Political Animal


January 12, 2012 8:00 AM ‘When Mitt Romney Came to Town’

By Steve Benen

We knew the short film from Newt Gingrich’s Super PAC, targeting Mitt Romney’s private-sector work, was on the way. We didn’t know just how devastating it would be.

Probably the easiest-to-see version of “When Mitt Romney Came to Town” is online at the Winning Our Future website, but a couple of folks have posted the full, 28-minute clip to YouTube, and I’m embedding it here:

The video is a wholesale condemnation, not only of Romney’s private-equity work, but of the business model Romney relied on to get exceedingly rich. Aside from some oblique xenophobic slights sprinkled into the script, it is as liberal an indictment against the former governor as anything I’ve seen.

As David Nir put it, “The attacks, the language, the framing — the very core — of this hit job sound like things you’d expect from a lefty operation…. It’s been pretty remarkable watching the GOP primary field adopt the rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street in slamming ‘corporate raider’ Mitt Romney over the past few days, but this just takes the cake. Amazing stuff.”

By mid-day, Politico reported that Gingrich had begun backing away from his own message, but by last night, the former Speaker’s campaign said it’s sticking with the Romney criticism. “We will continue to examine what decisions he made at Bain,” a spokesperson said. “And the American people can decide whether or not they want an investment banker in chief as their commander in chief.”

Many on the right, not surprisingly, are livid. Gingrich’s Super PAC is slamming the likely Republican presidential nominee with this brutal video and it’s doing so in a way that reinforces and validates liberal arguments — about Romney, about excessive greed, about the politics of income inequality, and about the ruthless, screw-the-workers style of capitalism Romney relied on to get rich.

The party establishment doesn’t want their nominee damaged before the general-election phase begins, and they especially don’t want him damaged in such a way that says concerns about Romney’s vulture capitalism is bipartisan.

Let’s also note the target audience. Ed Kilgore noted the video is “a heat-seeking missile aimed directly at the white working class id.” This is incredibly important in a 2012 context — if Romney is going to win the presidency, he’s going to need to crush President Obama with white working-class voters who tend to support the GOP anyway. This short film, with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, tells this constituency that Romney is not only indifferent to their struggles, but he and people like him caused their economic plight.

Of course, the video is 28 minutes long, and campaign commercials are generally 30 seconds. The video may be brutal, but it only matters to the extent that voters actually see it. To that end, Gingrich’s pals are considering plans to buy half-hour blocks on South Carolina television, and in the short term, will air 30- and 60-second excerpts.

The challenge for Romney and his team is both the video itself and the realization that the victims it highlights are not alone — for the next 10 months, Americans will be introduced to a whole lot of people and communities who suffered “when Mitt Romney came to town.”

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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  • Vokoban on January 12, 2012 8:09 AM:

    Probably too much too early.

    Just like GWB turned his intellectual lazyness into an asset Romney now has lots of time to turn his heartlessness into one.

    There's a saying in Germany that only the stupidest of calves chose their own butchers. And Romney now has a 30 minutes advertizement running that he's the best of all butchers.

  • Danp on January 12, 2012 8:09 AM:

    Two moments that stuck out for me were 1)where they fired all the employees and made them re-apply for their jobs, and 2)where the downsized a company so it would show an efficient profit, and then after the IPO, they sold their stock and the company folded soon thereafter. In other words they served their investors by conning others.

  • Danp on January 12, 2012 8:19 AM:

    Ed Kilgore noted the video is a heat-seeking missile aimed directly at the white working class id.

    Not just white, but they all seemed to be rural, southern (or nearly), unsophisticated mensches. In other words tea partiers who got burned.

  • Brenna on January 12, 2012 8:24 AM:

    Wow, Newt Gingrich is my new hero (but I wouldn't vote for him).

    There is something deeply satisfying about the republicans cannibalism. No one deserves it more. Add in the tea party taliban in the house of representatives, and we may have an Obama landslide.

  • walt on January 12, 2012 8:25 AM:

    The white working-class id ought to be enraged by vulture capitalism but by the end of the day, racial dog whistles are what make them vote Republican. Get inside the reptilian brains of "values" voters and you'll see which depth charges do the most damage. They're the ones directly related to identity and tribe, not justice or fairness.

  • DAY on January 12, 2012 8:32 AM:

    Walt makes a good point!
    Stephen Colbert ran a side by side photo of himself and Mitt last night, pointing out how much they look alike.
    Colbert always opens his show with an eagle and an American flag, and many of our not too bright citizenry still think he is a Conservative Republican. He is polling AHEAD of Huntsman in SC!
    Dog whistle, indeed. . .

