Friday, January 13, 2012


The Pain of Bain for Conservatives & the GOP

[Disclaimer: I write the article below as a supporter of Rick Perry.]

Character Matters

In the early 1990s, conservatives stressed the importance of evaluating a candidate in an area which it seems to have been forgotten, character. The idea was to get voters to consider not only the exterior qualities of a candidate, but the interior ones too. Qualities like honesty and fidelity should not be overlooked. The benchmark to judge these qualities were made by examining the decisions a candidate has made. These decisions often affect the direction a candidate has taken in life. They contribute to how a candidate sees himself, neighbors, and the nation.

No one expects a candidate to be perfect. It is certain we all veer a little off the proper course in life. One has to judge the general trajectory of their path in life. Has a candidate learn from his mistakes? Is a candidate showing a consistency in growth? Or, do he keep falling back to previous errors?

The Election of Clinton (The Other One)

It was in the days of the 1992 presidential election when the issue of character arose to prominence. The GOP, out of an act of conviction or desperation (I'm not sure.), embraced the conservative idea that you judge a candidate by the "content of his character." And so, the preface to the Bill Clinton "bimbo eruptions" were written.

The GOP and conservative media began its examination of Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs. While it would embarrass Bill Clinton, its primary goal was to point out his character flaws. The problem was not a woman or two coming forward to tell their story. Several came forward. This was scandalous, but what made it more scandalous were the circumstances surrounding each affair. State troopers were appropriated to bring Bill mistresses to hotel rooms.

The choices Bill made showed a consistent lack of decency and a lack of an effort to correct course. It raised the question of whether Bill Clinton would have the integrity and decency to occupy the Oval Office.

Conservative media, especially Rush Limbaugh and the American Spectator, embraced these scandals. It's expected. The opposition exposed a vulnerability and character matters after all. Conservative media gave Bill Clinton's personal life a full examination, including the marital relationship between Bill and his wife Hillary.

Much of the spotlight was earned by the Clintons. In some cases, women came forward, either voluntarily or coerced. In addition, Bill and Hillary spoke of their marriage as shared presidency. Hillary would be the co-president. Nonetheless, conservative media had little reservation about raising the character issue and properly so.

Campaign of 2012

It's 2011, and the 2012 campaign is underway. The candidates have come forward. The debates are scheduled. It is the debates which provide an intellectual gladiator-like arena where candidates introduce themselves to the public, define their campaigns, and outline their ideas and vision. It is here the character issue rose its head again.

In the December 10, 2011 debate, the issue of Newt's three marriages and past affairs was a concern for conservative voters. A question about Newt's affairs went to Rick Santorum and Rick Perry. Perry's response was blunt and straight forward, "If you cheat on your wife, you'll cheat on your business partner. It's a characteristic people look at." Santorum echoed what Perry said in his own words, "Certainly, it's a factor and it should be a factor when you're electing a leader." (Source) The book on Newt's personal life, like it had been for Bill Clinton, was opened.

That was not the first time Newt's marital troubles were an issue. A story had been floated by the liberal press that Newt brought his dying wife divorce papers while she laying in the hospital. Conservative media did not defend Newt until his daughter came in 2011 and dismissed the story as untrue. And, in a Thanksgiving presidential debate hosted by Luntz, conservatives waited on baited breath for Newt's answer when Luntz asked a question that turned the debate stage into "True Confessions" reality show. No defense of Newt was provided. No charges of looking into his private life was going too far.

First Stop: Iowa

Riding high on his debate performances, Newt was ready to enter the Iowan caucus. His poll numbers looked great. He was clearly the front runner. That was... until Mitt Romney came to town.

A political action committee (PAC) for Mitt Romney began to run negative ads about Newt in Iowa. The ads were non-stop. Newt repeatedly asked Romney's campaign to tell his supporters to call off the dogs. He said the ads were inaccurate or outright lies. Romney's response was it was not his or his campaign's video. He went further by defending the ads as part of the vetting process.

