Mr. Nocera is off today. Mr. Blow, in “What a Tangled Web,” says the truth about Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital and the mystery surrounding his wealth may be too slippery and technical for voters to process. That may well be so, but I think most voters can grasp the concept that you can tell when Mittens is lying. It’s when his lips are moving. Ms. Collins peers into “Mitt’s Political Vortex” and says this has not been a great stretch for Mitt Romney. If we ever get our heads around Higgs boson, we might be able to understand Romney’s résumé. Here’s Mr. Blow:
Mitt Romney’s stories just don’t jibe.
First, there is the issue of when he left Bain Capital, the private-equity firm he founded.
On an August 2011 federal disclosure form, Romney stated that he “retired from Bain Capital on Feb. 11, 1999, to head the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.” The statement continued: “Since Feb. 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and had not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way.”
But, as The Boston Globe reported this week, Securities and Exchange Commission documents filed after 1999 by Bain Capital state that “he remained the firm’s ‘sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president.’ ”
Furthermore, according to documents obtained by The Huffington Post, Romney testified in June 2002 that there “were a number of social trips and business trips that brought me back to Massachusetts, board meetings, Thanksgiving and so forth.” According to The Huffington Post, Romney also testified that he “remained on the board of the Staples Corporation and Marriott International, the LifeLike Corporation.”
Here is where we must split the hair. All these things could be technically true, but that’d rest on a distinction most people wouldn’t make. There is no evidence that Romney played an “active role” in “any Bain Capital entity,” although he was active in the companies that Bain invested in. This depends on what you consider an “entity.”
As FactCheck.org puts it: “We think the term ‘Bain Capital entity’ on Romney’s disclosure forms could only refer to Bain’s various investment funds, not to companies in which it invested.”
That may be technically true, but the spirit of the truth as most people engage it doesn’t turn on technicalities.
For most Americans, filings for the Federal Election Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission are foreign concepts that would have limited resonance. But being misleading is a universal concept: most have done it and most frown upon it. The insinuation by the Obama campaign that Romney was either lying then or is lying now (or is shaving the truth down to a sliver) to make a buck and win an office is a much easier and more dangerous concept for voters to wrap their minds around.
Furthermore, the slipperiness of this explanation underscores Romney’s otherness. If you were a construction worker or a schoolteacher, the year you stopped doing your job wouldn’t be ambiguous. Having no “active role” in a parent “entity” feels like a term of art for a con artist.
Second is the issue of Romney’s tax returns.
Romney has only released a complete return for 2010 and an unfinished estimate for 2011. This is less than any other presidential candidate in recent history. As The Times put it in a scathing editorial this week, “what information he did release provides a fuzzy glimpse at a concerted effort to park much of his wealth in overseas tax shelters, suggesting a widespread pattern of tax avoidance unlike that of any previous candidate.”
Blind trusts, Swiss bank accounts and Bermuda accounts designed to shield your money from the taxing agency of the country you want to lead just doesn’t sound right. And Romney’s reluctance to reveal more suggests that there is more that’s distasteful.
In general, people are uneasy when politicians are unwilling to disclose details. President Obama learned this as it related to his birth certificate. He may have been withholding it on principle because no other president had been forced to go to such an extent to prove his legitimacy, but, eventually, the damage being done by withholding became greater than the principle. So he released it, and much — but not all — of the second-guessing went away.
Romney may have to reach that decision more quickly than Obama. The narrative is starting to take hold that he is dishonest, devious and irreconcilably different. These are simple, deadly character flaws in a candidate because they’re antithetical to the American ideal of the presidency.
This is the country of George Washington and the cherry tree lore — the tender story of a little boy who would become the nation’s first president and the now famous line “I cannot tell a lie.” Whether truth or fable, it’s a fixture.
One thing that seems questionable is Romney’s tax return defense that, “all the taxes are paid, as appropriate.” Propriety is a matter of perspective.
My mother used to say: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said.” The simple truth makes sense, stands on its own and can be proved. Nine times out of 10, things that require constant clarification and endless appending aren’t the simple truth.
That’s mother’s wit, and everyone has a mother.
