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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Here’s the thing about privileged characters like Mitt Romney: they’ve never really been vetted, indeed rarely challenged. Say you’re a senior at a posh prep school in Michigan, for example, and you think it’d be fun to pick on the weakest person in your class. So you get a bunch of guys to hold the gay kid down while you cut off his offensively long hair.

What happens? Well, if your father’s the governor of Michigan, nothing happens. A scholarship student from Detroit might have been expelled, but not somebody whose daddy ran an auto company. Years later, you can’t even recall the event, although none of the others ever forgot. Meanwhile, the tax deductible endowment funds keep rolling in to the old alma mater.

It’s the way of the world.

This is not to deny that Mitt Romney’s a talented and enterprising fellow. Country club bars everywhere are decorated with well-born failures, cursing the IRS and muttering about the moral failings of the poor. Mitt could have been one of those. Instead, he’s a striver.

Nevertheless, for a man like Romney, the money functions like some sci-fi force field, protecting its owner, if not from the snares and vicissitudes of life, then definitely from everyday inconveniences.

People laugh at your jokes, funny or not. Nobody says what they really think. Subordinates kiss your posterior 24/7. Consequently, you never really know who you can trust. Are they deferring to you, or your money

It can be a significant weakness. Romney’s strained affect, his awkward attempts to be seen as a “regular guy,” signal a certain discomfort with life inside the force-field. His life strategy, however, has been to amass ever more money and power, by almost any means technically legal.

Being Mitt Romney means never having to explain.

So when somebody actually calls his bluff, a guy like Romney tends to react badly—first with a clumsy, easily-refuted lie. Then with foot-stamping indignation that anybody’s allowed to question his word as a gentleman. My dear fellow, it’s simply not done.

The sheer political stupidity of the Romney campaign’s attempts to distance him from his career at Bain Capital can’t be overstated. Never mind that his entire case for the presidency rests upon the “job-creating” credentials his success at Bain supposedly give him.

The problem is that record is distinctly mixed. And Romney definitely doesn’t want to talk about it.

Stung by the Obama campaign’s focus on GS Industries, a Kansas City steel company Bain drove into bankruptcy in 2001, the Romney campaign sent out a debunking press release, Slate’s David Weigel noted, with bolded sentences in all caps: “The Bankruptcy And Layoffs At GS Industries All Occurred AFTER Governor Romney Had Left Bain Capital in February 1999.”

Down at the county courthouse, this is known as the some-other-dude-done-it defense. Never mind that Bain had acquired GS Industries for $8 million in 1993, leveraged the investment with debt equaling more than ten times the company’s yearly income (paying itself a nifty $36 million dividend in 1994), then eventually walked away from a $554 million debt—stiffing creditors, leaving 750 workers jobless, and sticking the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. with $44 million in unfunded liabilities.

Writing in Bloomberg.com, private equity banker Anthony Luzzatto Gardner dissects Bain’s “casino capitalism.”

“Romney was fabulously successful in generating high returns for [Bain] investors,” he explains. “He did so, in large part, through heavy use of tax-deductible debt, usually to finance outsized dividends for the firm’s partners and investors. When some of the investments went bad, workers and creditors felt most of the pain. Romney privatized the gains and socialized the losses.”

Heads he wins, tails you lose. That’s how Wall Street rolls.

So anyway, every GOP pundit on every cable TV talk show repeated Romney’s bogus alibi. Hey, all that dodgy stuff—the bankruptcies, the mass firings, the factory closings, the investments in companies specializing in offshoring American jobs—none of that happened on Mitt’s watch.

He had retired to run the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Cue patriotic music.

Except guess what? There’s no need to quibble over exactly when Romney “retired retroactively,” as campaign advisor Ed Gillespie memorably claimed after the Boston Globe found the Mittster’s signature on stacks of SEC documents filed by Bain up to three years after he’d supposedly cleaned out his cubicle and returned his restroom key.

The documents not only listed Romney as president, CEO, and board chairman, but—here’s the best part—“sole shareholder” until 2003.

So who cares what day-to-day managerial decisions Mitt made or didn’t make during his sojurn in Utah? He OWNED Bain Capital, lock, stock and hedge funds. It was the principal source of his personal fortune.

Anybody who believes that evil trolls had somehow seized control and were making decisions about Mitt’s money without Mitt’s knowledge…

Well, what won’t such persons believe?

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]