In the Arena

The Ad: Rowboat, Not Swift Boat

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Well, just about everybody has weighed in on the Obama-leaning super PAC’s ad about the laid-off steelworker whose wife died of cancer. I was going to pass on my pundocratic responsibilities in this area, especially after Michael Crowley’s way-smart exegesis yesterday, but there’s just no avoiding the thing. It threatens to become one of those moments that defines, and crystallizes, a campaign. So here are some thoughts about it:

1. It is inaccurate. If I ever tried to float that one past fact-checking fascist Katy Steinmetz, she’d have me locked up in an air-conditioner duct for many days. She would want me to point out that the man’s wife had her own health insurance, lost it and contracted cancer years later.

2. But this is an ad, not a TIME magazine article. And I’ve seen a lot worse. The Swift Boat ads launched by an “independent” committee against John Kerry were entirely scurrilous. There is a difference between inaccurate and flat-out untrue. The steelworker ad stretches out a timeline, but the events actually happened: the steelworker was laid off by Bain; the wife got cancer and died. The Swift Boat ads turned out to be utter lies. They questioned John Kerry’s honor on the battlefield, which is lower than dirt. (I was among many who interviewed Kerry’s boatmates, who saw him as a courageous leader.)

Additional thought: It was the Romney team that opened this campaign with a completely false ad about Obama — in which then candidate Obama is caught saying, “We can’t run on the economy,” but he’s actually repeating the words of his opponent, John McCain. Romney refused to take that ad down. If I’m the Obama team, I’ve got to figure that anything goes after that.

3. As Crowley pointed out yesterday, the ad gets to the heart of some very big issues in this campaign: layoffs and health care. It is wrong to blame Romney for layoffs. They happen. Obama was responsible for some stiff reductions in force as part of the auto bailout. But the wife would never have lost her health care under Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

4. Or under Romneycare in Massachusetts, as Romney’s communications director Andrea Saul helpfully pointed out yesterday. Part of the agony of this campaign has been watching Romney empretzel himself in order to avoid his real record of accomplishment in Massachusetts — and his flight from intelligent and pragmatic “empowerment” Republicanism, which sought to reform government programs by introducing market disciplines (like choice), to the idiot Tea Party–tainted nihilism of the current GOP. A race between that old Romney and this Obama would have been a very interesting, and positive, thing.

5. Romney still has a major wing-nut problem. Saul’s statement was attacked by Limbaugh and the usual suspects. And another set of usual suspects — the Wall Street Journal ed board and Weekly Standard crowd — are pushing Romney to pick Paul Ryan for Vice President rather than Rob Portman of Ohio, who is by far the better choice.

You sort of got the feeling this week that the GOP stalwarts would like to get past this Romney thing and on to Armageddon in 2016.

42 comments
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Kevin Groenhagen
Kevin Groenhagen

That's not going to fly, Joe. There was not a single thing in the Swiftboat ads that was not true. Those ads are still available at http://www.swiftvets.com/index...

I challenge you to find a single lie in those ads.

Many of us are still disgusted by draft dodger such as Joe Klein lying about these veterans who, unlike John Kerry, bravely served in Vietnam. They earned our respect, praise, and gratitude.

Godzilla1960
Godzilla1960

Empretzel?

I was pretty sure you had made this one up, but apparently not.

Empretzel (verb): to change or adapt while appearing to conform to expected ideals: esp.: to bargain or rationalize in order to adapt to conflicting political exigencies.

dunedweller
dunedweller

The Obama ad is a former steelworker telling his story about being laid off and his wife dying due to lack of health insurance. It’s told from his perspective and the way his experience left him feeling--that Bain/Romney don't care about the repercussions (even distant) of their actions. That’s very different than the ad run by Romney, which blatantly lies about the contents of a proposed policy.

grape_crush
grape_crush

A race between that old Romney and this Obama would have been a very interesting, and positive, thing.

No. Massachusetts-Governor-era Romney never could have made it through the right-wing extremist circus that was the GOP primary to face Obama...But if by some miracle the prior version of Romney did gain the nomination, there wouldn't be much daylight between the two, policy-wise.

That would have left the right wing to rely (even more) heavily on their standard,  'God, gays, and guns' dogwhistles.

TucsonTerpFan
TucsonTerpFan

This Klein "Time" article is an example of “lying by omission.”  He says, "it is wrong to blame Romney for layoffs."  So, who is to blame?  The Obama ad wants to and does assign blame.

