The Romney campaign and the First Rule of Holes

Romney flack claims Romney “retired retroactively” from Bain. Huh?

Note that Romney had no problem claiming credit for “job creation” by firms years after he left the company. It’s only the bad stuff he retroactivity stopped being responsible for. That’s especially nonsensical in the case of bankruptcies. Romney was in charge when Bain loaded up those firms with debt and used dividends and fees to strip them of their assets in order to enrich Romney and his colleagues. Then the firms went bust, leaving the workers and creditors holding the bag.  For Romney to disclaim responsibility because the actual bankruptcy filings only came later doesn’t pass the giggle test.

Footnote The First Rule, of course, is: “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.”


Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

51 thoughts on “The Romney campaign and the First Rule of Holes”

  1. “leaving the workers and creditors holding the bag”

    And in some cases also the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, from some things I’ve read. If I’m not mistaken, PBGC is a government entity ultimately backstopped by the federal government’s ability to make good on promises, however minimal those promises may be.

    1. True, and follows the First Rule of ‘Holes:

      Privatize the Profits and Socialize the Losses.

      Taxpayers paid bigtime for Bain’s jolly good pillage.

  2. If the Dems had their own Karl Rove, Mitt Romney would be roadkill by now. Meanwhile, though, the beat goes on:

    Election 2012: State of the Race
    Mitt Romney made more gains in the June 22 map, as Montana moved to the “safe Romney” column, increasing his total number of Electoral College votes to 101. Two important battleground states also moved in his direction, with New Hampshire changing from “safe Obama” to “lean Obama” and Iowa moving from “safe Obama” to “toss up.” (from the website)

      1. Of course not, but that wasn’t my point.

        My point was not about predicting the election. Rather, it was about the fact that the left doesn’t seem to have the gladiator mentality of the right, who seem to follow the Vince Lombardi dictum “winning isn’t the main thing, it’s the only thing.” It’s very convenient to have that mindset, since it obviates little inconveniences like the title of this blog.

        1. Ken,
          You might be getting what you wished for. Obama is punching hard below the belt, with his eyes up in the skies. I think that this attack might be better than anything Rove ever did. The trouble with negative campaigning is that the voters hate you for it, but hate the other guy just a little bit more. Voters never liked Rove candidates; they just hated and feared the other guy more.

          With these Bain attacks, I believe that Obama is smearing Romney, while looking like a rose. And it is all the more effective in that it does not rely on any lies. Karl Rove, eat your heart out!

          1. Smear?

            I suppose “to smear” as in “to wipe the dog’s nose in its own pile” works…
            But not “smear” as in a false accusation.

            The buck stops at the top. I don’t see an escape clause for R-Money:
            He can say he wasn’t in charge, but he can’t say he didn’t lend his name to it or profit from it.
            Either way his nose gets smeared in it.
            Because either way he is guilty of lending himself to that which he now professes to condemn.

            In short: there is no moral high ground for R-Money to claim here.
            It’s all holes filled with dog dirt.

            Rhetorically: Did anybody vet this guy?

        2. “Of course not, but that wasn’t my point.”

          ‘Of course I’m lying! But hear me out!’

  3. Republican chief executive, runs up huge debt on organization he’s in charge of, dumps debt on evrybody else, denies responsibility for his actions while in office and is outraged that anyone has the gaul to mention the issue. Sounds like Republican presidential material to me.
    The only thing that’s new here is actually denying he was in the job he was being paid to do. Then again the GOP has been trying to convince us all that Barak Obama was president in 2007 and that GW Bush was really on vacation in Texas. Well I guess part of that is true.

  4. So if Rmoney wants to be CEO of this country, and his version of “CEO” includes up to three years of complete non-involvement, ….

  5. Romney claims that his management of the Olympics left him to time or ability to exercise his powers as “CEO, sole stockholder, and chairman of the board” at Bain.

    And he wants us to make him President, where he might have to do more than one thing at a time.

    1. One of the Bain partners gave what is the only explanation I’ve seen that makes any sense.

      The point is the partner is admitting that all the out-sourcing and the medical waste deal [including fetuses] were initiated by Romney and Romney had to maintain a role in completing them from 1999 through 2002. Bain admits Romney was being paid for his previous work, which we now know were the deals from which he most wants to dissociate himself Yes, Romney was disengaging from Bain but he was still working the 1999-2002 deals.

