President Barack Obama’s disingenuous attack on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s track record at Bain Capital is somewhat akin to judging Cindy Crawford’s supermodel merits on an extreme close-up of her famous facial mole. A mole by itself is obviously not terribly attractive. But on Crawford’s mug it has proven to be priceless, provided you view her face through a Nikon and not an electron microscope.
Obama taking Romney’s business record to task is like bashing Shaquille O’Neal for missing free throws. While rather weak when given a foul shot, Shaq had more than a few other relevant skills that contributed to leading his teams to multiple championships.
Would the Obama campaign go after Winston Churchill’s fondness of alcohol if he were the opponent, even though it could be argued that without him during World War II we all might be making our toasts in a language other than English?
Given the emerging pattern of Obama’s campaign strategy, he’d be demeaning Babe Ruth for his prodigious number of strikeouts. Somebody should tell the president the only people who don’t miss pitches are those who don’t swing the bat.
Buying distressed companies is not like buying stock with tomorrow’s newspaper. Distressed companies require fixing by focused people rolling up their sleeves and making hard decisions that impact lives — lives that would likely have been more severely impacted had it not been for the skills and will of Romney and his brethren.
The Obama campaign has absurdly speculated on the decision Romney might have made in regard to taking out Osama bin Laden had he been president. I’d like to speculate on what might have happened to all the acquired companies in the Bain portfolio had they been left to their own devices. That would be a more pertinent and revealing thought experiment. Although, you can be assured, on net, Romney created far more jobs than he terminated, unlike our president.
Is this really the best Obama can do? The transparency of his assault on Romney’s failed deals, which are few and far between, is revealing in itself. Either he doesn’t understand the nature of business and risk-taking (he doesn’t), or he needs to redirect attention from his failed tenure (he does).
I can’t imagine there is anyone in the private equity universe who would be dismissive of Romney’s record at Bain — both in terms of his business success and his professional and ethical conduct. Yes, among the hundreds of acquisitions, there were a handful of companies that fired workers and closed plants. I’m surprised there weren’t more given the nature of the task.
Frankly, if Obama has issue with Romney layoffs and plant closings, then he has issue with himself. With his imprimatur, General Motors was bailed out and is now partially owned by the government. Under Obama’s watch, head count at GM has been cut by thousands and numerous plants shuttered. This is called capitalism in pursuit of profit — an absolute necessity for just about any entity other than government.
Because the hope and change of an initial Obama presidential run has been replaced by the despair and inertia of an Obama administration, he may have nothing else to run on other than negativity.
Recognizing that he is getting some blowback, even from some within his own party, on parsing Romney’s record, Obama is now having his surrogates nuance the message to suggest that Romney doesn’t have the right skill set to take on the biggest job in the world. I suggest a name for the Obama book sequel: “The Audacity of Nonsense.” Or, even better, how about “Dreams of My Campaign Manager.” Romney has succeeded at everything he has ever done in life, both on a professional and personal level.
It really is much more simple than speculating on who might have done what under some circumstance. If you think the country is better off than it was four years ago, vote Obama. If you want to leverage the multi-century proven success of our capitalistic system, vote for Romney.
Or, put another way, if your preferred way of admiring Crawford is through an electron microscope, I can understand supporting Obama. If you favor a full view of a million-watt smile augmented by a well-placed beauty mark, Romney is your man.
Chapin is CEO of USAOPOLY, partner of Zephyr Partners and chairman of Health Savings Associates.