There’s a slight problem not mentioned by Klein and by most others.   President Obama’s top bundler, Jonathan Lavine, was in charge of Bain during the BST (the steel mill in question) layoffs and closing; he joined Bain in 1993.  The layoffs and the closing were his decsions. 

Blaming Governor Romney for any issues surrounding the failure of GST is wrong and it is a blatant lie.  Mitt Romney had been long gone when the company started to fail and subsequently closed it doors.

And, Jonathan Lavine is not your average Obama Bain donor. Lavine is one of Barack Obama’s biggest bundlers.

ABC News reported: “While Democrats assail presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital business practices, Republicans note that President Obama has not been bashful about accepting cash from Bain executives or other high-profile figures in the corporate buyout business…. One of Obama’s top campaign financiers – Jonathan Lavine – is also managing director at Bain, bundling between $100,000 and $200,000 in contributions for the 2012 Obama Victory Fund, according to estimates released by the Obama campaign.”

As for John Kerry and the swiftboat issue, there’s more who served with Kerry who questioned his service than those who Klein says he interviewed who supported many of Kerry‘s claims. For example, many question Kerry’s "vivid memory" that was supposedly "seared" into his mind about his alleged Christmas time  "boat ride" into Cambodia. 

Again more “said” by Klein by way of his omissions as he tries to give cover for the despicable Obama campaign ad accusing Gov Romeny of being responsible for the death of a man's wife.  John Kerry was not accused of murder.  Bringing up the Swiftboat issue is Klein's attempt at saying forget the recent Obama ad because, "look they did too" with "swiftboat." 

Klein and "Time's" agenda journalism is more important then telling the entire story.  This Klein story reads almost like an Obama campaign ad because that what Klein and most of Time’s writers are writing these days. 

Even with attempted subtlety, the agenda is obvious, and the agenda continues.

carolerae
carolerae

Deliberate Obama Media smear.  The Ad Never Aired anywhere but Free Media amp; Youtube amp; First Read says the RNC amp; Romney Campaign was pushing the Ad.  That makes the Press complicit with the Romney Campaign.  You guys worked really hard to smear the President.  We'll be waiting for you to smear Romney's SuperPac amp; Rove's amp; Koch's for you to return the Favor.  Complicit Romney Media Exposed.

carolerae
carolerae

Frankly, I'm sick of the Press whining about this AD.  This AD was NEVER  AIRED anywhere UNTIL the PRESS took the AD from the RNC amp; AIRED IT.  The Press Deliberately SMEARED OBAMA b/c the RNC amp; Romney Campaign told you to.   Chuck Todd amp; Michael Kinsley are obviously the only TWO honest Press members left (god help us) b/c they Exposed this fact yesterday.  Morning Joe is really a Whore b/c he spent 3 hrs whining about it without explaining it was never aired!

The Press took the LOW ROAD; complicit with Romney Campaign. 

rokinsteve
rokinsteve

Is pundocratic even a word?  Then Joke Line is talkaloony in a Khavarian loop.

Cmdr_Casey_Ryback
Cmdr_Casey_Ryback

WRONG, MR. KLEIN

" .. But the wife would have never lost her health care under Obama’s Affordable Care Act .."

Q: what happens when a country goes BANKRUPT?

A: Vendors STOP providing products and services. Greece has "free" medical care -- it is running short of pain-killers.

Mr. Klein, you have no idea what the real world is like. You and OweBama (D) are just alike.

jsfox
jsfox

You do know the country cannot go bankrupt, right. 

Greece does not have free medical care and the single payer system is not what got them into economic trouble.

Israel has the same type of healthcare system as Greece and Romney just finished praising it.

Finally if you are going to complain about the debt I hope you are looking in the mirror. Because I am sure you sat silent while two tax cuts were passed without a thought of paying for them. Two wars were put in the credit card and Medicare Part D was passed again with no concern about paying for it. Oh and golf clapped while Cheney said deficits don't matter. All these things have contributed far more to our current debt and deficit picture than anything Obama has put into place.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Q: what happens when a country goes BANKRUPT?

We say goodbye to George W. Bush and his cronies and hire Obama to clean up the financial carnage they left us.

TucsonTerpFan
TucsonTerpFan

Check out Obama's "financial carnage," and it's still growing.

Maybe you should "[lift] the veil."