  • berttheclock on January 12, 2012 8:47 AM:

    It is the evolvement of Romney which is troubling. When, he left Harvard for BCG, he was known for such tactics. Nor, after Bain Company recruited him away from BCG. In fact, at Bain C, he was part of teams which worked closely with companies to improve their profits, but, not by gutting them. When, he first formed Bain Capital, it was as a venture capitalist of providing money for new firms. Only after some time, did this "Romney Method" of acquiring companies, gutting them, and then, re-selling them go into effect. He developed that business model. Mark McCormick, the great mind behind the success of Arnold Palmer growing richer from his golf earnings, once, blasted the MBA programs as not having their students spend time among the workers in the plants and companies, as in not working your way up with the blue collars. By staying aloof from workers, the newly minted MBAs do tend to look upon workers as merely numbers.

  • MsJoanne on January 12, 2012 8:49 AM:

    As much as I loathe the entire GOP, no one should be cheering that video because this is the result of Citizens United Not Timid (no one ever says the full name, acronym C U N T) who wanted to do a film "documentary" hit job on Hillary Clinton, the basis of the lawsuit.

    While the Romney flick may be true, this the first (I believe) after the ruling and will become the way of politics from now on. And you all know the right wouldn't know the truth if it spit in their faces.

    Wait until the one about Obama comes out in a few months and it's all bullshit. We won't be cheering then.

  • lou on January 12, 2012 8:55 AM:

    The GOP is attempting to "Mitt"igate the message by destroying the messenger. They are well practiced -- recall how effectively they killed the AWOL attack on GW by focusing all the attention on Dan Rather's screwup.

    Mitt is a slick SOB. Just as slick as teflon Ron. So the dems better not count on this vulture capitalist slam landing with the voters, especially those who have already bought the Kenyan socialist BS. Their noses are already on that blood trail and there will be no turning them.

  • Hedda Peraz on January 12, 2012 8:56 AM:

    MsJoanne speaks to a greater truth!
    And the good folks at "Not Timid" will indeed go through Obummer's trash with a fine tooth comb, in preparation for a (hopefully) devastating documentary.

    I say hopefully, because, I fear, as Gertude Stein said, "There is no there, there."

  • hells littlest angel on January 12, 2012 9:03 AM:

    I hope that next year President Obama will consider rewarding Gingrich by offering him the job of Secretary of Being a Fucking Asshole.

  • NDR on January 12, 2012 9:04 AM:

    I am befuddled; why can't Romney's Republican opponents nail him on Bain Capital in a way that is uniquely Rpublican? Obviously, Republicans are bad a nuance. However, it seems that there are several angles that they could attack him on. Couldn't his record be called "jobless prosperity," which would fold nicely into "jobless recovery"? Couldn't they compare him to the borrowers whom Republicans blame for over-leveraging their homes and tanking the economy, only to get a government bailout? There muse be some smart conservatives who are able to work these angles.

  • Rochester on January 12, 2012 9:07 AM:

    Hedda Peraz calls the POTUS "Obummer" and probably thinks it's pretty clever.

    Grow up and use words, not spitballs.

  • hells littlest angel on January 12, 2012 9:10 AM:

    Just say it out loud: Hedda Peraz.

  • JD on January 12, 2012 9:13 AM:

    One thing that this entire episode shows is that Republican politicians value power WAY more than any ideas they may have about government. As far as I know, NOT A SINGLE ONE of Romney's opponents has distanced themselves from this line of attack; they have instead embraced this liberal argument because it might help their short term political prospects. And this is the way of today's GOP: say ANYTHING, do ANYTHING that will help you win the next news cycle.

    It really makes me want to vomit, especially given the fact that every one of these men believe in the nihilistic policies that have led to the decimation of the working class.

    (sorry about the caps, but one can only take so much rank hypocrisy)

  • marty on January 12, 2012 9:29 AM:

    And of course when Romney does win the nomination, and Democrats begin to use the Bain line of attack, these VERY SAME Republicans will turn on a dime, and accuse the Dems of "attacking free enterprise", or in the words of Joke Scarborough (repeated at least a dozen times each half-hour, it seems) "attacking Romney for 'practicing acts of capitalism'

  • Ron Byers on January 12, 2012 9:36 AM:

    My fear is there is no one on the side of workingmen and women who have the kind of media access necessary to insure a real conversation about what passes for business ethics at the Harvard Business School and other similar moral cesspools ever occurs. It might very well be necessary for rich people like Gingrich's super pac to kick the conversation off.

