How Romney and Bain Capital Remind Me of An Old Rugby Story
Legal and Ethical Can Be In Two Different Subsets
I can think of one excellent side-effect of the argument over Mitt Romney‘s work at Bain Capital. It reminds me of the fun and foolish days when I could still set foot on a rugby pitch and expect to walk off in one piece. A broken, old prop’s reminiscence begins below.
It was a wet, cold, drizzly Saturday. However, the day was awesome. It was Rugby Day, I was young and better yet, I was stupid enough to suit up and hit the pitch. I was playing tight-head prop and over in the bad guys’ scrum was a loose forward who would make himself a total blight on my joy of competition.
The game quickly degenerated into a wallow in the mud. The park that rented us the field would no doubt regret their decision as our cleats plowed grooves in the muddy ground. The backs were handling the ball about as well as I would handle having a red hot hunk of metal tossed into my lap. Another knock-on led to yet another (expletive-deleted) scrum down. And ten minutes into play things started getting chippy.
I drew first blood, yet unfortunately made myself a marked number for the other side’s cheap-shot artiste cum hockey enforcer. The other side attempted to form a maul. Their ball carrier turned his back to me and his support took its sweet, relaxing time in arriving at the breakdown point.
My eyes lit up like a lucky slot player on the Vegas Strip. I laid that dude out like he was next up for the autopsy table. It was one of the hardest and most aggressive tackles I ever remember getting off during a match. From then on, the rest of the first half of that match got a lot less gentlemanly and pleasant.
The next time I hit a ruck, I ended up prone and near the bottom. My head got stomped and then raked. I looked up at the ref with my best WTF expression. Neither I nor the culprit who stomped my head and raked cleats got carded. The scene repeated itself when I carried the ball on a couple of phases of possession. Once I got my hand over my left ear just in time. I had a bloody, red welt on my wrist as a reward.
The ref seemed to be enjoying his pleasant time in the park despite what Mel Gibson’s character in Braveheart once described as “Good Old Scottish Weather.” He didn’t seem to want to interrupt his pleasant reverie to blow his (expletive) whistle and prevent this guy from stomping on my head during rucks and breakdowns.
Now a guy who deliberately stomps hands, heads and other appendages during rucks and mauls is a form of classless rugby scum. Whether he gets sin-binned or not is irrelevant to the question of his status among peers. I would have been well within my rights under the unwritten rules of rugby ethics to have hauled off and cold-cocked the son of a female canine any time during the first half.
Finally, at half-time I had exhausted my patience with the head-stomping. I took my Gatorade bottle, slammed it like a post-match libation and threw it against a nearby chain-link fence. I stomped around a bit throwing an expletive-laden tantrum about getting my head stomped. At this point our 8-man, ARN (short for Argentinean Rugby Ninja) took me aside for some performance counseling and attitude adjustment. “What the (expletive), Dude?” He inquired. “We’ve gotta’ huddle!”
“17’s been stomping me all (expletive) match!” I responded.
“We’ve got him.” He explained. “You worry about your (expletive) job. You pay his sorry (expletive, expletive) back by winning!”
We actually did manage to win the match. The weather was miserable; neither side could handle the ball. Our scrum was 150 lbs heavier than theirs and our fly-half could pick off a penalty kick even when his boot had five extra pounds of mud and water attached. (It seemed the ref did get around to calling things that weren’t at least somewhat carefully hidden.)
Oh, and ARN totally had #17. He tackled him so that his opposing shoulder went down wrong and popped out of its joint. The enjoyable manliness ritual where two guys on the other team’s sideline pop the dislocated shoulder back into socket ensued on the other sideline. The only thing missing from a worthy Hollywood Movie Scene was the drunk, old country doctor telling #17 to have a shot “Wuskey” and bite down hard on a stick.
But that old experience reminds me of Romney’s Bain Capital work because it raises a vexing issue of what is legal and what constitutes ethics. Romney, as far as we know, broke no laws. But did his actions lead to people getting fired who otherwise would have been able to earn an honest living?
Is Bain Capital engaged in “Vulture Capitalism?” I tend to find that rhetorical turn of phrase distasteful, intemperate and an indirect contribution-in-kind to Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. However, (maybe once or twice a decade) I’ve been known to be wrong.
If this is one of those times, then I can totally understand Newt Gingrich going into ARN-mode here and doing everything in his mortal power to slam Mitt Romney’s shoulder hard into the sodden pitch. If this is one of those times, then Mitt Romney is absolutely legal but still morally wrong.
In that case, the 2012 Presidential Election is over the second Mitt Romney wins the GOP nomination. The MSM is already down in SC interviewing people who got fired from manufacturing jobs as a result of Bain Capital’s acquisitions. They are actively searching out bloody, gushing head-wounds from Mitt Romney’s behavior on Private Equity’s savage rugby pitch.
There is a valid argument that all sound-bytes aside, “Greed, is good.” Romney began to hit that rhetorical stride in his Primary Victory Speech last night.
President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial. In the last few days, we have seen some desperate Republicans join forces with him. This is such a mistake for our Party and for our nation. This country already has a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy. We must offer an alternative vision. I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success. In these difficult times, we cannot abandon the core values that define us as unique — We are One Nation, Under God.
Candidate Romney went on to frame this election in terms of being a values election; not just “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!”
Our campaign is about more than replacing a President; it is about saving the soul of America. This election is a choice between two very different destinies.
If what Governor Perry said about Bain Capital is truth; Mitt Romney has no business attempting to win a values-based election. If what Governor Perry said was inaccurate, but still serves as resonant propaganda, Mitt Romney’s job just got much harder. America will not elect a President who manipulates the rules to get away with stomping people’s heads on life’s rugby pitch out of spite. Candidate Romney will have to labor hard to vigorously refute this characterization of his tenure at Bain Capital.