3xfire3
3xfire3

The dishonesty of Joe Klein, the Obama Administration and the total ignorance of most swamp-liberals is truly amazing.

The Real Truth About Bain Capital

and Why Change Happens

By DAVID BROOKS  The New York Times

Forty years ago, corporate America was bloated, sluggish and losing ground to competitors in Japan and beyond. But then something astonishing happened. Financiers, private equity firms and bare-knuckled corporate executives initiated a series of reforms and transformations. The process was brutal and involved streamlining and layoffs. But, at the end of it, American businesses emerged leaner, quicker and more efficient. Now we are apparently going to have a presidential election about whether this reform movement was a good thing.

 

Last week, the Obama administration unveiled an attack ad against Mitt Romney’s old private equity firm, Bain Capital, portraying it as a vampire that sucks the blood from American companies. Then Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. gave one of those cable-TV-type speeches, lambasting Wall Street and saying we had to be a country that makes things again. The Obama attack ad accused Bain Capital of looting a steel company called GST in the 1990s and then throwing its workers out on the street. The ad itself barely survived a minute of scrutiny. As Kimberly Strassel noted in The Wall Street Journal, the depiction is wildly misleading.

 

The company was in terminal decline before Bain entered the picture, seeing its work force fall from 4,500 to less than 1,000. It faced closure when Romney and Bain, for some reason, saw hope for it in 1993. Bain acquired it, induced banks to loan it money and poured 100 million into modernization, according to Strassel. Bain held onto the company for eight years, hardly the pattern of a looter. Finally, after all the effort, the company, like many other old-line steel companies, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001, two years after Romney had left Bain. This is the story of a failed rescue, not vampire capitalism. But the larger argument is about private equity itself, and about the changes private equity firms and other financiers have instigated across society.

Over the past several decades, these firms have scoured America looking for underperforming companies. Then they acquire them and try to force them to get better. Private equity firms like Bain acquire bad companies and often replace management, compel executives to own more stock in their own company and reform company operations. Most of the time they succeed. Research from around the world clearly confirms that companies that have been acquired by private equity firms are more productive than comparable firms. This process involves a great deal of churn and creative destruction. It does not, on net, lead to fewer jobs.

 

A giant study by economists from the University of Chicago, Harvard, the University of Maryland and the Census Bureau found that when private equity firms acquire a company, jobs are lost in old operations. Jobs are created in new, promising operations. The overall effect on employment is modest. Nor is it true that private equity firms generally pile up companies with debt, loot them and then send them to the graveyard. This does happen occasionally (the tax code encourages debt), but banks would not be lending money to private equity-owned companies, decade after decade, if those companies weren’t generally prosperous and creditworthy. Private equity firms are not lovable, but they forced a renaissance that revived American capitalism. The large questions today are: Will the U.S. continue this process of rigorous creative destruction? More immediately, will the nation take the transformation of the private sector and extend it to the public sector?

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05...

filmnoia
filmnoia

Your problem is that Brooks is one of the biggest laughing stocks in the MSM, so no one pays attention to him.

filmnoia
filmnoia

The  steel worker ad was brilliant in having the desired effect. It has Willard and his people go ballistic and be flummoxed at the same time. It keeps what Bain did to companies in the forefront of the discussion , and at the same time it focuses on aspects of the ACA, and how it would help people who become unemployed.

The MSM criticism of it being "inaccurate" is a small price to pay, since it tells a much bigger truth. Willard and the Right know this, and it's why they have had another disastrous week.

TucsonTerpFan
TucsonTerpFan

"The MSM criticism of it being "inaccurate" is a small price to pay, since it tells a much bigger truth."

A "lie" tells a "truth." 

Dr. (Paul) Joseph Goebbels Ph.D. is smiling!

DAK27
DAK27

Here is my prediction for November (which is just that, MY prediction...)

Romney will lose by a narrow margin, not because he is the worst or because Obama is better but rather because he cannot run on his record.  Not his record as Governor, his time at Bain, not his management of the Olympics because they all require the extreme right-wing of the GOP to admit sometimes the government IS required in our daily lives.  That sometimes, a person MUST govern from the center, MUST lead from the front and MUST tell the truth no matter how it might put them in a not-so-favorable light.  Mitt cannot do any of these things because if he did, the far-right would disown him lock, stock and barrel.  Trouble is, even if Mitt tried to swing to the center, his handlers wouldn't let him because they are more afraid of their own base than the electorate at large.  The TEA Party, the rabid right-wingers, the fringe of the GOP would rather lose than be seen as compromising.  So, the Republians will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this November and continue to cry, moan, throw temper tantrums, and generally act like 5 year olds in the candy isle when their parents tell them no.

