Friday, July 13, 2012

Mitt the Obscure?

This is my "credibility" expression. What do you think?
It's clear now that Mitt Romney's strategy for the 2012 election is to avoid saying much beyond vague platitudes delivered forcefully to enhance their effect. That he believes that this will work shows more than any single truth about him that he is not suited to the U.S. presidency.

Because of this, he is ill-prepared to deal with the consequences as what few investigative reporters left in America comb through his life story to discover all the things that Mitt attempts to obscure. The result is clear: Mitt is a inveterate liar, both by disposition and practice.

Here are several viewpoints on this that help us understand the different sides of Mitt Romney that makes him think the truth doesn't matter. First, Howard Fineman of the Huffington Post does a great job getting to the nub of Romney's problem:
But the larger question: Why did Mitt and his minions behave this way, that is, putting a blowtorch to a campfire?
The first reason is Bain, and the culture that surrounds it. Bain Capital, which Mitt Romney founded, was not and is not now in the business of telling people what it is up to. The press is a pox, at best, in a business that requires stealth attacks on undervalued assets.
There it is, the motherlode of Mitt's character flaw: the truth is not his friend, not professionally, not politically. Either his antipathy toward the truth came from this professional realization or his proclivity for this particular profession derives from the fact that Mitt Romney was a priori well-suited to just such a profession. By now, it makes little difference. Mitt Romney lies because he is supposed to. That's what private-equity practitioners do and what politicians do. Read the entire Fineman piece.

Nothing more clearly demonstrates this character flaw in action than watching Romney in action. A good exercise is putting two events in juxtaposition and noticing that Romney says one thing when he thinks it's got to be the "truth" and another thing when it's got to be the "truth." For an example, let's look at two stories, both from Talking Points Memo, which dug up the dirt on this. First, one that has Romney insisting he left Bain in 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Olympics:
A central element of the 2012 campaign cycle has become just when Mitt Romney left Bain Capital. The Romney campaign says he left in early 1999 — in time to get him off the hook for some controversial investments. backs up Mitt while David Corn and the Obama campaign have brought forward numerous pieces of documentary evidence indicating he didn’t leave until a couple years later.
Now here’s even more evidence that he didn’t leave in 1999 as he now claims.
The gist of the disagreement comes down to this: There’s no question that numerous public filings and some contemporaneous press references say Romney was still running things at Bain after 1999. But his campaign insists that whatever securities filings may have said, in practice, he was so busy running the 2002 Winter Olympics that he actually had no role at Bain after early 1999. That’s possible in theory. But there’s no evidence for it besides self-interested claims by Romney. And there’s plenty of documentary evidence to the contrary. After all, what you tell the SEC is really supposed to be true.
 Next is a story about Romney's testimony that he was involved in Bain and its businesses through 2002 in order to prove residency in Massachusetts so he could legally run for governor:
Mitt Romney testified to Massachusetts officials in 2002 that he maintained business ties during his Olympics work, undermining his argument that he had no connection to Bain Capital or related companies after 1999. Notably, his campaign has refused to deny whether he ever held meetings with Bain during his time in Salt Lake City.
Romney, who at the time was trying to convince the state Ballot Law Commission that he should be allowed to run for office in Massachusetts despite living in Utah the previous three years, did not directly address his work with Bain Capital. But, in testimony obtained by the Huffington Post, Romney said that he returned home for “a number of social trips and business trips that brought me back to Massachusetts, board meetings, Thanksgiving and so forth.”
Romney noted that he remained an active member of the board at Staples, where Bain was an early investor and a company Romney frequently cites on the trail, and LifeLike, a toy company where Bain was heavily invested at the time.
 There it is, Romney trying to have it both ways. Why? Because he's professionally, politically, and, conceivably, personally inclined to do so. He believes that things are the way he wants them to be, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and he will not change his story, except to say this is the way it is now. Some people might say that is the definition of a pathological liar. I'd have a hard time disputing that, except to say that this kind of human so populates our financial and political culture that it has become, unbelievably, accepted practice. A good demonstration of this pops up at Barry Ritholtz's The Big Picture in a post by Invictus attacking an article in the LA Times that claims the majority of jobs are created by "big business." This chart says it all:

Invictus goes on to say:
All that said, is it really appropriate to write that “big business remains the primary driver of economic growth and job creation” when the facts (remember them?) tell us otherwise?
This whole “leave the billionaire job creators alone or they won’t hire anyone” meme has gotten very old, very fast. I guess in large part because it’s untrue. And also because they’ve been left alone and they’re still laying people off. Comments like those seen here, here and here are laughable. Sad, but laughable.
...Anyway, it’s a sad state of affairs when virtually every piece of information put out for public consumption needs to be fact-checked. I don’t know when, exactly, this trend started, but I sure hope it gets reversed soon.
 I don't know when it gets reversed. Mitt Romney hopes never. I started out talking about Mitt the Obscure. I unfortunately believe that Mitt the Disturbed is more like it.

The world where Mitt Romney succeeds is not the world I want to live in. I guess we'll see in four months.

I can't believe they connected the dots, I sure couldn't.

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