Friday, January 13, 2012

Erasing the King of Bain Stain

Romney should be able to beat the King of Bain rap. The film is so obviously over the top in its vilification, it has 'smear' written all over it from the moment the narrator intones menacingly, near the outset, that Bain Capital was initially funded by Latin American money.  Its presentation of every factory closure it treats has been shown to be distorted: either the troubles started well before Bain came on the scene, or after Romney left, or in several stages under several changes of ownership. Even Newt is now demanding that his Pac either fix every error or take the film down -- as if the old demonizing fraudster didn't know perfectly well last week, when he was urging debate viewers to watch it and judge for themselves, that there was not an undistorted fact in the whole.

And yet. Distorted does not mean entirely devoid of truth. The closures were real; Bain did push some companies into or towards bankruptcy by overloading them with debt; and when Romney is shown asking "whose pockets" corporate profits flow into, the film provides a clear answer: disproportionately into his and those of his ilk.

Moreover, for all its distortions, the film contains more truth than everything Romney has said about Obama combined: that he has gone on an 'apology tour' and appeased America's enemies; that he made the recession worse; that he aims to create equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity; that he "betrayed his oath of office" by passing a healthcare reform law that mirrored Romney's own and that fulfilled his central campaign promise; and that the said office-betraying ACA takes away everyone's right to chose their doctor or insurance plan. Nor do the lies end with his attacks on Obama: virtually every position he takes is a convoluted amalgam of a prior position and the current demands of the Tea Party. Lies appear in almost every factual assertion Romney makes -- see the ten recent lies documented today by Steve Benen.  There is a certain poetic justice in the spectacle of a man who spends his days lying from sunup to sundown being confronted by rivals in his own party with a portrait of a man whose core claims about himself -- that he is a job creator, that he cares about ordinary Americans, that he knows how to fix the economy -- are all lies.

Because Romney inspires distrust across the political spectrum, some of the images and juxtapositions in the film will resonate: a bereft woman intoning, "he's not meaning one bit of what he's saying"; Romney challenging hecklers yelling about corporate profits by asking "into whose pockets" they go; Romney's multimillion dollar estates set off against the lament of a woman who lost her home after being laid off by Bain. And while Romney should be able to counter the cartoonish narrative  -- a little expressed regret and compassion for 'inevitable' job destruction would be a useful introit -- so far he's only dug deeper, insisting that publicly expressed concerns with growing inequality are an exploitation of envy, and that the problems of growing wealth disparity should only be addressed in "quiet rooms".

Romney may come back with a strong counter-narrative about Bain. He has the money, and a credible assemblage of facts on his side. But while the film and ad images are still raw, he's been reinforcing them by expressing his apparently core belief that all accumulations of wealth are fully justified, and that modifying the rules by which the managing directors of Bain or Goldman extract ever-growing shares are not a fit subject for public discourse. While those expressed beliefs are not lies, they do not accord with most Americans' current perceptions. Impressions that a person believes what is untrue and asserts what is untrue tend to be mutually reinforcing.

1 comment:

  1. The daily howler has been pushing hard regarding the liberal media's failure to pick up the steel mill story recently published by Reuters. The basic story... Romney bought a steel mill, Bain then took dividends, underfunded the pensions, thereby screwing the federal pension guarantee fund (taxpayer bailout), and went bankrupt screwing the workers who lost their healthcare and got their pensions cut. Seems like a perfect concrete narrative for attacking Romney. Much better than these abstract job count fights.