Rightbloggers Rush to Defend Mitt Romney -- The Corporate Raider, Not the Candidate

tomt200.jpgWhen last we left our heroes, the 2012 Republican Presidential challengers, they were inevitably folding to Mitt the Man Whose Turn It Is. Then Newt Gingrich -- or, excuse us, a Newt Gingrich Super-PAC to which he is not connected -- decided to go out swinging with a little film that portrayed Romney's early career at Bain Capital as an example of capitalism run amok.

While some of the brethren defended Romney against the charges, others skipped the middleman and instead defended capitalism run amok.

The film, When Mitt Romney Came to Town (aka King of Bain) shows some folks whose livelihoods disappeared after Romney and Bain Capital got their hands on them.

The film makes Michael Moore look like Eric Rohmer, and many sources have poked holes in its assertions. Interestingly, some of these are sources the right wing loves to hate, including the Washington Post -- the Death Star of the MSM! -- ("Four Pinocchios for 'King of Bain'") and New York magazine ("Gingrich Swift Boats Romney").

Thus conservatives found their least conservative candidate being attacked for his rapacious capitalism by... Newt Gingrich. Naturally it caused a sensation.

The brethren had reason to be nervous for their nominee-to-be. Because, let's face it, no normal human being likes people who do what the Bainsters did for a living. Ivan Boesky, David Levine, Ron Perelman, Carl Icahn, Paul Bilzerian -- such characters are about as respected as their movie avatar, Wall Street's Gordon Gekko, and not nearly as quoteworthy.

Also, quite a few Americans have experienced the "creative destruction" of such characters first hand -- like this guy: "That company went through three sets corporate raiders before they finally closed the doors and send the jobs to China. The telemarketing company where I work now just went through its second buy-out in the three years..." Such people may not like Obama, but they're unlikely to warm up to the former CEO of Bain Capital.

When the film broke, even some reliable capitalism defenders got kind of squishy about it. "Private-equity firms have been called barbarians... They also have been praised for improving weak businesses... Industry participants--and some critics--say there is truth to both perspectives," mush-mouthed the Wall Street Journal. The spectacle of the ruthless, fuck-the-poor WSJ scrounging for positive corporate raider anecdotes and regretfully announcing that sometimes these misunderstood heroes "failed to improve operations quickly enough to turn the company around" (rather like doctors who reluctantly stop massaging a dead patient's heart) shows how hot the movie made things for a half-minute there.

It got so bad that some rightbloggers rushed to disseminate a Romney defense by.... Steve Rattner, Obama's car bailout guy. And Romney himself started handing out money on ropelines. Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic was moved to ask, "Since When Do Republicans Hate Corporate Raiders?" Listen, if their own mothers became a political liability, we're sure they'd denounce them, too.

But after a moment of shock, even rightbloggers who were not Romney's biggest fans stepped up to defend the rapacious form of hypercapitalism he had suddenly come to stand for.

At the New York Times, Ross Douthat sneered that Romney's Republican opponents "sound as if they're auditioning for a production of 'Les Misérables,'" and laid out his defense of corporate raidership. As the post-WWII boom wound down, said Douthat, "American policy makers, C.E.O.'s and investors responded by changing their priorities -- privileging growth over security, efficiency over equality, and embracing creative destruction on a scale that would have been unthinkable in the America of 1955. In the private sector, this revolution was driven by men like Mitt Romney."

Thus we lost the one-earner household, lifetime employment, and good pensions, but we got iPads and brokers eating sushi off naked women. Douthat presented this as progress. While "overheated critics" focused on the people who got fired after Bain devoured their companies, Douthat insisted that "the competitiveness revolution was good for the United States." For instance, Douthat told readers, America is 20 percent richer than Germany, which foolishly gives its citizens health care and a Termination Protection Act instead of pitting them against one another like maddened roosters in a cockfighting pit. America wins!

It looks scary, sure, but creative destruction is ultimately positive -- like, when you steal someone's wallet, in the end you get his money.
Still, Douthat admitted asset stripping isn't an "unmitigated good" and that Romney "needs to prove to anxious voters that he and his party have more to offer them than just Bain capitalism alone." Alone! What can Romney add to yummy Bain capitalism that will make it even tastier? "Growth that leads to broadly shared prosperity," said Douthat. Just stick with that corporate raider thing, in other words, but make sure a few other people get some of it too. (Maybe a bigger Board of Directors? Have your people sketch something out.)

Larry Kudlow, host of CNBC's The Kudlow Report, went further, telling readers that Romney's medicine was just what this country needed.

"There's a very troubled company out there called U.S. Government Inc. It's teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. And it badly needs to be taken over and turned around. It probably even needs the services of a good private-equity firm..."

It sounds like a parody of the close of Gordon Gekko's famous speech ("And greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA"), but Kudlow was in earnest:

"Yes, layoffs will be a necessary part of the restructuring," Kudlow continued. "...Worldwide employment for U.S. Government Inc. is estimated to be over 2 million, a completely unmanageable number for a venture like this." Apparently not enough of us have lost our jobs yet, and America Inc won't be successful until we have.

The solution, said Kudlow, is "a highly regarded private-equity operation located in Boston that has a good (but not perfect) track record in turning around hopeless ventures... Isn't a Bainful turnaround exactly what America needs?" The ship of state may be righted after all, as soon as it has dispensed with the deadwood -- which, we hardly need add, would not include such vital resources as the host of CNBC's The Kudlow Report.

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