Political Animal


August 24, 2012 5:21 PM Mitt’s Biography 2.0

By Ed Kilgore

Those of you who spotted Mitt Romney’s Wall Street Journal op-ed today, entitled “What I Learned At Bain Capital,” might have been surprised that the GOP nominee was Going There at this sensitive point in the general election campaign. Hadn’t his association with Bain become a handicap? Isn’t he still struggling with questions about his control of the company during a crucial juncture, and still fighting to hide exactly what he did with the vast sums he earned there and in his severance package? Yes and yes. But he doesn’t have much choice but to try to reboot his efforts to make his career an ever-upward spiral of virtue, hard work and success, all perfectly designed to prepare him to become America’s Turnaround Consultant.

So in the WSJ piece, you get a better presentation of the supposed connection between what he did at Bain and what he’d do in the Oval Office than he presented earlier on the campaign trail: he soft-pedals the job-creatin’ claims that got him into trouble earlier, and instead poses as someone who was forever presented with extremely difficult management challenges and again and again snatched victory from the jaws of corporate defeat by insisting on innovation, respecting human capital, and most of all: Making the Tough Decisions, the quality his campaign claims Barack Obama does not possess. If this self-presentation occasionally makes him come across as someone who takes inordinate pride in having risked a small fortune to make a very big one, that’s something that probably resonates with a lot of upper-middle-class voters who still dream of that McMansion or that fabulous vacation home, or maybe early retirement.

We’re going to see a lot of this Mitt Biography 2.0 next week, as the campaign tries to rebuild the candidate as someone who does not appear to have been born on another planet. We’ll get the full-on treatment about the Winter Olympics, now that he’s safely a few weeks past the fiasco in London. We’ll get a carefully bowdlerized account of his governorship of Massachusetts, with budget-balancing and tough-decision-making emphasized and everything else vaporized. We’ll supposedly get a glimpse of his religious life—presumably the parts of it that stay a million miles away from LDS theology or history. And we’ll get lots and lots of family, as evidenced by the very high-profile role his wife will play in Tampa.

This all makes sense; just because Romney’s biographically-based rationale for candidacy basically fell apart over the summer is no reason he shouldn’t use millions of dollars in earned media to build it back up again in an environment where no one is arguing with him.

What I’m unclear about is how much the convention will get into the vicious opponent-bashing that characterized much of his primary campaign and that has absolutely dominated his recent campaign ads and speeches. Will they nestle nasty, base-pleasing lines into otherwise sunny speeches all up and down the schedule? Or will someone-almost certainly Christy, perhaps Rubio, perhaps Ryan, perhaps Artur Davis playing Zell Miller—give the delegates the pure thrill of unleashed hatefulness, clearing the air for The Boss to offer an anguished nation its Turnaround from the dark days of this alien Other who combines the worst features of Harvard and The Street.

Frankly, about the only thing that will interest me about this convention is how its managers handle the complex task of deciding the right mix in blowing sunshine up our butts and injecting poison into our veins, and how they deploy all the various personalities and (via daily talking points) those potentially dangerous delegates in doing so. The whole show probably won’t change a lot of votes, but it will give a good glimpse of what this party thinks the rest of us want to hear—or at least those of us who aren’t already pretty much onto their act.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • bigtuna on August 24, 2012 6:03 PM:

    I will be very curious about how far he ventures into his faith. I don't really think LDS theology is the issue - some focus on that, but it is a loser to get into theological debates. And, you;d be attacked as being anti faith, etc.

    A much bigger implication is the implications of the LDS world view. Unlike most religions, the LDS faith has a worldview that via the church, and its educational and corporate arms, are promoted vigorously. In considering a Romney presidency, these views create profound, and critical implications for the non-LDS world, and these are topics that are likely to be overlooked in the MSM. In addition, the LDS church, via its overt attempts to influence politics [Prop. 8 in California] and its more subtle efforts [see the recent call for members to participate in the Utah caucuses, helping Orrin Hatch] opens itself to analysis. The LDS church/culture/economic/political machine is much more than a set of religious beliefs. It is a system that creates a culture that affects ALL aspects of life. The LDS world view, while often portrayed in the gauzy haze of TV ads, Wilfred Brimley, etc., sees the world in stark terms, with very big implications for the poor, women, working people, non LDS believers, and people of color.