If you can't stand the relatively modest heat in the kitchen right now, wait until Obama's Hell's Kitchen shows up. Obama's putting together a billion dollars. He's going to be attacking us day and night.
It's probably a good time for people to see these things to make up their minds.
Romney and other candidates are handcuffed to an extent by campaign laws in what they can and cannot do with PACs. Romney could not order the PAC to stop, but he could broadcast a message to supporters to tone it down. Instead, he stood by the attacks. The GOP and conservative media did not hear Newt's cry of "foul!" Newt finished 4th place in the Iowa caucus, a long way from his first place position in the polls just a couple of weeks before.

Next Stop: New Hampshire (or South Carolina)

The outcome of Iowa was going to heat the kitchen up. Newt, who had been positive in debates and on the campaign trail, could no longer ignore the negative campaign against him. He began to plot a Romney-like strategy so subtle the media, especially the conservative talking heads, would be unable to figure out.

All of the candidates went to New Hampshire while Perry went directly to South Carolina. (Perry knew NH was Romney's.) While the other candidates were fighting for New Hampshire, Perry began to attack Romney in a way that remained off the media's radar. He periodically mentioned in interviews and on the stump Romney and his company's, Bain Capital, involvement in the closing of two businesses in South Carolina. He felt South Carolinians probably would like to have a say about those closings. This was not resonating with any of the media. It went right over their heads.

South Carolina Becomes Hell's Kitchen

While the race for the New Hampshire primary was underway, a PAC was forming for Newt. This PAC was purchasing a film which told the stories of some of the companies Bain had closed and, to an extent, how. Newt began to make his case against Romney and some of Bain's decisions. Romney had been boasting about his private sector experience. By doing so, he essentially invited candidates to review his record.

And so it happened. Newt officially opened the book on Romney's experiences at Bain.

At some point, Newt's criticism and Perry's concern for the two businesses were married. While their messages had overlap, the scopes varied. Ultimately, both were questioning decisions made in closing the affected businesses. The idea was to raise the issue of the character and attitude of a candidate. If a candidate's personal decisions affect the integrity of a candidate, why wouldn't business decisions?


The GOP and conservative media reacted fiercely. Newt and Perry touched the GOP's third rail, free enterprise. The response was knee jerk and strong. The GOP establishment, sensing the first serious shot at Romney in a vulnerable area, came to his defense and accused Newt and Perry of being over the top. Conservative media, possibly reacting from guilt of success in a free market, charged the two with heresy against capitalism.

The center piece of the conservative media's complaints is the two are using the language of the left. The crime is using "demagogic" language.
What does it mean to be a demagogue? American Heritage Dictionary defines it as follows:
A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.
Republicans have often complained of the demagoguery from the left. Some examples of liberal demagoguery:
  1. Any criticism of a minority equates to racism.
  2. Reform of welfare equates to hating the poor and starving children.
  3. Reform of social security equates to pushing elderly ladies over a cliff.
Newt and Perry have requested reviewing some Bain cases, specifically two in Perry's case. The response from the GOP and conservative media has been to label Newt & Perry the following:
  1. Anti-Capitalistic
  2. Anti-Constitution (Mark Levin)
  3. Anti-American
  4. Anti-Business
  5. Stupid/Dopes
One conservative talk show host, John Gibson, said on his 1/12/2012 show that Newt and Rick should leave the country.

Question: Who sounds more like the demagogic language of the left? GOP and conservative media or Newt and Rick Perry?

Calling Rick Perry, the governor of the state with the #1 economy in the union and one of the most business friendly environments, an anti-capitalist is like calling Michael Moore a fitness guru.

Keep in mind it was conservative media that had no problem exploring the business ventures of the Clintons in the 1990s, such as the Whitewater deal from the 1970s. It is true Whitewater eventually brought forth criminal charges, but nothing criminal was known until the Whitewater deal was opened for review. Was it anti-capitalistic to touch the Whitewater issue or the business of Rose Law Firm?

