EDITOR OF REDSTATE
The Great White Unknown
It is one of my overarching concerns with the myth of Mitt the Electable — Bain Capital and Romney’s time in the private sector. Byron York sums it up here.
There’s no basis to reflexively defend Romney’s record, because we don’t know in any real detail what he did at Bain. But there’s no basis to indict him, either, for the same reason.
There are seemingly two caricatures of candidates that play badly with the American people. One is the evangelical preacher out to save the world. The politician as tent revival preacher is a long caricatured American political staple going back to the ninetieth century and William Jennings Bryant among others.
The other caricature is that of the millionaire tycoon out to buy the election. This has been a staple of American politics since the turn of the 20th century and passage of the first campaign finance laws. Historically, neither caricature is popular or successful on the national stage.
Within the Republican Party, the least successful of the two has been the millionaire tycoon caricature. Dan McLaughlin noted the other day
Look back over the years at the list of wealthy Republican candidates who put their wealth ahead of their limited records in public office. The California GOP has had the worst record: Bill Simon, Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, Michael Huffington, and Bruce Herschensohn all flopped. The positive example is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who proved a disaster for California conservatives in office. Simon, a good and decent man and fairly conservative, faced an opponent with approval ratings so terrible on Election Day that he was recalled just months later – yet the Democrats tore Simon limb from limb with attacks on his private business record. Republicans in other states or at the national level have often found such candidates to be electoral failures or totally unreliable in pursuing our party’s principles in office: Herman Cain, Mike Bloomberg, Carl Paladino, Linda McMahon, Jack Ryan, Pete Coors, Pete Dawkins. (Ron Johnson and Rick Scott being rare exceptions, and Scott only won after a searing campaign against his business record). An understanding of private business is a valuable thing for public officials, but it’s no substitute for experience pursuing good public policies; Jon Corzine was a success in business before he ran New Jersey into the ground, and the most successful businessman ever to be president was Herbert Hoover. It’s entirely valid for Republicans to ask whether we are buying ourselves a similar set of headaches with Romney.
There are a lot of unknowns with Bain Capital — good and bad. With a firm caricature locked in the American psyche of millionaire tycoons out buying elections and the Obama money machine ready to spin a narrative, I really do fear the GOP is rushing headlong into political suicide with Mitt Romney as the nominee. Should he be the nominee, I hope I’m wrong. But I doubt I will be.
Couple that with the already well set narrative of Romney the opportunist and the Democrats will have a field day with the millionaire who will say, do, or pay anything to buy up the Presidency.