that commentators would desire moderation. But the moderation America needs is tactical moderation. Ideological moderation is neither here nor there — and because it's come to be defined as the sorts of policies promoted by Beltway elites, it's become actively destructive. Ideological opponents can compromise, but only if they aren't tactical extremists.
18 July 2012
It may be a political form of martial art, or perhaps it’s just common sense to attack a rival’s strengths, but certainly Mitt Romney’s central presidential selling point as a business "fixer" now has a large red target painted on it.
The Romney version of his career to date is a simple and compelling narrative: after years on Wall Street turning around ailing businesses, Romney was brought in to save the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games in 1999 and delivered a successful event.
That led to his election as governor of Massachusetts, where he worked with a Democratic majority to get things — including health care — done.
And now he’s running for president as a fixer, a doer — even an economic savior.
It should be a compelling message as America struggles to recover from the longest, deepest economic downturn in eighty years — and for many it is.
But not quite enough.
Only twice since February 2011 has Romney actually led President Obama in the average of national polls; for one week in September last year and for another week in October.
President Obama has held a small but stubborn lead the rest of that time, currently at around 2.5 per cent.
Obama’s done this by taking Romney’s obvious success and turning it into a negative: he’s super-rich, he’s out of touch, he made his money sacking American people and sending jobs off-shore, he doesn’t understand you, he doesn’t care about you.
In recent days, inconsistencies have emerged over when Romney left the venture capital firm he founded, Bain Capital. He’s always said he left in 1999 to work on the Olympics, yet The Boston Globe has revealed filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showing Romney was still in charge in 2002.
This matters because some of the most blatant "off-shoring" of jobs by Bain occurred between 1999 and 2002. Was Romney responsible or not?
It also matters because making a false statement to the SEC is a criminal offense.
Further, Romney has so far refused to release his tax returns for the period, and a web of business interests and overseas bank accounts and shell companies in the Bahamas and the Caymans are helping to create an impression that may be very hard to shift: Mitt Romney is all about making money for Mitt Romney, not ordinary people.
“Mitt Romney is not the Solution,” Obama’s latest attack ad claims. “He’s the Problem.”
There are legitimate questions to be raised over his claim to be a Mr Fix-it, and the Obama campaign clearly thinks they have a winning strategy.
Yet at the same time it’s a bit reminiscent of the highly successful (yet utterly reprehensible) attacks on John McCain in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004 by surrogates of the Bush campaign. McCain, like Kerry four years later, would have his heroic military record turned against him: McCain must be unstable after all those years in the Hanoi Hilton; Kerry dishonored those who died in Vietnam by turning against the war — and probably lied to get his medals anyway.
Which is not to say Mitt Romney is being "Swiftboated" — not yet anyway.
So far it’s just politics, or what has come to be seen as "just politics."
The irony now being that after years of this ridiculous debate over the release of President Obama’s long form birth certificate, it’s Mitt Romney’s tax returns that have become the latest bundle of paper to be in hot demand from the punditry.
Part of Romney’s hesitation to heed the calls to release those tax returns now must be because he surely knows, whatever they reveal (apart from the known-fact that he’s very rich), they wont silence his critics — just as the number of Americans who don’t believe their president was born in the United States has actually increased since his full birth certificate was published.
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