    By the way what ever happened to the Occupy Wall Street movement anyway. Are the Occupy people merely taking the rest of their lives off, or are they organizing a Spring offensive?

    By the way never forget that the Roosevelts, both of them, were very rich. So were the Kennedys. Not all rich people are Romneys. A lot of them understand that the America remains great as long as everyone realistically thinks he or she has a chance to move up to the 1%.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on January 12, 2012 9:58 AM:

    This film will confuse teabaggers. Why are all those people who look and sound like them attacking a job creator? Those people look like real Americans because they sound awful socialist.

    Less confusing and more digestible to their reptilian brains:

    The picture of Romney's tarmac shoe shining @ 9:47. Contrast that picture with one good picture of a dilapidated manufacturing plant and you've told the story better than any 28 minute film.

  • jakee308 on January 12, 2012 10:07 AM:

    What is so bad about condemning greed?

    What is so bad about condemning the income unequal growth that has occurred over the last 20 years between the executive officers of a company and the workers of that company? (not that they should have equal pay but they should have a share of the INCREASED value).

    What is so bad about condemning the raiding of a company, stripping out any assets, reducing the workforce while shipping the rest of production overseas?

    That IS what's wrong with the economy in the country NOW. Too many got too greedy and weren't good corporate citizens. They ignored what the effects of what they were doing in pursuit of increased profit to the detriment of the country's economic strength and the faith and trust of it's people.

    It's what has given the Democrats their toe hold despite their failing policies. They too have a lot to account for in this economic disaster we're in but we're not nominating a leader to help lead us out of this mess.

  • johnny canuck on January 12, 2012 10:14 AM:

    JD on January 12, 2012 9:13 AM:

    Santorum has distanced himself

  • jsjiowa on January 12, 2012 10:20 AM:

    I would never vote for Newt for anything, but he has raised an issue that needs discussing, and he has tried to frame it in as pro-business a way as he can: Are all acts in the pursuit of profit moral, or will Americans reject acts of greed that produce great individual wealth at the expense of individuals and society? Capitalism is good, but in its extreme forms (such as "creative destruction") there are extreme individual and societal costs. We need to discuss this issue, especially in the wake of the financial industry messes from 2008 and beyond. Wall Street (the movie) may have had us confront those who believe that "greed is good", but that mentality is what drove the reckless behavior on Wall Street (and probably is still there, waiting to surface again, when people have forgotten). Maybe it's time the country actually decides what kind of business activities it is going to permit. (go, proper regulation!)

    I watched the whole film, and felt like I wouldn't want such a person leading the country. I can't trust Romney to do the right thing in difficult situations. There were more humane ways of dealing with those companies and their workers, while still making a profit. In fact, Gingrich has raised that very question: would one of the bankrupt companies have survived, jobs intact, if Romney had been content with only a three-fold profit, instead of a six-fold profit? It's a very good question.

    Newt is known for being the Republican "ideas" man. This is an idea which is timely.

  • PabloZed on January 12, 2012 10:38 AM:

    Romney's retort - that he created more jobs than he destroyed - can itself turn into another gaffe. Turn the focus to a comparison of the manufacturing jobs Romney killed to the service jobs he claims he created. Worker A lost a job that paid more and had benefits vs Worker B gained a job paying significantly less with no benefits. That is a net loss to the economy and to society.

  • Andrew on January 12, 2012 10:40 AM:

    Bain capital and other firms like it are a necessary part of the economy, just like forest fires and vultures are a necessary part of nature. You just don't want to be on the receiving end of their services.

    Romney's first problem is that he has told us (ad nausem) that he lives in the "Real Economy," that he has business experience and creates jobs. Bain Capital does not create jobs any more than a bank creates jobs when it loans people money or bankruptcy court creates jobs when it helps a firm escape debt. He is not an inventor, or an entrepreneur that takes an idea and creates the next big thing. Even if he was, there is no evidence that a good CEO makes a good president. You can not fire congress, for example.

    Romney's second problem is that he made all of his money through capital gains and if the word gets out the "Joe the plumber" pays 30% of his income in taxes and Romney only pays 15% it is going to make him look bad. So much of GOP tax reform platform is eliminating the tax on capital gains. Bain's business model is about capital gains/ divedends for the investors. If we eliminate Capital Gains taxes, the Romneys of the world will pay no federal taxes, and the working class will pick up all the slack.

