The Poseur

Soon after the June job numbers were released, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney issued a statement predictably condemning President Obama and his team. “With their cavalier attitude about the economy, the White House has turned the audacity of hope into the audacity of indifference,” Romney said.

It was an absurd line, but it was also consistent with the recent themes Romney has embraced with both arms. As the former governor sees it, people are struggling and Romney’s the one who cares most about their plight.

Frank Rich’s first piece for New York magazine ran this week, and it’s principally focused on criticizing the Obama administration for not going after Wall Street nearly aggressively enough. But the piece also featured a fascinating condemnation of Mitt Romney, described as a “poseur,” and whose attempts at claiming credibility on unemployment are truly laughable.

No one doubts that Romney is a shape-shifter par excellence, whether on abortion, health care, cap and trade, or the Detroit bailout (which he predicted would speed GM and Chrysler to their doom). In his last presidential run, he was caught fabricating both his prowess as a hunter and a nonexistent civil-rights march starring his father and Martin Luther King. But to masquerade as a latter-day FDR is a new high in chutzpah even by his standards. […]

It’s a record Romney perennially tries to cover up. It may have cost him his Senate race against Ted Kennedy in 1994. In that campaign, Romney was stalked by a “Truth Squad” of striking workers from a Marion, Indiana, paper plant who had lost jobs, wages, health care, and pensions after Ampad, a Bain subsidiary, took control. Ampad eventually went bankrupt, but Bain walked away with $100 million for its $5 million investment. It was an all-too-typical Romney story, which is why Mike Huckabee could nail him with his memorable 2008 wisecrack: “I want to be a president who reminds you of the guy you work with, not the guy who laid you off.” Stephen Colbert recently topped Huckabee, portraying Romney as a cross between Gordon Gekko and Jack Kevorkian because of the profitable mercy killings of companies in Bain’s care. When Romney was governor, his record was no better. A Northeastern University analysis of his term (2003-6) found that Massachusetts was one of only two states to have no growth in their labor forces. The other was Louisiana, which happened to have an excuse named Katrina.

That Romney thinks he can pass himself off as the working stiff’s savior and Obama as the second coming of the out-of-touch patrician George H.W. Bush of 1992 truly turns reality on its head.

When pressed, Romney generally cites his success with the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002 as evidence of his ability to create jobs. What he neglects to mention is that Romney created jobs by hiring lobbyists to get more taxpayer money for the winter games. Indeed, the anti-spending conservative received more federal funding for his Olympics than any in U.S. history.

OK, so Romney didn’t create a lot of jobs with the Olympics. And in the private sector, Romney slashed American jobs as if his career depended on it — because it did.

Complicating matters, during Romney’s only service in public office, his state’s record on job creation was “one of the worst in the country.” How bad was it? During his tenure, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of 50 states in jobs growth.

Despite all of this, Romney has decided to not only build his entire campaign around the jobs issue, but also position himself as a champion of the unemployed. I assume that the only reason Democrats aren’t incessantly labeling Romney as “the anti-jobs candidate” is that they’re waiting to bury him with his record in the general election.

As a purely political matter, unemployment is a key obstacle for the president’s re-election. Is Obama lucky enough to have Republicans nominate the candidate whose weakest issue is jobs?