  • jjm on August 24, 2012 6:09 PM:

    Like many sociopaths, Romney appears to believe that he can completely control his image, and frame his biography in the most bland and pleasing manner so that people will see him only in the way he wants to be seen.

    But bringing up Bain, though he is trying to make it sound innocuous, may be even trickier after the Gawker exposure of Bain's tax avoidance strategies: several experts have agreed that some of Bain's strategies are illegal: http://leanforward.msnbc.com/_news/2012/08/24/13459404-tax-experts-bains-tax-strategy-is-unlawful?lite

  • Mit Romney on August 24, 2012 6:15 PM:

    Who am I really ? Nothing but a giant fucking, hissing, hemorrhoid on the asshole of Lucifer itself. Would someone, anyone, please get me a giant tube of Preparation H !!! Please, oh please, just the giant tube of the H and I will be fine ............

  • c u n d gulag on August 24, 2012 6:22 PM:

    The sequel, "The Godfather, Part II," is better than the original "The Godfather."

    It's one of the few sequels that's better than the original.

    The stupidity of Mitt 2.0 does not exceed that of Mitt 1.0.

    They are both sh*tty, stupid, horrors!

    No matter what he says or writes, with his birther comments today, Mitt has proven that he's lower than sea-slug sh*t!!!

    Just one layer of sediment above CRAPTCHA.

  • gdb on August 24, 2012 6:24 PM:

    "Frankly, about the only thing that will interest me about this convention is how its managers handle the complex task of deciding the right mix in blowing sunshine up our butts and injecting poison into our veins"

    Well turned phrase that aptly describes the dilemma. Nevertheless, the election result will depend on the sate of the economy by mid-October. If the CBO-predicted decline (as assessed by yours truly months ago)hits before November, Mittens is in--- otherwise BHO gets the hit next Spring. And Dems may wish in 2014 and for a generation beyond that Mittens had won in 2012. [can anyone spell H. Hoover or A. Smith?]

  • Celui on August 24, 2012 6:36 PM:

    Mitt's biographical pablum is construed to parallel and outshine Obama's biographical works Dreams from My Father, The Audacity of Hope, Of Thee I Sing, Change We Can Believe In. More than one great difference: where Obama spoke of family, dreams, working with others, assisting people to improve themselves, creating an environment where hope in the face of adversity can propel someone to improvement, and (well, you get the picture), Romney's WSJ self-serving nonsense contributes nothing new to the life of a vulture capitalist. Do I want someone who espouses 'best-cost environment' employment? do I want someone whose sole goal is the maximization of profit at the expense of those who produce the product? do I want a person in the role of leadership who is clearly NOT a deep thinker or whose leadership is so devoid of philosophical roots? Give me the poet who understands and crafts a message. Give me a leader whose joy is in seeing others succeed. Give me a candidate whose 'other-mindedness' translates to broad opportunities for many. Don't try to sell me on the exclusivity of the moneyed class. That's not what the American people need now, or ever again. The term "Robber Barons" should remain a required reading title only, not a reality of tomorrow's leadership.

  • Anonymous on August 24, 2012 7:46 PM:

    Shorter Romney:

    I'm a lying sack of shit. That's gotta count for something.

  • Doug on August 24, 2012 8:04 PM:

    gdb, you really, really should have read your history books in school.
    When Hoover became President, Republicans controlled Congress. The Crash occurred in October of 1929, but major layoffs and credit contraction really began in early 1930. During most of 1930 and into 1931, Hoover tried to "talk" the country out of the economic mess by getting CEOs to agree NOT to cut wages or jobs. Such agreements lasted only until the next Board meeting, by which time even more drastic wage reductions and layoffs took place. I believe the Small Business Administration was set up in 1931 to provide assistance to needy firms, but NOTHING was done to help needy people.
    Democrats won the House in 1930, but Republicans retained control of the Senate until the 1932 elections. Bills to assist the unemployed using Federal funds were passed by the House, several even passed the Republican-controlled Seante. Hoover vetoed them. As he continued to do right up until he left office in March of 1933.
    THAT is why Hoover's name was mud, or worse, to the vast majority of voters for three decades. Because of what he DID and DIDN'T do, not merely because he was President.
    I seem to recall there was ANOTHER President during the Great Depression, perhaps you could check up and see how he turned out?
    Electorally speaking, of course...

