Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Conservatives Attack Capitalism and Romney's Success

There is something very unseemly happening in the Republican primary battle - not just the nasty in-fighting that always happens - but in the attacks on Mitt Romney for his years at the helm of Bain Capital.

Since when did Republicans criticize free enterprise and capitalism? And, if you fall for the line from the non-Mitt supporters that it isn't capitalism that they are criticizing, you would be naive. It is all tied together. Romney was exercising his right as a business man. He went into venture capitalism and he saved companies from going under. Yes, some companies failed and he was in the leadership when jobs were lost.

That's life, isn't it? That is the free enterprise system. When all other cost cutting measures fail to stop the red ink on the company business ledger, jobs are eliminated. That is just reality.

The non-Mitt candidates are scrambling. Romney is winning and desperation has set in to prolong the Republican primary season. That's fine. I'm all for a long primary. It will produce a stronger, better candidate to go up against Barack Obama. This tactic, however, is crazy. And, cynical at best. I defended Newt Gingrich when the stories came out about his large line of credit at Tiffany's. Gingrich was a private citizen. It was his money. He paid the bills. It is none of anyone's business. Complaining about these kind of things is what Democrats do.

Same with attacking a successful business, working in a perfectly legal manner and yes, creating jobs. Democrats criticize that, not Republicans. We are the party of helping all people with job creation and a business-friendly atmosphere.

Kim Strassel in The Wall Street Journal wrote:

Actually, the only thing that is clear is that the GOP field is ditching first principles in a desperate attempt to stop the Romney locomotive. The candidates say that the attacks on Mr. Romney aren't a criticism of the free market. Their spin is that Bain was capitalism-gone-wrong, a firm that existed to strip wealth from companies and funnel it to "raiders" like Mr. Romney. Mr. Gingrich, for instance, explained that "those of us who believe in free markets . . . would find it pretty hard to justify rich people figuring out clever, legal ways to loot out a company." Mr. Perry said "there is something inherently wrong when getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is how you do your business."

There's something more wrong, at least for many conservative voters, with demonstrating a poor grasp of the fundamentals of the free market. Bain cut jobs. It also created jobs. It made money. It also lost money. This is what happens in business, and there is no version of it that is warm and fuzzy, and where everyone wins. To beat on Bain -- and its business of taking big risks, restructuring firms, making bets -- is to beat on every other investment firm, private-equity group, and hedge fund in America. The voters understand this, too, which is why Mr. Gingrich reaped a backlash in December, the first time he took a shot at Mr. Romney's business record. He found out then how difficult it is to hit Mr. Romney on this issue without also leaving voters with doubts as to his own beliefs in the basics of capitalism.

What voters might resent more is the lazy nature of the attacks. Mr. Romney isn't lacking in liabilities with a conservative base -- from his Massachusetts health-care experiment to his uninspired tax plans to his former positions on all manner of issues. Voters would no doubt prefer to hear his rivals making sharp contrasts with Mr. Romney over these flashpoints. Instead, they're getting a earful of cheap shots about his time making money.

Ms. Strassel is correct - there is plenty of ground to criticize Romney on legitimately. There is simply no need for this kind of wrong-headed attack.

For the record, I am not a Romney supporter. I have not settled on any Republican candidate yet in the primary race. I am, however, completely committed to supporting whomever our nominee is and will work diligently to defeat Barack Obama in November 2012. I encourage my fellow Republicans and conservatives to not make Barack Obama's re-election team's job easier by continuing to write their ads for them. That is exactly what this kind of line of attack produces - ads for the opponent.

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