As I said… Are Mittens’ lips moving? Then he’s lying. Here’s Ms. Collins:
Do you think it’s a coincidence that ever since the world’s physicists announced that they had discovered a possible breakthrough in the study of mass and energy last week, our politics has taken on a kind of black-hole quality?
First, Bain Capital. Let’s see if we can get this straight. In 1999, Mitt Romney quit his hypersuccessful financial career at the private-equity firm in order to run the troubled Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. “I would walk away from my leadership at Bain Capital at the height of its profitability and take a position without compensation,” he wrote in his book “Turnaround.”
He was out, gone — walked away. Get it? It is very important that you do because given the hysteria with which the Romney campaign is defending this 1999 termination marker, you would think that in the next few years Bain had embarked on a new and lucrative path involving the slave labor of My Little Ponies.
Romney gave five network television interviews on the subject on Friday. While it was true that a bunch of Securities and Exchange Commission filings submitted into the new millennium described Romney as Bain Capital’s boss, that was a technicality, he told CNN.
Well, actually, he said, “I was the owner of an entity that is filing that information.” Also that there’s a difference between an owner and “a person who’s running an entity.”
It was Romney’s Star Trek moment. They were always talking about entities on Star Trek, and entities were very seldom good news.
By the time Mitt had cleared the interview decks, he was sounding more earthbound and demanding that President Obama apologize for an aide who said that Romney had either lied or committed a felony. I believe I speak for all Americans when I say that it would be nice if presidential campaigns avoided the use of the word “felony” except perhaps when discussing the occasional member of Congress.
But let’s get back to that entity. In the period between 1999 and 2002, Bain Capital engaged in a certain amount of activity along the steel-mill-closing, toymaker-killing, job-exporting lines. But Romney says he wasn’t responsible because he had walked away. The figure skaters and curling teams needed him. He and Bain were finito.
Sort of. While he was in Utah getting the luge runs in shape, Romney was also still getting a six-figure salary for being a Bain “executive.” Perhaps for Mitt, that was just the going-away equivalent of a monogrammed briefcase. Although it does sort of take the steam out of his principled refusal to accept any money from the Olympics until his turnaround was successfully completed.
So to summarize: Romney was at Bain after 1999, but not necessarily in the sense of occupying physical space. He was employed by folks in Utah, but not in the sense of the people who made out his paycheck.
If we ever manage to really get our heads around Higgs boson, perhaps we will also be able to understand the Mitt Romney Olympics period.
The Democrats suggested all this could be cleared up if Romney would release his back tax returns. There are actually very few things in the universe that the Democrats do not think would be made better if Romney released his tax returns.
This has not been a great stretch for Mitt. Pictures from his family vacation made him look dorky and rich. A woman recently asked the House speaker, John Boehner, how he was going to “make me love Mitt Romney,” and Boehner basically told her that it was impossible.
This was at a fund-raiser in West Virginia. Boehner said that come November, his side would be going to the polls to get rid of Barack Obama, and that the only ones marching off to vote Republican because they actually liked the idea of making Mitt Romney president would be his co-religionists and folks who have been invited to his house for dinner. (“Mitt Romney has some friends, relatives and fellow Mormons … some people that are going to vote for him. But that’s not what this election is about.”)
Barack Obama is anti-matter. That’s what this election is all about.
Returning to Washington, Boehner triumphantly led the House through its 33rd symbolic vote to eliminate the Obama health care program. According to an estimate by CBS News, the House has spent 80 hours on this effort. As a result, the Republican leadership probably won’t have time to deal with a bipartisan Senate bill to fix the financial problems at the U.S. Postal Service, which is overwhelmed with debt obligations, many of them because of unnecessary and intrusive Congressional regulations.
The Republicans currently have a symbolic legislative agenda and a presidential candidate who can be in two places at one time, but whom nobody likes.
Other than that, it’s all good. Nobody’s brought up the dog on the car roof for days.
And as a lagniappe here’s a link to Charles Pierce’s latest take-down of Bobo. These things are works of art, and every time he takes on Bobo I’ll be supplying a link. No one would look askance at Moral Hazard if he bit Bobo on the ankle… Enjoy!