When the campaign to expose Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital began, the President’s allies said it would undermine Mitt’s main argument for the presidency: Mitt understands how the economy works. What no one realized then is that it would also expose that Mitt has no idea how reality works.
For the past few weeks, the defense of Mitt’s record at Bain has centered on the supposed fact that Mitt left the company in 1999. This premise theoretically absolves him of some of the most egregious activities engaged in by his business colleagues, including rampant layoffs, investments in companies that promoted outsourcing, and an investment in a company that –of all things — disposed of aborted fetuses.
An offshoring abortion profiteer who likes to fire people isn’t the best image for a Republican nominee for president. No wonder “Anyone But Mitt” was such a popular slogan during the GOP primary.
Focusing on when Mitt left was a weak defense from the beginning because it suggested that Bain — Mitt’s pride and joy and main credential — had engaged in activities that even Mitt considered shameful. It became a ridiculous defense when SEC documents revealed that Mitt was the CEO of Bain Capital until 2001 (a fact that was convenient when he had to prove he was a Massachusetts resident so he could qualify to run for governor in 2002.)
The idea that the CEO of a company isn’t responsible for the company’s activities is patently silly, and President Obama said as much in an interview last week. This forced Mitt to do something he has not done willingly in this campaign: Talk to someone aside from Fox News and the far-right echo-chamber.
On Friday, Mitt recorded interviews with ABC, CBS, NBC CNN, and, of course, Fox News. He demanded the President apologize for holding him accountable for what Bain did through 2001 — and astoundingly he stuck with the argument that he wasn’t accountable for a company he owned and legally controlled. “I had no association with the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999. That is when I left the firm.” He said this five times in nearly the same way, evidently attempting to simply bore the media into submission.
Two days later, however, the story hadn’t gone away. Senior Romney adviser and former RNC chairman Ed Gillespie decided the problem was that his candidate hadn’t taken the charade far enough. On CNN’s “State of the Union” Gillespie uttered the comment that will probably be remembered as the classic gaffe of this absurd campaign. Speaking to correspondent Candy Crowley, Gillespie said: “He took a leave of absence and in fact, Candy, ended up not going back at all and retired retroactively to February 1999 as a result.”
That’s right. Mitt “retired retroactively.”
Forget Mitt paying tax rates lower than many fire fighters and teachers. Forget Mitt posing as nearly anything he wants and getting away with it. The greatest benefit of being as rich and powerful as Mitt Romney is that you can actually go back in time to make facts convenient for you.
You could almost hear the LOLs as observers considered the logic of Mitt’s new alibi. The typically reserved blog Political Wire almost immediately called it “the worst talking point ever.” Within hours, the hashtag #retroactively was trending on Twitter.
Now, all over America, people are wondering how to take advantage of “retroactive retirement.” And everyone is wondering: did Mitt have to pay back the hundreds of thousands in compensation he was paid after he retroactively erased the years of work he’d been paid for?
Well, what’s a few hundred thousand dollars for Mitt anyway?
Mitt’s entire argument for the presidency relied on nobody understanding what he actually did at Bain. Even Mitt was sharp enough to see that running a company that rigs the economy to make sure investors always win doesn’t give him a clue about how to create jobs. But now we’re seeing that his description of what he did at Bain depends on who Mitt is talking to and what he needs the facts to be.
The fact is that Mitt has over a billion dollars behind him, much in anonymous corporate donations. He has a Republican House of Representatives that is making sure the government won’t do anything to create jobs. And he has conservatives in the Federal Reserve and in Europe who seem intent on making our employment recession last longer.
But what he doesn’t have is an ability to erase the past. And that’s what is coming back to bite him — retroactively.