27 September 2012

Mother Jones strikes again?

If Mitt Romney loses the presidential election, Mother Jones magazine will take much of the credit after publicizing the now-infamous "47%" video of the candidate speaking candidly to donors. To their credit, I suppose, their ace reporter David Corn is not taking Romney's defeat for granted. He has been given a video taken from a Bain & Company 25th anniversary CD-Rom that includes a clip of Romney speaking to his Bain colleagues back in 1985 about the then-new Bain Capital branch of the business. Young Romney explains that Bain Capital had been "formed to invest in startup companies and ongoing companies, then to take an active hand in managing them and hopefully, five to eight years later, to harvest them at a significant profit." 

Corn considers this damning, not for what Romney said, but for what he didn't say. Judged just by the actual words, it sounds pretty innocuous, though early comments on the Mother Jones website infer something nearly diabolical from the word "harvest." Corn, however, finds it contradictory in emphasis and attitude with the rhetoric of the Republican presidential candidate. In 2012, Romney has stressed his experience as a job creator at Bain. In 1985, he seemed not to rank job creation high among his accomplishments or priorities. But this should neither surprise nor outrage anyone. Again, Romney was talking to a specialized audience -- this time, presumably, business people. The private sector does not create jobs simply for the sake of employing people. It probably would have looked ridiculous had Romney boasted of doing so or listed it among the primary missions of Bain Capital.  Nevertheless, Romney would have more reason to defend this video than he would the last one, since it has always been his position that this is exactly how jobs are created: by investing and managing, if not by harvesting. The only other way, he most likely believes, is through the instruments of an undesirable "command economy." Nor does the 1985 video necessarily belie anything Romney has said as a politician, unless another video can be found in which the politician claims that job creation was an end unto itself for him as a businessman. Were he ever to have said such a thing, his credibility as a businessman would probably be more in doubt than his credibility as a politician is today. I don't know if Corn and Mother Jones thought they'd hit another one out of the park with this video, but to me, no friend of Romney, it looks like a swing and a miss.

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