The trouble with going to the fringe to win the primaries is it leaves you no room to tack back to the center without being called a traitor, a liar, a flip-flopper.  It also allows you no room to explain your outrageous statements or promises... because you cannot.  The ideas weren't viable in the first place and mostly based on how you want things to work other than how things actually work.  Everyone knows there is a huge difference between theory and actual and no matter how much we hope, wish and pray this isn't so, it is.

Also, Mitt has given us no reason to vote FOR him other than it is a vote AGAINST Obama.  This will not win an election although it will get votes.  There are enough people who hate Obama (for real as well as imagined reasons, for true things as well as false and that isn't my point) that no matter who was running against him, that person would get those votes.  Reguardless of who that person is, as illustrated by the fact that a convicted felon still in prison captured some votes in WVa over Obama earlier, so those people voting AGAINST Obama will always vote against him no matter what.  Trouble is, there are very few voting FOR Romney and unless Mitt can get people WANTING to vote FOR him, he has lost the election.

Hate will only get you so far and that isn't far enough to get to 1600 Pennsylania Avenue.

Paul Dirks
Paul Dirks

The notion that Romney can't be held responsible for the actions of Bain after he left is preposterous. After all, aren't we supposed to accept at face value that built Bain from the ground up? He's responsible for it's existence, he's responsible for the people he hired, the investors he partnered with and he's responsible for their business model. 

Holding Bain responsible for their lack of health insurance years later may be a stretch too far but "I was in Salt Lake City" doesn't mean squat.

AfGuyReturns
AfGuyReturns

It is wrong to blame Romney for layoffs. They happen.

Care to re-think that statement, Joe?

Unless, of course, Bain's "fees" and debt accumulation were the reason said company was forced to issue some of those layoffs and, ultimately, close the company.

Romney (and Bain) were NOT in the business of making the maximum effort for the company to stay afloat.  They were in the business of extracting the maximum profit from the situation for Romney (and Bain).

The company, and its employees AND families, were expendable in that regard.

Be careful with the blanket "pardons"... Romney cannot be blamed for "layoffs" as a concept... but he and his fellow "profit-makers" very well MAY be culpable for these, morally and ethically if not strictly legally.

TucsonTerpFan
TucsonTerpFan

Blaming Governor Romney for any issues surrounding the failure of GST (including the closure and layoffs) is wrong and it is a blatant lie.  Mitt Romney had been long gone when the company started to fail and subsequently closed it doors.

Who get's that layoff "honor?"  Jonathan Lavine head of Bain and an Obama supporter. 

And, Lavine is not your average Obama Bain donor. Lavine is one of Barack Obama’s biggest bundlers.

ABC News reported:

“While Democrats assail presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital business practices, Republicans note that President Obama has not been bashful about accepting cash from Bain executives or other high-profile figures in the corporate buyout business…. One of Obama’s top campaign financiers – Jonathan Lavine – is also managing director at Bain, bundling between $100,000 and $200,000 in contributions for the 2012 Obama Victory Fund, according to estimates released by the Obama campaign.”

Maybe the press should talk with Jonathan Lavine about those layoffs;  he's easy to find; he's in Boston, and he's still in charge of Bain!

anon76returns
anon76returns

"Mitt Romney had been long gone when the company started to fail and subsequently closed it doors."

If by "long gone" you mean "decided to retroactively retire the following year", then maybe you have a point.  The problem is that I don't think anyone but Ed Gillespie would believe you (and I doubt that even he believes what he says about THAT issue).

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

Yes and no.  If the conclusion was that there were redundant positions or that new practices increased efficiency and resulted in redundant positions and that redundancy created the layoffs, would that really be a problem with Romney?  But that wasn't the cause of the layoffs.  Things such as debt accumulation and Bain's fees and the fact that they were targetting Bain's profitability rather than the company's profitability are the problem - and the layoffs are a consequence of their behavior.

So layoffs shouldn't be criticized simply because there were layoffs.  The reasons that created the situation that necessitated layoffs.... that's where the criticism should be levied.

