When Newt Gingrich criticized Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital, he raised the ire of many conservatives and may have unwittingly mobilized a Republican rank and file now prepared to bestow Romney with the GOP nomination on a silver platter.
Rush Limbaugh called Gingrich's criticisms "out of bounds for those who value the free market." Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was even blunter when he said, "What the hell are you doing, Newt? I expect this from Saul Alinsky!" But perhaps the most interesting defense of Romney came from Mike Huckabee, who took aim at both Gingrich and Texas Governor Rick Perry who famously accused Romney of practicing "vulture capitalism." Huckabee said, "It's surprising to see so many Republicans embrace that left-wing argument against capitalism." Yet in 2008, it was Huckabee who in a campaign ad aimed at Romney said, "I believe most Americans want their next President to remind them of the guy they work with, not the guy who laid them off."
Given that Romney has spent the vast majority of his professional life in the private sector and touts that experience in his bid for the White House, it seems strange that any criticism of that record from his Republican rivals is not only off limits but the equivalent of criticizing free enterprise itself. It is a curious line of argument when you consider that Bain Capital was the recipient of generous government grants, subsidies, and tax breaks and profited handsomely regardless of whether the companies in which it invested prospered or went into bankruptcy. Any business in which one can reap the rewards without suffering the consequences of risk can hardly be characterized as engaging in free enterprise.
Well, if Romney can't do a better job in making the case for his record at Bain Capital much less answer a simple yes or no question about whether or not he is going to release his tax returns, then I'm afraid Mitt Romney still reminds Americans of the guy who laid them off. So long as Romney continues to defend himself in a cold, technocratic manner, he will simply be no match for President Obama.
Whatever his faults (and there are many), Obama knows how to relate to the issues in human terms. For instance, last month when making remarks concerning minimum wage and overtime protections for in-home care workers, Obama cited the day he spent back in 2007 with a home health care worker named Pauline Beck in an event called "Walk a Day in My Shoes," sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). While it is worth noting that President Obama didn't mention the SEIU's sponsorship yet somehow I don't think it would matter all that much to most of the voting public:
When we met, she was getting up every day at 5:00 a.m. to go to work taking care of an 86-year-old amputee named "Mr. John." And each day, she'd dress Mr. John and help him into his wheelchair. She'd make him breakfast. She'd scrub his floors. She'd clean his bathroom. She was his connection to the outside world. And when the workday was done, she would go home to take care of a grandnephew and two foster children who didn't have families of their own. Heroic work, and hard work. That's what Pauline was all about.
And one of the things I remember about Pauline was her patience. She was patient with me even when I didn't wring out the mop properly or didn't shake out the sheets before putting them in the laundry bin. But I also remember listening to her talk about the hardships in her life, and she did so without any self-pity. She was glad to be working hard and she was glad to be helping someone. All she wanted in return for a hard day's work was enough to take care of those kids she was going home to, enough to save a little bit for retirement, maybe take a day off once in a while to rest her aching back.
Each of the folks who are here today has a story like Pauline's.
And you can be sure that President Obama has a thousand other stories he will tell on the campaign trail. While Obama regales his audiences with the struggles of working people, it is hard to imagine Romney spending a day cleaning a bathroom and doing laundry never mind helping someone in and out of a wheelchair. It is a shame that Undercover Boss wasn't on the air when Romney was at Bain Capital. Aside from the thrill of seeing Romney struggle to do menial tasks while incognito, it might have given him a better understanding of what day to day life is like for working people. Because as it stands, Romney has no idea what it is to worry about money and so long as he remains insulated from the real world he stands little chance of being elected President.
Of course, nearly everyone who runs for President is wealthy be it earned and/or inherited. Yet some Presidents who came from privileged backgrounds (i.e. FDR, JFK and George W. Bush) were able to transcend their wealth because they had a common touch with the people. Now it might very well be that FDR, JFK, and Bush had these qualities because of their upbringing or possessed them innately and instinctively. It could just be that Romney is simply not emotionally wired to understand the travails of people who don't travel in his social circle. In which case, it is highly unlikely that Romney will suddenly develop these traits at the age of 64.
Yet if Mitt Romney wants to earn the Presidency it might help him to pick up a mop. Otherwise, President Obama may wipe the floor with him.
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