The Washington Post

Romney’s current Bain woes were planted two months ago

The Boston Globe’s front page story last Thursday was on how Mitt Romney was still being listed on SEC documents as “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president” of Bain Capital after 1999. That was the year the founder of the venture capital business said he left the company and, therefore, could not be responsible for the corporate decisions made that killed or outsourced thousands of jobs. By Friday, the presumptive Republican nominee who has kept the press at arm’s length submitted to five television interviews to explain his tenure at Bain. By Sunday, campaign senior adviser Ed Gillespie made things worse by claiming that Romney “took a leave of absence and in fact . . . ended up not going back at all and retired retroactively to February 1999.” Retired retroactively?!

What no one appreciates is the reason Romney finds himself on the defensive now. Were it not for the Obama campaign’s insistence in May on making Bain’s work an issue — in the face of criticism from fellow Democrats — the drama of the last few days would not have gained traction.

The president’s reelection campaign unleashed a hard-hitting two-minute ad two months ago today about the experience of GS Technologies in Kansas City, Mo. The steel company was bought by Bain in 1993 and then put into bankruptcy in 2001, which cost 750 workers their jobs.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker set the political world on fire eight weeks ago by criticizing the Obama campaign on “Meet The Press” for attacking Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, saying he was “very uncomfortable.” The nasty attacks from both sides in the presidential campaign were “nauseating,” he said. Booker was joined in his criticism in the coming days by fellow Democrats Harold Ford Jr. and Steven Rattner. They and others criticized the wisdom of the ad. They thought the campaign was focused on the wrong thing. They thought the president and his campaign were engaged in a risky strategy that was “unfair.”

Yet, a Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll last month, followed by a Post-ABC News poll last week, showed that the attacks were working. The story in the Boston Globe would not have gained any traction had the Obama campaign not adopted such an aggressive strategy. And Romney’s media round robin Friday would not have been necessary.

But Romney’s Bain woes will continue — as long as surrogates continue to coin ridiculous phrases like “retired retroactively.” And as long as Romney feeds the negative story line against him by refusing to release more of his tax returns. The American people need to know that he truly has nothing to hide.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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