Back in May, in the Late Cretaceous period of the 2012 presidential election season, I had some fun at Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s expense:
Since its official launch in Richmond, the Obama reelection campaign has included a tepid, almost genteel, critique of the private-equity industry as part of its narrative. Obama’s argument, in essence, is that the art of the leveraged buyout might not be the most apposite of life experiences to carry into the Oval Office. Predictably, the blowhards freaked out: Obama is against free enterprise! He hates capitalism!
Newark Mayor Cory Booker famously came down with a tummyache.
But even the New York Times, supposedly in the tank for Obama, is feeling queasy this morning. Nicholas Confessore warns that the president’s anti-Bain rhetoric “holds pitfalls.” On the paper’s inside pages, Julie Creswell, ever so evenhandedly, informs us that “The business of private equity firms is buying and selling companies, all done with the goal of earning big returns for themselves and their investors. Sometimes that means jobs are created; sometimes it means jobs are lost.”
Before this post gets too far afield, I’ll wrap it up this way: I think the fact that the New York Times and Cory Booker are getting the vapors is a good indication of how a more aggressively populist Obama administration would have fared over the last three years.
Now that it’s all over, the New Republic’s Alec MacGillis looks back on the gift that was Willard Mitt Romney, formerly of Bain Capital:
In an era of resentment toward unaccountable financial elites, they put forward the ultimate financial elite, a man who sliced and diced companies, sheltered his income offshore, and, above all, was eye-poppingly incapable of discussing his wealth and the economic anxieties of those less fortunate in ways that might put voters at ease. The muddle that had clouded the political debate since Obama’s inauguration parted. On Election Day, when exit pollsters asked voters whom they thought the candidates favored, a plurality, 44 percent, thought Obama favored the middle class, while 53 percent thought Romney favored the rich. Meanwhile, one in five voters thought that a candidate’s “caring about people like me” was the most important quality, and 81 percent of them voted for Obama. The benefits for Democrats carry forward post-election: as we head toward the so-called fiscal cliff, there is little doubt who’s for raising taxes on the wealthiest—a proposition supported by some 60 percent of voters—and who is not.
So Democrats, as you raise your glass on Thursday evening, say or think a thanks for Mitt Romney, who, like the Wampanoag Indians bringing their five deer to the feast, brought a great gift to America: clarity.
The Obama campaign, in retrospect, would have been crazy to have heeded the advice of the likes of Cory Booker and not played the Bain Capital card.
If they’re smart, Republicans might try something similar over the course of the next four years.