      The only way to clear up which deals were really Romney’s from Feb 1999 to Dec. 2002 is for Bain to release details that no firm would or even could release. Bain and Romney will fall on their swords before they release those kind of details.

      And Romney is doing an excellent job of falling on that gladius right now.

      1. I’ve never seen anybody put the “glad” so well in “gladius.” Kudos, OKDem.

  6. As I understand it, from 1999 to 2002 Romney was negotiating his departure from Bain. I gather this involved his being locked up in a room with himself and his various hats. Boy, I wish I could have been a fly on the wall! I’m sure each side employed a full array of ploys obsequious flattery, faux concern for the others’ situation, blusters & bluffs and outright mendacity–in the process. The “retroactive retirement” is an outcome worthy of Gilbert & Sullivan.

    1. Also — this company specialized in eating other companies. They were experts in doing merger and buyout paperwork on the quick-snap.

      Now they want us to believe they couldn’t wind down the paperwork for their own firm in less than three years?

  7. In related news, why is Romney making and repeating the completely false claim that John Kerry only released two years’ worth of tax returns when running for President?
    The technically-true defence here – Kerry released two years of returns during his campaign, because he’d already released the previous 18 years during his Senate campaigns – does not pass the giggle test.

    There is something pathological about lying on this scale and so pointlessly. Mercifully it’s proving self-destructive. There’s now a decent chance of a Dukakis-cum-Goldwater disaster: Dukakis for an un-Presidential personality, Goldwater for extremist policies. Good.

  8. All of this scrutiny of Romney is good. Romney’s answers are balderdash.


    Did anyone here vet Obama in the same way? Obama lied for years about where he was born, probably to bilk the government of affirmative action money. (That’s where all the birthed nonsense comes from: Obama’s lies about his own ancestry. It’s probably why Obama won’t release his student records, too.)

    Obama was a legislative ally of venture capital and private equity when he needed money. Now he’s attacking Mitt Romney for capitalizing on the crony capitalist laws Obama himself helped enact. As President, Obama consistently puts the people’s money at risk to provide profits for large enterprises. Yes, socialism is indistinguishable from crony capitalism.

    Where was all this scrutiny four years ago? Where were you people? We needed you then, because the US press did not vet Obama for President.

    Seriously, where were you?

    1. Jeff,
      Could you provide some links for your assertions? (And no, the blue dreck on your post do not count.)

      1. Actually, I couldn’t tell if this guy was pulling my leg or was serious. If serious, he has a major case of breitbartitis.

          1. No sir. I’m not voting for Romney. You’re trying to distract from your guy’s problems. Heh.

            Romney is lying. I just wonder why you didn’t notice Obama’s lies.

      2. Non-dreck: ABC News. And if you believe Obama didn’t read his own bio, and provide that information to his agent,and approve it – you probably believe Romney retroactively resigned from Bain. They’re both just as unbelievable.

        Non-dreck: Washington Post. Obama is the private equity king (pin).

        So, I ask once again. Where were you people when we were electing Obama? You’re doing good work with Romney. How’d you miss Obama’s lies?

        Just asking.

        1. Jeff, I would encourage you to consider the first rule of holes. The Spinozan corollary to the first rule is when it comes to holes, don’t be an ass.

  9. Actually for the R-Money campaign, the First Rule appears to be:

    Hold in your stomach, jut out your chin, and stand proud in the hole you’ve dug.

    I mean really, hiding behind Teresa Heinz Kerry’s skirt?

  10. I continue to believe that the rel story is in the tax returns.

    While the questions about Bain are legitimate, people will tire of them, and then the tax story may go too. But that’s where there could easily be some serious, unambiguous, indefensible misconduct.

    Keep the heat on the tax returns.

    1. Should we likewise have kept the heat on for Obama’s school transcripts?

      Actually, that’s a good rejoinder for Romney. “I’ll show my tax returns when you show your university records, Mr. President.”

      You must admit, that rejoinder will work.

      1. I don’t believe any Presidential nominee has ever released their own student transcripts; I invite you to prove me wrong. And the relevance of an eighteen-year-old Barack Obama, who is not running on his record in college, rather pales in comparison to the relevance of Mitt Romney’s behavior in his mid-50s, engaged in the business practices on which he is (selectively) running.

