The “King of Bain” ad is a microcosm of Newt Gingrich. The ad embodies the same contempt for truth and the same political maliciousness that has characterized much of Gingrich’s career and now consumes him.
The conservative movement has decried the attacks. At a forum hosted by Mike Huckabee on Saturday, the crowd booed Gingrich when he went into his anti-Bain spiel. Even though the ground rules specified no attacks on other candidates, Gingrich has long since passed the point at which he can control his venom.
In fact, most of what the anti-Bain critics have dredged up isn’t accurate. The examples that Gingrich and his mini-me, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have chosen to dwell upon don’t even survive superficial fact-checking.
A pro-Gingrich Super PAC released a 30-minute documentary-style film portraying Romney as a ruthless Wall Street job-killer in communities around the country. Then Perry put a South Carolina face on the charge by denouncing Bain’s 1992 closure of a photo album manufacturing plant here in Gaffney as “vulture capitalism.”
But a visit to Gaffney makes clear there’s a problem with trying to shape the Bain story line dogging Romney to fit the all-important primary state of South Carolina: Here, at least, it’s not true.
This town’s doing just fine, thank you very much. There’s a factory outlet mall (complete with Tommy Hilfiger for kids), an industrial sector anchored by a Nestle plant that employs more than 1,000 people, and the very symbol of creature comfort: a Starbucks. Not far from the landmark peach-styled water tower here, the Greenville-Spartanburg corridor is thriving.
Then there is the GSI steel mill. Rick Tyler, the super PAC chief, held this up to me as the great example of his concocted “vulture”capitalism, citing a news story that omits a key fact. But Politico figured it out:
The unionized Georgetown mill never closed for good. The plant was taken over by other companies, most recently one run by Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal. Those firms have operated it on and off ever since — albeit with fewer workers.
Meanwhile, as I noted on Friday, Bain kept GSI operating for seven years when most steel companies were shutting down.
In sum, it’s rare to see a hit piece so poorly done, so riddled with obvious lies. (The Wall Street Journal reports on another Bain deal featured in the film: “Three former factory workers featured in a film about layoffs at companies bought by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital say they weren’t laid off by Bain, as the film implied, but got promotions and raises after Bain bought the plant they worked in.”)
In short, the problem with Gingrich’s attack is that it isn’t true. Gingrich and those who’ve enabled him (Tyler is a longtime Gingrich aide) have become so accustomed to bending the truth to fit the Gingrich narrative (you recall his claim to be the historian for Freddie Mac) that they have long since adopted the stance that facts don’t really matter.. The entire effort is emblematic of a reckless candidate who must paint himself in heroic terms and his opponents a scoundrels.
Gingrich, in the face of the disastrous reception for the film, asked the super PAC to take down the ad. In a preposterous letter that Tyler provided to me, the super PAC’s managing director ludicrously claims: “I personally reviewed all documentation, video, transcripts, government documents, media reports and other research that went into the making of this video prior to agreeing to purchase the distribution rights. I found the documentation to be in order and comprehensive.” Well, if he actually did this (and if you think so, I’ve got some Solyndra stock for you), he’s got a truth problem just like his candidate. But then he allows that “we agree to revise our ads and/or the video to reflect any errors that may be present in the current version of the video” (What would be left if all the false stuff what would be left?) if Romney answers a bunch of questions that boil down to asking when he left Bain and when he stopped receiving income, neither of which has anything to do with the fraudulent portions of the film.
A Romney supporter and longtime GOP operative called the response “a total clown car.” Right he is.
It’s already been reported that Romney has a profit-sharing retirement agreement with Bain. Since I and every other American with access to Wikipedia know that Romney left Bain in 1999 to run the Olympics, I couldn’t fathom what Tyler was driving at. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul responded to my inquiry this way: “It is sad to see just how desperate Speaker Gingrich and his allies have become as his campaign continues to flounder. It is a matter of public record that Mitt Romney left Bain Capital in 1999 to run the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. At that time, he gave up all management control and operational responsibility over the firm and its investments.” She could have answered more succinctly: “Total clown car.”