I missed Mitt Romney's mega-round of interviews last night, but I'm reading stories about the interviews -- and while I'm sticking with my (out-of-step) opinion that he can survive the revelation that he was listed as Bain's head and sole owner for years after he left the firm if he's never found to have actively participated in the screwing of ordinary Americans after 1999, it seems to me that he's squirming as if he knows that he actually is guilty of precisely that, but he just doesn't know whether anyone can prove it.
Here's how CNN describes its Romney interview:
Mitt Romney tried time and again to make one thing clear in our interview. On five different occasions in the first few minutes of the interview, Romney said he had "no role whatsoever" at Bain Capital after February 1999.We're also told this:
Here are the ways he said it:
"I had no role whatsoever in the management of Bain Capital after February of 1999."
"I left in February of 1999 to go out and run the Olympics."
"I went out and did that full-time, relinquished all management authority and role in Bain Capital after February of 1999."
"But the truth is that I left any role at Bain Capital in February of '99."
"And I had no role whatsoever in managing Bain Capital after February of 1999."
That kind of repetition doesn't happen by accident....
But when pressed whether he was concerned that the discrepancy between his own words and government documents may one day cause a distraction for his campaign, Romney volunteered a broad defense of the firm's work.That's "a broad defense"?
"Well, there's nothing wrong with being associated with Bain Capital, of course."
No. This would be a broad defense: "I'm proud of my work at Bain Capital; I'm proud of the company I built, and I think Bain has done a terrific job in the time since I stopped running it." Saying "there's nothing wrong ... of course" with post-'99 Bain suggests that Romney is very, very squeamish about the company.
And now look at the full version of that answer:
ROMNEY: Well, there's nothing wrong with being associated with Bain Capital, of course. But the truth is that I left any role at Bain Capital in February of '99. And -- and that's known and that's said by the people at the firm.Maybe it's just some weird depersonalization that's part of Romney's personality, but I see something evasive in Romney's invoking of other people as proof that he was uninvolved with Bain after '99 -- "that's known and that's said by the people at the firm"; "It's said by the documents"; "I think anybody who knows that I was out full-time running the Olympics would understand that's where I was." It's as if he's lined up people and paperwork to give him an alibi, and he knows he can't be sure it's airtight. It's as if he can't say from the gut he was effectively out of the picture altogether, just as Jerry Sandusky in that interview couldn't say flat-out that he isn't attracted to boys. It's as if Romney knows he might get caught.
It's said by the documents -- offering documents that the firm made subsequently about people investing in the firm. And I think anybody who knows that I was out full-time running the Olympics would understand that's where I was. I spent three years running the Olympic Games. And after that was over, we -- we worked out our retirement program, our departure -- official program for Bain Capital and handed over the shares I had.
But there's a difference between being a shareholder, an owner, if you will, and being a person who's running an entity.
Boston Phoenix blogger David Bernstein looks at Romney's response to stories pointing out that he returned to Massachusetts to attend board meetings between 1999 and 2002, particularly in the case of Staples. Romney says this wasn't a Bain thing because Bain had divested its Staples shares.
But, as Bernstein notes, one of Bain's investment funds had a large and growing number of shares in Staples. And Romney himself had shares in Staples. And Romney was negotiating a sweetheart deal to make Staples a big supplier for the 2002 Olympics.
Is there something like this that isn't technically on behalf of Bain Capital that Mitt Romney did after 1999 -- something that involved sleazy mass layoffs or outsourcing -- that hasn't come out yet, and that Romney knows might come out, despite his best efforts at concealment?
That's what I think. And that would be a game-changer. What's going on now is keeping Romney on the defensive, but that would be the thing that does serious, long-lasting harm to his campaign.