        Meanwhile, Obama has released a dozen years of tax returns, which happens to be more-or-less par for the course, to be exactly in line with what Willard Romney’s father declared to be a minimal level of transparency the public had a right to demand from its candidates, and to be half what Romney provided to the McCain campaign – who notably decided they didn’t want Romney on the ticket.

        Let me repeat that last: applying for a job that could easily see Romney becoming the President Of The United States, Romney made 23 years of tax returns available for the perusal of his potential employer. That was four years ago, when the potential employer was John McCain; now that the potential employer is The American People, Romney has disclosed one year’s return, and has pledged to release another.

        1. Eh, true. Bush’s transcripts were leaked by leftist college administrators not released. 18 years old? I’m talking about Obama’s graduate school records, law school at Harvard and fellowship at the University of Chicago.

          I can’t think of anything more important the a President’s scholastic record on the law. It’s even more important than his tax records. In fact, I don’t think most Americans even care that much about tax records. Certainly, Romney’s base doesn’t. The libertarians swing vote doesn’t.

          Obama said he was against unilateral uses of force by the President. Now he claims the right to kill American citizens without trial.
          Obama said is was unconstitutional for the President to ignore congress and enact executive orders with eh force of law. Now Obama issues new fiats every month.

          That’s why the rejoinder will work. Rhetorically, the tit-for-tat will make sense to most Americans, even to liberals angry at Obama’s fascistic turn on war and human rights. I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours. And by the way, I know you can’t show me yours, pal.

          1. And where are Sarah Palin’s college transcripts? Where are Mitt Romney’s college transcripts? No? Honestly, Jeff, you really do seem dedicated to making an idiot of yourself. You should have come here earlier. You’d have liked Brett Bellmore.

          2. “leftist college admnistrators”? For reals? Are they the same ones who released Al Gore’s college transcripts? John Kerry’s?

            Heck, just about the only interesting college transcripts of any recent nominee would be McCain’s – by his own account, he’d have been bounced from Annapolis on multiple occasions if he hadn’t been the son and grandson of admirals, and it might be fun to see what made it onto paper.

      2. Bring it on.

        I suspect the Obama campaign would take that offer up, and have the transcripts in a sealed envelope within 10 minutes.
        Romney would be the chump every second he didn’t have his taxes ready.

  11. Actually, that’s a good rejoinder for Romney. “I’ll show my tax returns when you show your university records, Mr. President.” You must admit, that rejoinder will work.

    Jeff, do you work for the Romney campaign? If not you really should. You’d be one of the smartest guys in the room.

    1. No. I stole that from Donald Trump, and he’s not that bright.

      I’m smart enough to know that Romney isn’t a conservative, but a crony capitalist tool. (I bet my dog can make that inference.)

      I was smart enough to know that Obama was redistributionist hack and a liar. (All you had to do was read his books.) Obama has executed citizens without trial and flouted investment laws. I guess you’re all for that.

      I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but I’m smart enough to know that’s bad. Are you?

      1. Yes, Jeff, that’s bad. But why on earth would you accuse Obama supporters of being “all for that?” Can you influence your preferred politician? Obama has been better on civil rights than Bush, and he’s not as bad as Romney, who’ll continue all Obama’s bad actions and add worse (like destruction of gay civil rights and right to legal abortion) to the mix. So what choice do I have but holding my nose and voting for Obama anyway, because, of the electable choices, he’s by far the least bad? (Of the unelectable choices, personally I prefer Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party; )

        Since you’re not for Romney, who do you support?

        True, many Democrats are “crony capitalist tools,” but can you name even one prominent conservative who isn’t? What do you think ‘conservative’ means?

        1. Jeff is a Birther, as he makes clear upthread, at least of some sort. Given that no sane person can hold such positions, Jeff must – for some reason – be consumed with a hatred of Barack Obama. Most people afflicted with such a condition are of the Right; Jeff claims he’s not. I suppose we can grant him the courtesy of believing him when he says this – after all, its the irrational consuming hatred that disqualifies him, along with the general absurdity of his comments; whether he’s doing this to support Romney or only to harm Obama isn’t terribly important.

        2. Actually, I didn’t accuse Obama supporters of being “all for that.” In the spirit of sarcasm from one poster, I wrote of that one person, “I guess you’re all for that.”