  • Th on August 25, 2012 9:08 AM:

    I keep wondering if Artur Davis was the inspiration for the lead character in Ansley Play House's "The Tea Party". Davis seems about as blatantly opportunistic as Thurgood Cannon, but can he out tea party Allen West?

  • anongal on August 25, 2012 9:12 AM:

    Frankly-- such an obvious big time conflict with his Mormon religious beliefs resonates with Romney/Bain Capital ties to Adelson and loans for Adelson's gambling business in Vegas.
    And Adelson's literally pouring the money in for Ronmney's intense election pursuits.

    Wow--to Romney, obviously nothing is sacred.
    Plus we see and hear him lying constantly on the campaign trail.
    How very telling of what kind of person he is, what kind of president he would be, the kinds of executive decisions he would make.
    The deceit, how he hides facts, the seeming cognitive dissonance with religious tenets he is supposed to hold, coupled with a seemingly desperate nature to obtain the presidency ---all so apparent as the Republican National Convention starts!!
    And the irony of a hurricane bearing down there.

    "Another Bain investment fund, Sankaty High Yield Partners II, based in Delaware, held nearly $3 million in loans to Adelson's Las Vegas Sands. Adelson is the largest public donor in this year's presidential race, giving more than $45 million to super political action committees benefiting Romney and other GOP candidates."

  • Chuckiechan on August 25, 2012 12:38 PM:

    There is a saying.. "Watch the nickels and the dollars will follow". What the R/R campaign is saying is "You either believe that America is in financial danger, or you don't." Both are heavyweights.

    I listened to Romney explain his energy policy - top notch CEO all the way. "This is the goal, we are going to achieve it by taking steps A, B, and C."

    That is the leadership we are missing.

    I understand people are afraid of the future. But a Euro Crunch in America is not going to make your future any brighter.

  • bleedingheart67 on August 25, 2012 3:27 PM:

    Well said, gdb. I locked onto that exact same turn of phrase, and it's essentially what they've been hashing through as they plan this thing, whether they would admit it to themselves or not. I don't plan to watch a minute of it.

  • Paul Randall on August 25, 2012 5:04 PM:

    In Mitts self love piece he extols the virtues of innovation, cutting edge technology and easier access to higher education that he learned at Bain.

    Now that's the stuff of genius, amazing that no oen ever thought of that before.

    He also explains that the key to turning a company around is to offer highly paid managers bonuses as incentives innovate. What amazing things will he think of next?

  • Dan B. on August 25, 2012 7:12 PM:

    Romney's experience at Bain etc. is an asset. Haven't we learned that we should look at a man's resume before we hire him to run this country? If we had, we wouldn't have hired the empty suit we currently have in the White House.

  • Conrad Baylor on August 25, 2012 7:24 PM:

    "Hadnít his association with Bain become a handicap?"

    No, but the Left and its MSM allies are trying their best to make it a handicap.

    That requires torturing the facts. You must, for instance, make Romney responsible for the death of Joe Soptic's wife.

  • Th on August 26, 2012 9:50 AM:

    I would love to judge Romney on his resume' but he refuses to lay out his business experience and runs away from his government experience. Also, he is clearly going to do whatever the Republican powers that be tell him to do. Talk about an empty suit.

    Our biggest problem in the Democratic party is that Obama isn't an empty suit. He is bound and determined to be a moderate Republican instead of a Democrat.

  • azgangbuster on August 26, 2012 1:06 PM:


    Are you saying that Hoover could have prevented the Great Depression if businesses would have just honored his request to not cut pay or lay people off? I hope that isn't what you're implying, because it is, to use a generous term, idiotic. Do you assume that companies just magically produce revenues whenever they need to retain employees? It's comments like these that make it so obvious why the Democrats do so poorly among business owners (except the ones who donate to whoever is in power to get political favors).

    Mr Kilgore,

    This article is an apt description of a party convention. What is unfortunate about it is that you seem completely oblivious to the fact that you could plug in a D anywhere you've put an R, or an Obama anywhere you've put a Romney and it would be equally accurate.