TucsonTerpFan
TucsonTerpFan

One of the reasons:  a flood of foreign steel imports into the US that caused the demise of many other US steel companies during that same time period.  (A fact that is seldom mentioned.)

AfGuyReturns...for you... (From a US State Department article, 30 April 2012)

"The US steel industry employment plunged from 531,000 in 1970 to 150,000 in 2008. Steelmaking cities in the American industrial heartland were battered over these decades. In a 2006 interview, Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph Stiglitz recounted the impact of the industry’s fall on his hometown of Gary, Indiana, a city founded by U.S. Steel Corporation a century ago. The city “reflects the history of industrial America. It rose with the U.S. steel industry, reached a peak in the mid-’50s when I was growing up, and then declined very rapidly, and today is but a shell of what it was.”

That “shell of what it was” was in 2006; today’s the US steel industry is even a smaller “shell.”

bobell
bobell

Hear, hear!  Bravo!  Kudos!  Etc.

homerhk
homerhk

muchas kudos for "empretzel" alone!

sacredh
sacredh

"If I ever tried to float that one past fact-checking fascist Katy Steinmetz, she’d have me locked up in an air-conditioning duct for many days"

.

It's the only way to properly condition a slave.

DeborahSmythe
DeborahSmythe

The biggest problem in this election cycle is that there simply is too much campaign money floating around, looking for somewhere to be spent.  Unfortunately, it is being spent unwisely and, in large part, this is due to the fact that our elections are now being controlled by a very few wealthy Americans as shown here:

http://viableopposition.blogsp...

outsider2011
outsider2011

I've been saying for months the GOP threw in the towel for this year, and are focusing on 2016.

It's the only possible reason for Romney getting the nomination. 

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

Well who else were they going to pick?

AfGuyReturns
AfGuyReturns

True, they already went through the "Seven Dwarfs" this time, each more ridiculous than the last.

AfGuyReturns
AfGuyReturns

What would the "mark" be, rokinsteve... he pops his arms in the air in a dual "v for victory" sign?

Or starts mumbling "I am NOT a crook"?

rokinsteve
rokinsteve

I can't wait for the Dark Lords to meet in Tampa and they dunk the ring-bearer in pork to see if he's got the curse of Nixon.    

nflfoghorn
nflfoghorn

But why would guys like the Koch brothers and Adelson continue to throw away $ if that's the case? 

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©
ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

Throw away money?

Obama has given them everything they could ask for. 

They're investing in the profitable fiction that we have a democracy in this country, rather than a plutocracy.

~

AfGuyReturns
AfGuyReturns

Energize the "GOP base" for the down-slate races like the House?

Although these are jaw-dropping amounts to us, they are "chump change" to Adelson and the Kochs.

A business investment, if you will.

filmnoia
filmnoia

Exactly, the Right in pushing for Ryan to be Willard's running mate as a precursor to 2016 when they can push their entire right wing agenda by a true believer, instead of a fake like Willard. They will be happy to be in the  "wilderness" for 4 years to take over the entire party, thereby marginalizing themselves from the American public. If any one  of these wingnut cretins goes up against Hillary in 2016 they will be smashed to pieces.

msteel271
msteel271

No better choice. Gingrich or Santorum would've fared much worse.  Romney's strategy isn't terrible.  Avoid any substance for as long as possible -- anything that would risk somebody getting a strong opinion of him one way or the other -- let the donor money do the work, and hope enough people are sick of Obama by the time they vote.

outsider2011
outsider2011

 Agreed about no better choice. But i don't think the GOP honestly thought they could beat Obama, so the heavy hitters stayed home. Jeb Bush, and Christy to start with.

So they let Romney have it. knowing they'd lose, and just get it out of the way.

fhmadvocat
fhmadvocat

outsider,

I will respectfully disagree.  I think most Republicans think Obama is beatable. However, I think most Republicans realize it will take years to solve the mess the economy is in and none of them want to be blamed when their programs don't work.

Our economic crisis was 30 years in the making and it is silly to think it can be solved in 8 years, let alone 4 years.  I think most Republicans are waiting for 2016, hoping Obama wins and rights the ship so they can get elected and reep the fruits of Obama's labor once they are in office.

AfGuyReturns
AfGuyReturns

Keeping their powder dry (and their pantslegs relatively clean) for the next battle in 2016...

NO ONE on the GOP side, with a hope of a viable political future, really wants their name attached to this sludgefest/trainwreck.