One of the frequent responses I get from Newt supporters regarding his attacks on Bain is “fair’s fair. Romney unfairly attacked Newt and Newt’s just returning fire.” And that’s true as far as that goes, but that doesn’t go very far. I’m not condemning rough attacks on Romney or even unfair attacks (though I suppose technically that if you think an attack is unfair you must condemn it). Frankly, if he’s going to be the nominee he should get even more bloodied to prepare him for the deluge to come. It is the nature of the attack that bothers me. As with his “right-wing social engineering” jab at Paul Ryan last year, Newt has a peculiar gift for crafting attacks that will do maximum damage to conservatives generally.
Jonathan Last’s points are well taken. But Ramesh is right. Newt is not making a nuanced argument of any kind. He’s basically making the Left’s emotional, cartoonish, argument against Bain — and “Wall Street” if not capitalism itself — bipartisan. And, I want to know when did Newt come to this conclusion? Before, after, or during his association with the private-equity firm Forstmann Little?
Still, I don’t want to let Romney off the hook. My criticism of Gingrich is not driven by sympathy for Romney, if anything I’ve been warming to Newt of late (I saw him at three events in NH and was impressed each time). Romney’s looking like a weaker and weaker general-election candidate to me.
I think the press — and anyone else — who immediately took his “I like to fire people” comments out of context should be ashamed of themselves. What Romney said was absolutely totally defensible and true — we all like punishing bad firms by moving our business to good firms. But what an oddball formulation for Romney to use: “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.”
This is how he describes the act of taking his business elsewhere? Romney has this way of talking that often sounds politcally tin-eared, like he’s translating his thoughts from a different language as he speaks. His inabilty to connect with voters has me really worried. He says the right things for the most part, but like Spock reading a love poem, there’s an ingredient missing.
And yes, Romney invited a lot of this on himself by elevating his time at Bain to his highest qualification. The problem for him is that he wants that experience to be defined solely on his terms. He’s a bit like John Kerry who wanted his military service to be seen exactly as he presented it and only as he presented it. Romney insists he’s not a politician and Newt Gingrich is absolutely right about that being “pious baloney.” Romney has to do that partly to pander to an electorate that wants an “outsider” (claims by every single one of the candidates in this regard are somewhat to deeply flawed). But he also has to do that because his record as a politician offers such thin gruel — at least to primary-voting conservatives.
After all, if his experience at Bain Capital made Romney such an expert at unleashing the power of the free market, where’s the evidence he did that in Massachusetts?