Last night, we published a column by “Virgil” on the controversies about Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital and his personal finances. Virgil’s analysis–i.e. that Romney is losing the media narrative, and the campaign–is inaccurate, and his ad hominem swipes at Romney’s advisers are unfair. It is Virgil’s suggestion, however, that is most preposterous: that Romney submit to an near-infinite, Kafkaesque interrogation by the media.
That gesture, which apparently presumes Romney’s guilt, is so plainly unnecessary and potentially self-destructive that it would seem Virgil would prefer Romney to lose to Barack Obama. The accusations have been debunked–but they were never the point of Obama’s attack. As our John Nolte observed recently: “If Romney’s campaign can be made to look defensive and ineffective, that undercuts Romney’s compelling biography as a competent, effective leader more than any offshore account or SEC filing.”
Romney has already confronted the questions head-on, and he is receiving unexpected support from such outlets as the Washington Post and Factcheck.org. Indeed, what is fascinating about the narrative is the fight within the media, as journalists weigh their desire to see Obama re-elected against the need to defend their diminishing credibility.
Regardless, the Obama campaign is doubling down–a tactical error that only highlights the fact that Obama cannot run on his record. Obama himself is pressing the false anti-Romney smears, damaging his “hope and change” image in the process. And yet there are conservatives like Virgil who have chosen this moment to panic–or, perhaps, to keep the flame of “anti-Romney” skepticism alive, the better to ignite future opposition.
They are wrong–and they are playing into the hands of the “Democrat-media complex,” wittingly or unwittingly. In his book Righteous Indignation, Andrew Breitbart asked: “Do you think the GOP will win if its strategy is to apologize for every media-manufactured ‘right wing’ outrage?” Andrew believed in getting ahead of a crisis–only if there was a mistake for which to apologize. Nothing Romney has done is illegal, or even wrong.
If anything, Romney’s error has been to accept the faulty premise that “outsourcing” (i.e. offshoring) is bad–when, in fact, members of President Obama’s own jobs council do it because it can make U.S. companies more competitive and create new jobs, albeit different jobs, at home. Romney can be justly criticized for his caution–but not for a lack of courage, certainly not after his performance at the NAACP conference last week.
One reason Andrew was not a “Birther” is that he did not believe in attacking candidates by using question marks–i.e. demanding that they disprove accusations for which no independent evidence yet exists. Romney’s enemies pronounce him guilty of a growing list of economic misdeeds, including the “crime” of capitalist success, but they will never be satisfied by his answers. Bainism has become the left’s version of Birtherism.
Breitbart News has long maintained that we would vet Republican candidates as well as Obama. We examined Bain’s jobs record when it was first raised by Newt Gingrich during the primary, for example. What Virgil wants is not “vetting.” His criticism is either a sincere expression of worry–what Romney advisers have, perhaps unfairly, dismissed as “bedwetting“–or mere political opportunism, sometimes called “backstabbing.”