          As an objective matter, Obama has been far worse on civil rights than Bush. Bush never claimed a right to execute citizens without trial. Certainly, Bush never did it. Obama tramples on the most basic civil rights.

          Bush signed the Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 (WRERA ) which made it compulsory for businesses to roll over retirement benefits to a same-sex partner in the event of the employee’s death. Gay marriage is a state issue in the US, for what it’s worth. Bush wasn’t a civil rights hero (Guantanamo anyone?) But on gay rights issues he wasn’t the horror people claim.

          He was a horror for the growth of government and government power. But, Obama has Bush beat on that creeping horror, too.

          Bush was a disaster of a President. He was a tornado in a major city. Obama is a nuclear explosion in a major city. A disaster orders of magnitude worse.

          Who do I support? I don’t know. I might write in Ron Paul. I’m not 100% in agreement with him, but at least he actually agrees with the Constitution on limited government and a negative conception of human rights.

          I want a guy who will roll back the unconstitutional Administrative State erected by FDR. Where can I find a guy to vote for?

          1. Ron Paul is the Mitt Romney of libertarianism. Romney wasn’t CEO of Bain, Ron Paul didn’t read his own newsletter. Mitt Romney made millions by fleecing the taxpayer and destroying jobs. Ron Paul made millions by peddling racism, misogyny and innumerate advice about goldbuggery.

            And, if we are going to talk about Constitutional issues and civil liberties, let’s remember that Ron Paul would cheerfully have allowed Jim Crow to carry on and would have equally cheerfully voted against civil rights for African Americans.

            As for FDR’s legislation, perhaps you’d like to explain just how it was unconstitutional. If you can do so with reference to the actual Constitution, that is.

          2. NickT, I agree Ron Paul is not my 100% candidate. He wouldn’t approve of civili rights laws at the Federal level. He has a radical states-rights vision.

            And, let’s not forget who created and carried on Jim Crow: the Democratic Party. Let’s not forget the party of slavery: the Democratic Party. Let’s not forget the party founded to end slavery: the Republican Party.

            And if I have to compromise with a Obama’s contempt for lawful rule or Romney’s crony capitalism, why is it worse to accept a radical states-rights guy? In fact, it seems a better bargain.

            The federal agencies violate the principle of separation of powers. Take the IRS, for example. If one is suspected of a tax crime, a fellow with a badge and gun (Executive power) charges one. One will be denied a jury trial. One’s case will be heard in a court run by the IRS under a judge paid by the IRS (Judicial authority). The outcome of the case will hinge not on laws passed by duly elected representatives and signed by the President. No. One’s case will be judged under regulations written by the IRS itself (Legislative authority). The IRS has all three powers in one body.

            The IRS is not unique. All of the federal agencies violate the separation of powers. At least the IRS gives you a trial. The EPA just takes your property without recourse.

            This style of federal agency is not an accident. FDR did this intentionally. His “brain trust” wrote books about the subversion of the separation of powers doctrine in the Constitution. He knew that a European-style, Weberian social state was unconstitutional. So, he created a separate body of law called Administrative Law and by threatening the Supreme Court Justices (literally with physical violence) he got them to exempt Administrative Law form the usual constitutional protections. The Progressive said this quite openly and full forethought.

            You can read the Progressives proclaim their contempt for the Constitution in their own writings.

  12. A quick note to the useful idiots demanding college transcripts from Obama (while not having any from Romney or McCain or Palin or Bush etc etc). You can find 12 years of tax returns from President Obama and Vice President Biden right here:

    It’s quite easy to level with the American people about your finances. If you want to.

  13. I would remind you, Jeff, that Obama sought to close Guantanamo and sought to have Khalid Shaikh Mohammed tried in a regular court. It was the Republican party and their accomplices in the media who ended his hopes of so doing. Obama has also put an end to torture, which, I might say, was something the GOP vehemently objected to doing. Obama’s record on civil liberties is imperfect – but far from your lurid picture of tyranny and nuclear weapons.

    Since you mention Jim Crow laws, let us remember that it was a southern Democratic president – LBJ – who put an end to them, using every ounce of his political skill and courage.

