Magazine cover of the week (updated)

Oh my! And yes, this is the real cover.

Update: Here is a link to the article in Newsweek.


In some respects, he’s more weenie than wimp—socially inept; at times awkwardy ingratiating, at other times mocking those “below” him, but almost always getting the situation a little wrong, and never in a sympathetic way. The evidence resonates across too many years to deny. What kind of teenager beats up on the misfit, sissy kid, pinning him down and violently cutting his hair with a pair of school scissors—the incident from Romney’s youth that The Washington Post famously reported (and Romney famously didn’t really deny) back in May? The behavior extends, through more sedate means, into adulthood. The Salt Lake Olympics remains his greatest triumph, for which he wins deserved praise. But to many of those in the know, Romney placed a heavy asterisk next to his name by attacking the men he replaced on the Olympic Committee, smearing them in his book, even after a court threw out all the corruption charges against them.

And what kind of presidential candidate whines about a few attacks and demands an apology when the going starts to get rough? And tries to sound tough by accusing the president who killed the world’s most-wanted villain of appeasement? That’s what they call overcompensation, and it’s a dead giveaway; it’s the “tell.” This guy is nervous—terrified—about looking weak. And ironically, being terrified of looking weak makes him look weaker still.

Harvey Mansfield, the Harvard political philosopher, is a godhead to conservatives. He wrote a book while Bush was president called Manliness. It was a self-parodic volume, but conservatives loved it. In 2006 an interviewer asked Mansfield his definition of manliness, and he said: “confidence in a situation of risk.”

By this definition, the conservative definition, Romney is a total bust. He’s the most risk-averse major politician to come along in ages. He accepted the job at Bain Capital only after wringing out of Bill Bain a promise that, if the venture failed, Mitt would be welcomed back to Bain & Co.—at his old levels of compensation and seniority—and that the press and public would be fed some happy talk about how it had all gone as intended. And why didn’t he leave Bain in 1999 to go run the Olympics, as he always said he had, but instead take his now-famous “leave of absence”? To have the option of coming back; to minimize the risk. Even his flip-flopping, his taking of positions all over the map, is a form of risk aversion, being all things to all people, able to placate any audience, never stuck out on a limb unable to satisfy.

Bain is not going away

More solid reporting from the Boston Globe:

Romney has said in financial disclosure statements that he “was not involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way” after Feb. 11, 1999. But he was still legally the CEO, with numerous duties and obligations that were his alone, until early 2002.

Interviews with a half-dozen of Romney’s former partners and associates, as well as public records, show that he was not merely an absentee owner during this period. He signed dozens of company documents, including filings with regulators on a vast array of Bain’s investment entities. And he drove the complex negotiations over his own large severance package, a deal that was critical to the firm’s future without him, according to his former associates.

Indeed, by remaining CEO and sole shareholder, Romney held on to his leverage in the talks that resulted in his generous 10-year retirement package, according to former associates.

“The elephant in the room was not whether Mitt was involved in investment decisions but Mitt’s retention of control of the firm and therefore his ability to extract a huge economic benefit by delaying his giving up of that control,” said one former associate, who, like some other Romney associates, spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for the company.

“Retroactive retirement”

So now, Ed Gillespie, Romney senior campaign adviser, argues that Romney retired “retroactively” from Bain in 2002.

[Romney] took a leave of absence and in fact he ended up not going back at all, and retired retroactively to 1999 as a result. He left a life he loved to go to Salt Lake City and help a country he loves more, and somehow Chicago… is trying to make it something sinister.

I guess Romney is different from you and me. I have never figured out how I could possibly “retire” after I already provided input and services, and disregarding the fact that I have never been a CEO, Chairman and President of a company from which I claimed retroactive retirement.

Obama’s latest ad (updated)

A new ad is out from the Obama campaign. I like it.

Update: Check out James Wolcott’s take:

It’s the political ad that everyone’s talking about this post-All Star game season, and no wonder–it’s a sneaky jab that completely shatters Mitt Romney’s glass jaw. What’s brilliant about “Firms” isn’t so much the way it mails home the irony of Romney murdering “America the Beautiful” with his toneless, tuneless voice on the soundtrack as info flashcards remind us of all the jobs Bain Capital shipped overseas and how much money Romney’s stashed in tax havens such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, though it is a clever, damaging juxtaposition that takes Romney’s chief asset as a candidate–his halo of executive achievement–and hangs it around his neck like a choke collar. Very Rovian, that.

No, what’s genius is the initial transition between President Obama striding a few steps at the White House and cutting to Mitt making with song…the contrast between Obama’s vocal and physical gravitas and Mitt’s goofiness is hilarious, devastating, emasculating. It’s like going from The Shawshank Redemption to Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor when the Buddy Love spell wears off, from Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night to Fred MacMurray in Son of Flubber. And the fact that this ad is approved by Obama gives it much more authority and pow than if it were just something cooked up at the editing console by some bright operatives hoping the video would go YouTube viral. It’s a smackdown from the man himself, not some Democratic front group, thus sending a much stronger message.

It’s clear that the Obama campaign’s strategy is to hit Romney hard early, define and diminish him in the public imagination with cartoon clarity, and send him into the Republican convention with a Dan Quayle deer-in-the-headlights look that conveys the unbearable lightness of completely lost.

The initial response from Team Romney is that the Obama ad is making mockery of “America the Beautiful,” and thus of America itself, and therefore dishonors those great patriots who shop for mattresses on Presidents’ Day. If that’s the best these marshmallows can counterpunch, they’ll be digging up Lee Atwater before Labor Day and trying to reanimate him with jumper cables.

Note this: Obama is not a wimp. He is coming out tougher in this campaign than he has during most of his first term.

Colbert PAC ad

Gotta love this.

And this:

WSJ look at Bain

The Wall Street Journal reviewed the success (or lack thereof) of companies acquired by Bain Capital while Mitt Romney was at the firm. The Romney campaign has complained about the results.

A short summary of what they found:

Amid anecdotal evidence on both sides, the full record has largely escaped a close look, because so many transactions are involved. The Wall Street Journal, aiming for a comprehensive assessment, examined 77 businesses Bain invested in while Mr. Romney led the firm from its 1984 start until early 1999, to see how they fared during Bain’s involvement and shortly afterward.

Among the findings: 22% either filed for bankruptcy reorganization or closed their doors by the end of the eighth year after Bain first invested, sometimes with substantial job losses. An additional 8% ran into so much trouble that all of the money Bain invested was lost.

Another finding was that Bain produced stellar returns for its investors—yet the bulk of these came from just a small number of its investments. Ten deals produced more than 70% of the dollar gains.

Some of those companies, too, later ran into trouble. Of the 10 businesses on which Bain investors scored their biggest gains, four later landed in bankruptcy court.

King of Bain

There is a new 30 minute film attacking Mitt Romney as a self-interested and indiscriminate job-killer.  It is called King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town and a Super-PAC supporting New Gingrich, called Winning Our Future, has funded it. It goes directly to Romney’s case to voters that he is a “job creator.” This could really set off a big intra-GOP battle. And it could provide some terrific fodder for Obama’s campaign.

The full film will be released on the web, but right now only a trailer is available.