With his own approval rating in the red once more, President Obama is back on the attack, and back to attacking Bain. Wasn’t he going to focus on immigration for a while? Or maybe his more-of-the-same agenda? Apparently not. Lacking an effective gambit, the Obama campaign flits from topic to topic. Now it’s back to Bain, but with the same infirmities that disrupted the assault last time.
The pattern is familiar now. The Obama team makes a sweeping claim (this time it is “corporate raider”). Then it rolls out some “examples.” But it gets the facts wrong, so the Romney team debunks the ads. This time the Romney campaign rolled out a handy chart comparing Obama’s allegations about three plants under Bain. Two of the plants laid off people well after Mitt Romney left Bain for the Olympics. (One company didn’t even exist, say the Romney debunkers, while Romney was at Bain!) As for the Holson Burnes South Carolina plant, it was fairly obvious in early spring even to the New York Times that the attack (then served up by Newt Gingrich) was spurious.
Then, in the Bain pattern, Romney rolls out the comments of Democrats who are dismayed by the attacks. This time it is Steve Rattner who back in January savaged the premise on which the ad was based:
Bain Capital is not now, nor has it ever been, some kind of Gordon Gekko-like, fire-breathing corporate raider that slashed and burned companies, immolating jobs wherever they appear in its path.
Wall Street has its share of the “vulture capitalists” that Texas Gov. Rick Perry enjoyed mocking in South Carolina earlier this week. But Romney was almost the furthest thing from Larry the Liquidator.
Instead, with modest exceptions (keep reading to learn more about these), Bain Capital was a thoroughly respectable — nay, eminent — investment manager that successfully discharged its responsibility of earning high returns for its investors by deploying capital in companies privately rather than by buying shares in the public market. (Hence the name, private equity.)
Ouch. At the time Rattner was attacking Gingrich’s sleazy attack. This time the condescending retort to anti-Bainism can be wielded against Obama.
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul issued a statement that oozed disgust, calling the anti-Bain ad (and a companion ad about Romney’s time as governor) “the latest effort by the Obama campaign to distract attention from the President’s failed policies that have led to high unemployment and falling incomes. Mitt Romney was a successful businessman and governor with a decades-long record of helping to create American jobs, in contrast to President Obama’s hostility to free enterprise that has left millions of Americans out of work. It’s still the economy and the American people aren’t stupid.’” But Obama is banking that they are.
Obama’s team is convinced, probably because it is also low on understanding and high on hostility to economic activity in which the government is not front and center, that Americans are a dumb and resentful bunch. Maybe Obama’s cynicism is well earned. But I think the glee with which the left-wing media embrace these attacks is a negative, not positive, sign for the effectiveness of the Bain attack. This group is the conviction-filled left, entirely out of touch with public opinion on everything from Obamacare to the debt to Obama’s dullness. The left-wing media’s enchantment with misleading and vociferous attacks on Bain tell you just how deceiving the left-wing echo chamber can be.
As for Obama’s ad, the president is convincing only those voters already convinced that the only thing to fear is a president who understands the free market.