    I must also point out that you make some large assertions about how federal agencies violate separation of powers. Here, your reasoning is wholly false. Federal agencies operate under a statutory grant of authority by Congress, which defines the nature and scope of their authority. They are granted authority to create regulations within the scope of what Congress has defined as their sphere. Thus, they do indeed possess a legitimate authority granted by Congress via the vote of the people’s representatives and I do not see how you can make a credible case for the violation of separation of powers, unless you are prepared to deny Congress the right to establish agencies and prescribe their scope. The regulations laid down by those agencies, i.e. administrative law, fall squarely within the powers of the agencies as assigned to them by Congress – and, as such, are perfectly legitimate in constitutional terms. Finally, the powers and regulations of the agencies are subject to judicial review. Again, there is no separation of powers here.
    I must also point out that your history of administrative law (and the wicked FDR) is wrong. The first independent regulatory agency was created in 1887 – namely, the Interstate Commerce Commission. FDR was roughly 5 years old at the time, so I suspect he didn’t have much to do with creating this agency or the administrative law associated with it. Nor did he create the Federal Reserve System Board of Governors in 1913, nor the Federal Trade Commission (1914), much less the Food and Drug Administration (1906).

    1. Last I checked, Guantanamo is still taking prisoners under Obama. Last I checked the CIA is still water boarding under Obama.

      LBJ passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act over the heads of Southern Democrats who voted 94% against the law. LBJ’s triumph was forging a bridge with the Republican Party to end Jim Crow.

      You quite wrong on the agencies. The enumerated powers in the Constitution cannot be delegated. Just as the President cannot delegate his veto power to Congress or to an agency, Congress cannot delegate it’s Legislative authority to unelected bureaucrats. Even if the Congress delegates regulatory authority to say the IRS, Congress cannot delegate executive authority since it never had it. Just because Congress delegates authority doesn’t make the agencies constitutional. You’re making a serious error there.

      You are right that the Progressives moved to create independent agencies before FDR. I never claimed that FDR originated the idea of independent agencies. You’re constructing straw men, so you can set fire to them. Rather the making you look clever, it makes you look dishonest.

      FDR was the first to succeed in combing all three powers of government into the agencies. Thus, the agencies became not only independent, but unchecked. The checks and balances created by the separation of powers does not impede the agencies. If that’s a boon to socialists, it’s a danger to liberty.

      And yes, other Progressives created other agencies. Wilson created the Federal Reserve, and so forth. All of them live outside the checks and balances of the Constitution – which was the whole reason Progressives created them.

      1. Jeff, the powers can and have been delegated and all your desperate attempts to run away from reality are simply laughable. The president’s veto has nothing to do with this issue, and yet you drag it in desperately trying to avoid the facts. Why is that, Jeff? Could it be that your bizarre understanding of American constitutional reality is wholly inadequate? You did claim that FDR created a special category of administrative law – which, Jeff, is generated by agencies using their legitimately delegated powers. You then try and deny the obvious logic of this, which is that FDR created the idea of federal agencies. Again,history and reality refute you. As for your paranoia about Progressives, well, I am sorry you get frightened by a name. Progressives have believed quite a variety of things throughout history and pretending that they are all the same suggests a certain lack of knowledge on your part. Again, that isn’t our fault. Read some history, read the Constitution, investigate beyond the rather eccentric teachings of your gurus and rejoin the rest of us on Planet Earth. Think for yourself, Jeff. You have only your chains to lose.

        1. As to the delegation of powers: the Supreme Court ruled in J.W. Hampton, Jr., & Co. v. United States (1928)that Congressional delegation of legislative authority is an implied power of Congress that is constitutional on the condition that Congress provides an “intelligible principle” to guide the executive branch: ‘In determining what Congress may do in seeking assistance from another branch, the extent and character of that assistance must be fixed according to common sense and the inherent necessities of the government co-ordination.’ So long as Congress ‘shall lay down by legislative act an intelligible principle to which the person or body authorized to [exercise the delegated authority] is directed to conform, such legislative action is not a forbidden delegation of legislative power.’

          Such, Jeff, are the constitutional realities of this matter and I hope you will benefit from understanding them better. You might also consider that assuming all progressives to be the same because of a shared name over the course of more than one hundred years of American history is as sensible as assuming that all Jeffs share the habits of Jeffrey Dahmer and Jefferson Davis.

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