Romney’s rationale for his candidacy has always been: the economy sucks; President Obama doesn’t know how to fix it; I – because I’ve created jobs in the private sector – do; so vote for me.
Bain matters because that’s the middle part of this pitch. If Romney can’t make Bain an asset, then he has no assets. And Romney has basically decided not to make Bain an asset, because his response to Obama’s attacks has been to furiously dissociate himself from the company he founded.
As I said in previous posts, Romney could have tried to turn Bain into an asset by arguing that he knows how to make government more efficient because he’s made private sector companies more efficient. Maybe that’s not a winning argument – but at least it’s an argument, and one that Obama would have to be careful about answering. But instead he tried to make Bain an asset by saying he learned at Bain how to spread magic fairy dust across the economy to make jobs grow, and now this ludicrous claim has been knocked to pieces.
The rest is tactics and window-dressing. Did Romney lie when he said he left Bain in 1999? Or did he lie when he said he remained involved? I can’t bring myself to care, because even if he somehow didn’t lie either time his substantive defense – that nothing Bain ever did that someone might object to was his doing – is so absurd. If John Corzine or Hank Paulson said that Goldman never did anything wrong when they respectively ran the ship, but suddenly it became a vampire squid when they left, we’d all be laughing, right?
Scott Galupo is right that we’re not having a debate about financialization and how to rein it in – but of course we’re not having that debate. President Obama heads a party that has made its peace with Wall Street. Mitt Romney heads a party that favors breaking that peace – with a renewed assault by Wall Street on the limited regulations enacted in the past four years. Because of his personal history, Romney is a particularly obvious (and therefore particularly lousy) messenger for this view, but it’s the party’s view and not some personal idiosyncrasy. The debate we’re having is over whether or not Wall Street should be deregulated, and whether or not taxes on high-income individuals and capital gains should be cut even lower than they were in the Bush years. That’s a real debate – if a bizarre one to be having only four years after the financial crisis.