Some other charges made against Newt and Perry are major in the minds of the critics and minor in reality.

"Newt and Perry are giving the left their talking points."

As Rick Perry said, it would be naive to think the democrats are not going to touch Bain or do the research. This information either comes out now or as an October surprise by the democrats. Do republicans want to outsource their vetting process to the democrats in a general election?

And while they criticize for raising this issue, right talk radio has no problem basking in its fruits. Monologues were spoken talking about Romney's weak and socialistic answer to the Bain questions, i.e. it being the same Obama bailing out the auto industry.

Indeed, even the GOP is writing articles about his this is healthy for Romney's campaign. It gets grievances out early so it's less potent in the general. It tests Romney's abilities to answer the Bain question head on. All the while, they rip Newt and Perry.

The right further harms their cause by citing democrat strategists who say Newt and Perry's comments are an early gift. Conservatives are once again being played. Of course the left will say that. What's the end result of such criticism? A destruction of two your most conservative candidates. It is not Newt and Perry helping the democrats; it's the conservative pundits.

"Newt and Perry are talking like Occupiers."

Occupiers have railed against crony capitalism and bank bailouts, and so has Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, and more. Would they call themselves Occupiers? Illogical and uncalled for charge from the right on the right.

When Mitt Romney Came to Town

Newt and Perry maintained their positions. Again, the two positions were of different scope. Newt wanting to open up Bain's cases for review, and Perry focusing on two cases in South Carolina. Both want to bring Romney's character to light as an opportunist tempted to place profit before principle from time to time. The question planted in the voters' minds is "Do I want a president who thinks of self before others?"

As South Carolina became the focus, the PAC supporting Newt releases a hit piece on Romney and his ex-employer Bain. The 27 minute film is loose with facts and high on emotion. Its intent was to give viewers an idea of the kind of environment Romney conducts business and, in comes cases, directly involved with. Criticisms of the video came.

Newt's response to the video has befuddled left and right media. In their eyes, he embraced it and then backed off. 
“I’d like to ask you about your video that you released about Romney, about Bain Capital,” the woman said as she held a recorder out to the former speaker of the House.

“Oh, I didn’t – that’s not my video,” Gingrich responded, cutting her off as he made his way toward his campaign bus.  
Newt continues to stick by his message that Bain experience should come under review while giving answers like the above. The media doesn't understand what is going on. Conservative media doesn't understand. Conservative radio certainly doesn't understand.

This is the clever Newt. Newt is sending a message. He's pulling a Romney. Primary followers have seen this behavior pattern before... in Iowa. Romney embraced a negative message on Newt; facts be damned. And when confronted with doing something about it, Romney says "That's not my video." Now, it's Newt's turn. This is Newt's thumb in Romney's eye. Feed the beast and claim to be helpless to do anything about it. Newt, message received.

The media is foolishly fact checking the "documentary" like it matters to Newt. The further from the truth, the better the joke becomes. Well played Newt.

The Fallout

The conservative media are not the independent thinkers they portray themselves to be. When one conservative source gets the ball rolling on the talking points, they begin to echo the same points, stopping occasionally to add a few more points. Critical thinking skills are at a low on conservative radio. I say this as someone listening since the early days of Rush in the early 1990s.

The GOP establishment will do whatever it takes to get their candidate nominated, including killing off their own. One tweet aptly said:

"Democrats fall in love with their candidate. Republicans fall in line."

Double standards are plenty in the conservative movement. When to apply one standard over the other depends on the political realities. This is an unfortunate situation for a movement which reveres principles as being of the highest order.

For myself, I am not sure where this puts me politically. The GOP playing political hardball against its own. The conservative movement compromised in principle. I and others have been branded anti-capitalistic for questioning the sacrosanct private sector experience of Mitt Romney.

If this is being a republican or conservative, then I guess I'll be an independent thinker.

Update: Damn Dirty Rino has an excellent article tapping into the frustration I have about this issue that may not be seen here.

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