Romney's the candidate who'll say or do anything to close the deal. He's flip-flopped on everything from reproductive rights to environmental protection. Now, as a paid spokesperson for mega-corporations, he mocks climate change as a myth as he pretends he's standing up for the Mom and Pop companies across the country.
"I want to make small businesses grow and thrive," said Romney. But his economic policies have consistently favored giant corporations -- mega-banks and major job outsourcers -- over smaller enterprises. Why not? They're paying for his campaign.
ExxonMobil. Goldman Sachs. Koch Industries. To us they're corporate predators. But for Mitt Romney, they're the wind beneath his wings. But, even knowing that, it's hard to top this comment for sheer audacity: "I came through small business," said Romney. "I understand how hard it is to start a small business."
Whoosh. That was one heck of a wind. Bain Capital was set up by Bill Bain, Romney's boss. Romney insisted on a written contract from Bain guaranteeing he could have his old job back if he failed -- without even losing his scheduled bonuses. Romney never put up his own money for the business, never went without a fat paycheck, never took a chance -- in other words, he was never an entrepreneur.
Romney likes to say he'd run the country like a business. But every successful business person knows there'll be times when you need to invest in your venture today for success tomorrow. That comes naturally to an entrepreneur -- if she or he believes in their enterprise. But Romney doesn't want to invest in the United States -- not in educating its workforce, or rebuilding its infrastructure, or even in research and development.
Either he's not very good at business or he doesn't believe in this country.
Gone With the Wind
We've concentrated on Romney because of his sheer mendacity, which reached gale-force speeds on Tuesday night. But the president has work to do, too. Even though his performance last night will help him considerably, he needs to make up more ground to protect swing states. And his party remains much more vulnerable than he is. The president can seal the deal now -- but only if he pledges to do more to rein in Wall Street, offers more ambitious jobs plans and offers a more vigorous defense of government.
But then, the system's rigged against that. Twenty years ago, the two major parties forced out the League of Women Voters and replaced it with a shadowy private organization called the Commission on Presidential Debates. (Glenn Greenwald has a good round-up on the CPD.) That's all but guaranteed that third-party candidates will be shut out of future debates -- which has left important economic, civil liberties and foreign policy topics and viewpoints outside the debate hall.
The CPD encapsulates everything that's wrong with insider Washington. It's co-directed by lobbyist/publicist Michael McCurry (who serves the telecommunications companies, among others) and Frank Fahrenkopf (who serves the gaming/gambling industry). One of the companies McCurry's firm serves is Bain Capital. And he's the Democrat on the leadership team.
Maybe that explains why the president said he and Romney agreed about Social Security (and disagreed with the American people about it.) And why he's supporting the same three free-trade agreements Romney promised to sign on Day One. If he doesn't show a little more daylight between himself and Romney, he's putting himself and his party in danger.
As for the debate itself, here's how it works: Both candidates -- and the moderator -- must agree to specific rules before the debate takes place, and this year's "Memorandum of Understanding" is a must-read. It even included this: "Each candidate may move about in a pre-designated area, as proposed by the Commission and approved by each campaign, and may not leave that area while the debate is underway."
Weird, isn't it? A nation which places a premium on "free range chickens" is standing by while its presidential candidates -- and its debate -- are caged. "A pre-designated area, approved by each campaign," which a candidate "may not leave": If that isn't a perfect metaphor for our broken political process, what is?
How Many Roads
They're calling the debate for Obama, and I agree completely. But Romney wins one prize hands-down: the one for audacious dishonesty. And meanwhile, for unemployed, under-employed and under-earning Americans, some real questions remain unanswered.