Political Animal


July 09, 2011 10:30 AM The Poseur

By Steve Benen

Soon after the June job numbers were released, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney issued a statement predictably condemning President Obama and his team. “With their cavalier attitude about the economy, the White House has turned the audacity of hope into the audacity of indifference,” Romney said.

It was an absurd line, but it was also consistent with the recent themes Romney has embraced with both arms. As the former governor sees it, people are struggling and Romney’s the one who cares most about their plight.

Frank Rich’s first piece for New York magazine ran this week, and it’s principally focused on criticizing the Obama administration for not going after Wall Street nearly aggressively enough. But the piece also featured a fascinating condemnation of Mitt Romney, described as a “poseur,” and whose attempts at claiming credibility on unemployment are truly laughable.

No one doubts that Romney is a shape-shifter par excellence, whether on abortion, health care, cap and trade, or the Detroit bailout (which he predicted would speed GM and Chrysler to their doom). In his last presidential run, he was caught fabricating both his prowess as a hunter and a nonexistent civil-rights march starring his father and Martin Luther King. But to masquerade as a latter-day FDR is a new high in chutzpah even by his standards. […]

It’s a record Romney perennially tries to cover up. It may have cost him his Senate race against Ted Kennedy in 1994. In that campaign, Romney was stalked by a “Truth Squad” of striking workers from a Marion, Indiana, paper plant who had lost jobs, wages, health care, and pensions after Ampad, a Bain subsidiary, took control. Ampad eventually went bankrupt, but Bain walked away with $100 million for its $5 million investment. It was an all-too-typical Romney story, which is why Mike Huckabee could nail him with his memorable 2008 wisecrack: “I want to be a president who reminds you of the guy you work with, not the guy who laid you off.” Stephen Colbert recently topped Huckabee, portraying Romney as a cross between Gordon Gekko and Jack Kevorkian because of the profitable mercy killings of companies in Bain’s care. When Romney was governor, his record was no better. A Northeastern University analysis of his term (2003-6) found that Massachusetts was one of only two states to have no growth in their labor forces. The other was Louisiana, which happened to have an excuse named Katrina.

That Romney thinks he can pass himself off as the working stiff’s savior and Obama as the second coming of the out-of-touch patrician George H.W. Bush of 1992 truly turns reality on its head.

When pressed, Romney generally cites his success with the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002 as evidence of his ability to create jobs. What he neglects to mention is that Romney created jobs by hiring lobbyists to get more taxpayer money for the winter games. Indeed, the anti-spending conservative received more federal funding for his Olympics than any in U.S. history.

OK, so Romney didn’t create a lot of jobs with the Olympics. And in the private sector, Romney slashed American jobs as if his career depended on it — because it did.

Complicating matters, during Romney’s only service in public office, his state’s record on job creation was “one of the worst in the country.” How bad was it? During his tenure, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states in jobs growth.

Despite all of this, Romney has decided to not only build his entire campaign around the jobs issue, but also position himself as a champion of the unemployed. I assume that the only reason Democrats aren’t incessantly labeling Romney as “the anti-jobs candidate” is that they’re waiting to bury him with his record in the general election.

As a purely political matter, unemployment is a key obstacle for the president’s re-election. Is Obama lucky enough to have Republicans nominate the candidate whose weakest issue is jobs?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • kevo on July 09, 2011 10:39 AM:

    Mitt's campaign is quite quickly turning into a smile with a whole lot of nasty behind it! -Kevo

  • walt on July 09, 2011 10:42 AM:

    While I think the meme of "Mitt-flops" has established itself in the public consciousness, I'm not sure that Romney's actual record will hurt him that much. Republicans have spent the past three years relentlessly demonizing Obama as - pretty much - everything evil and wrong in this world. By contrast, Romney will - literally - be portrayed as the white savior of the American economy. The pushback should be intense but the battleground will still favor Republicans. Yes, it will be maddening because Republicans got us into this mess. But in politics, it's not a matter of being right so much as being the alternative to something believed to be wrong. 9% unemployment is a huge wrong, and only the most naive among us will think it's not the pivotal political reality of 2012.

  • zandru on July 09, 2011 10:56 AM:

    Tragically, the US is a place where most folks' only contact with the rest of the country and world comes out of their television set and talk radio. We're at the mercy of whoever runs the media.

    These days, that consists of a couple of giant companies, oriented largely toward defence, and with reactionary politics. Business "values" are always preceded by the "$" sign or sometimes the Euro or yuan. News is just another profit center - reporting is expensive, reality has a liberal tilt, and hey! We can create our own reality, more supportive of our political goals, for a lot less! Ka-CHING!

    What I'm trying to say is, Romney's record is probably irrelevant. Where will anyone learn about it?!?

    "116 ropeop" - heck, I'd settle for a round 100 of them.

  • tomb on July 09, 2011 11:06 AM:

    Let's face it, Obama has been a poseur too. Perhaps it's his desire to avoid rather than embrace confrontation with Republicans, but there has been very little audacity from this administration. I think he campaigned as a champion for liberals but he has not behaved that way in office; in fact, he has become a Republican.

  • FRP on July 09, 2011 11:15 AM:

    I'm Jack Johnson. Heavyweight champion of the world. I'm black. They never let me forget it. I'm black all right! I'll never let them forget it!

  • c u n d gulag on July 09, 2011 11:16 AM:

    Obama's a black strawman for the right.

    Whatever they're for, they'll say he's against it.

    And whatever he's for, they're against it (even if it was their idea originally).

    What he's succeeded at, they'll say he failed.

    And where he's failed, they'll amplify that to epic proportions.

    And if they have to bend, spindle or mutilate the truth, misdirect, and/or lie, what of it?
    That's SOP for the GOP.
    And the S-A-P's lap it up.

  • Schtick on July 09, 2011 11:28 AM:

    Tomb, you're right. He's a repub DINO blue dog while the other dems have jelly spines and run like chickens back to the coop. Why bother voting dem when you get repub results anyway.
    Let them have Romney and blame everything on Obama after Romney gets into office like they do with every dem after they leave office. Repubs walk on water and do no wrong. Just ask the repub campaign officers at Faux or Rush Lameazz, the repub party leader.

  • rrk1 on July 09, 2011 11:49 AM:

    Doesn't anyone remember Dubyu as the "compassionate conservative", and a "uniter not a divider"? There was no evidence for either of those assertions, but they were sold by the media and the Rethug establishment as the unvarnished truth. Romney has a record far more clear than Bush's ever was, but the mighty media Wulitzer will turn him into a white knight for the little guy as ridiculous as it obviously is - because the world is turned on its head. The narrative is being set.

  • MP on July 09, 2011 12:27 PM:

    "If hes not lying about a lie he lied about not lying about, Romney is either making (stuff) up or flailing around like a walrus in a triple lindy competition." http://bit.ly/Mittarded2012

  • Texas Aggie on July 10, 2011 12:43 AM:

    It might be better to take him on now and let the Bachmann benefit so we run against her instead of the flexible Mitt. I doubt that there would be too much difference if either got elected because Mitt has no foundation at all, and just twirls in the wind while the Bachmann is strongly founded in weirdness. Both of them will be disasters, but since Romney is more likely to beat Obama than the Space Cadet is, we don't lose anything and may gain at least the presidency.

  • MikeCharfa10 on July 20, 2011 3:57 AM:

    Great subject.
    Ideal answer.