  • MBunge on January 12, 2012 10:42 AM:

    A lot of lefties have taken to expressing some admiration for the hardball tactics that dominate the GOP political operation. "Bitch slap" politics are all well and good, but sooner or later you smack the wrong person and find yourself in a struggle to the death that you don't need and could have easily avoided.


  • MCA on January 12, 2012 11:07 AM:

    I have to disagree with those saying this is coming too early. If it hadn't been introduced as a theme by other Republicans, it would have been counterproductive in the general election for any Democrat to raise the issues raised by this film. The script has been flipped, and the GOP can't simply spout off the usual b.s. that anyone who would question the justness of any of the results of our system of capitalism is a communist, unfairly waging class warfare on the poor defenseless rich folk. Well, they can and will, but it won't shut down the conversation or be swallowed whole by the village media the same way. The innoculatory effect of those sorts of accusations will be much weaker now that Newt, Perry and Hunstman have all opened the door together. It was absolutely necessary to Democrats to have Republicans of stature start this chorus; it provides cover for them.

  • Denise Painter on January 12, 2012 11:47 AM:

    What a powerful video. Whomever put this together is a genius. While I would never vote for Newt, I'm gratefully appreciative of his PAC for putting this together. I pray they do purchase the time on South Carolina stations to run this. I would suggest also Animal Planet, Discovery, A&E, and any station that has shows on hoarding, celebrity wives, teen pregnancy, or Dog The Bounty Hunter, those seeming to be the most popular channels in South Carolina among Republican voters. Because almost everyone in SC can identify with someone in that video, and we all drive past the empty plants today that provided good jobs. Hope it makes a difference.

  • Gina on January 12, 2012 12:07 PM:

    This is one of the best pieces of Democratic propaganda I've ever seen. :D

  • ottovbvs on January 12, 2012 12:24 PM:

    The suggestion by some that this early appearance of the Bain story is going to immunise Romney in some magical way indicates they have no idea of how advertising works. What this entire controversy and it's subsets (I like firing people) is doing is framing the image of Romney in a way that will be impossible to eradicate from the public consciousness as the campaign rolls on. To be fair some on the far right like Erick Erickson predicted that this is exactly what would happen and it is. I'm not going to bother going through the PE business model (which is rather different from the VC model although there is sometimes overlap) but believe me while it's not all bad, on the whole it contains just about all the bad components of financial engineering that you have ever heard of with consequent collateral damage along the way. This is only just starting and what the movie has done is to validate the story that the Dems have waiting the wings to tell.

  • beejeez on January 12, 2012 12:33 PM:

    Jeez, Gingrich vs. Romney. Do I have to choose a side or can I just shoot myself?

  • John Henry on January 12, 2012 4:43 PM:

    I just watched this yesterday and couldn't help but think:

    1. Mitt's got some 'splainin to do. Let's watch him lie his way through this.
    2. This is the pot calling the kettle black. Gingrich helped passed the laws that allowed Romney to gut American companies.

  • Realist on January 14, 2012 11:27 AM:

    Oh, man - that video is too much. If only there were an Academy Award for Hypocrisy.

  • someguy on January 14, 2012 4:08 PM:

    Citizens United Not Timid is actually a different organization than the Citizens United group of supreme court fame. The two actually got into a dispute involving alledged copyright infringement of the latter by the former.

  • Douglas Ou-ee-ii-jay-ii Jack on January 18, 2012 9:16 AM:

    Few are making films of this quality and relevance to public interest and livelihood so thanks to Newt Gingrich's Super PAC for essential election information. The mind dulling junkfood of American/Canadian media and politics is criminal towards public and international responsibility as are the Harvard elite out on their tears.
    Future films adding to this would do well to focus upon all stakeholder responsibility including founder, labour, supplier and consumer responsibility to invest in ownership. As a North American society we've destroyed so much abundant living capacity which First Nations in their welcome had invited us to be part of. Colonists destroyed the Economic Democracy of First Nations here and indigenous peoples around the world. This 'democracy' (Greek = 'power of the people') was based in the progressive universal ownership of each area of goods and services production specialty held in the Production Societies. The multihome Longhouse, Pueblo, Mound Cities etc provided privacy yet opportunity to collaborate as well as economies of scale in joined buildings for individuals, families, extended families to account for their labours and be strong together. Multi-stakeholder participation is the true meaning of capitalism. https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/relational-economy/8-economic-democracy