Tuesday Reads: Gordon Gekko for President?

Good morning! Today is the New Hampshire primary. We’ll live blog the returns later tonight. As of last night, Gordon Gekko Mitt Romney had a big lead in the polls, with Ron Paul second and John Huntsman and Rick Santorum tied for third place.

Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, holds a 24 percentage point lead over his closest rival, with 41 percent of likely Republican primary voters indicating they’d vote for him, the WMUR New Hampshire Primary Poll said.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul from Texas was favored by 17 percent of likely primary voters, followed by former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, each with 11 percent, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich collecting 8 percent.

Several polls indicated Gingrich would finish in the top three.

“All of the candidates behind Romney have a good chance finishing anywhere between second and fifth place,” said Andrew Smith, director of the UNH Survey Center in Durham.

Yesterday Romney stepped in it again when he told an audience that he really likes firing people.

The final day of campaigning saw Romney under fire for a comment about health insurance that quickly became fodder for criticism.

Asked about the issue in Nashua, New Hampshire, Romney said he wanted a person to be able to own his or her own policy “and perhaps keep it the rest of their life.”

“That means the insurance company will have the incentive to keep you healthy. It also means if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them,” he said.

“I like being able to fire people who provide services to me,” Romney added. “If someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I want to say I am going to get somebody else to provide that service to me.”

Romney complained that everyone was taking his remarks out of context, but when you’re a former corporate raider worth $250 million, it’s probably a good idea to watch what you say about putting people out of work.

Anyway, the latest meme about Romney is that he’s Gordon Gekko brought to life. I think it’s a pretty good comparison. I don’t know if you recall the quote from the recent Vanity Fair profile of Romney that I included in a recent post:

Romney described himself as driven by a core economic credo, that capitalism is a form of “creative destruction.” This theory, espoused in the 1940s by the economist Joseph Schumpeter and later touted by former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan, holds that business must exist in a state of ceaseless revolution. A thriving economy changes from within, Schumpeter wrote in his landmark book, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, “incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” But as even the theory’s proponents acknowledged, such destruction could bankrupt companies, upending lives and communities, and raise questions about society’s role in softening some of the harsher consequences.

Romney, for his part, contrasted the capitalistic benefits of creative destruction with what happened in controlled economies, in which jobs might be protected but productivity and competitiveness falters. Far better, Romney wrote in his book No Apology, “for governments to stand aside and allow the creative destruction inherent in a free economy.” He acknowledged that it is “unquestionably stressful—on workers, managers, owners, bankers, suppliers, customers, and the communities that surround the affected businesses.” But it was necessary to rebuild a moribund company and economy.

That sure sounds Gekko-like, doesn’t it?

Yesterday, Rick Klein of ABC News addressed the Romney/Gekko issue.

Virtually all of Romney’s rivals are now sensing a powerful issue. Jon Huntsman said today that the firing comment shows that Romney is “completely out of touch” with the American economy.

Rick Perry, skipping ahead a state, is calling it the “ultimate insult for Mitt Romney to come to South Carolina and tell you he feels your pain, because he caused it.”

Gingrich is equating Romney’s business style with finding “clever legal ways to loot a company.” Rick Santorum’s stump speech includes a line about not needing a CEO as president, and he suggested at ABC’s Saturday night debate in New Hampshire that Romney’s background calls into question whether he “can inspire and paint a positive vision for this country.”

Romney hasn’t made matters easier for himself as he’s tried to connect with voters on the economy. The son of a millionaire business titan said over the weekend: “I know what it’s like to worry about whether or not you are going to get fired.”

Klein claims it’s too late for any of this to affect the New Hampshire primary results. I wouldn’t be so sure. New Hampshirites are famous for making up their minds at the last minute. Remember Hillary’s surprise win in 2008?

Romney has been expecting the Gordon Gekko comparisons, so you have to wonder why he hasn’t managed to curb some of these Gekko-like remarks.  I guess he just can’t help himself.

Mitt Romney says he knows a photo in which he appears with other executives at Bain Capital LLC posing with cash in their hands, pockets and mouths will be used against him if he wins the Republican presidential nomination.

The 1980s image — called the “Gordon Gekko” photo by some Democrats, a reference to the Michael Douglas character in the movie “Wall Street” — offers an easy attack line at a time of high unemployment and sharp rhetoric against the nation’s top money managers, investors and bankers.

“We posed for a picture, just celebrating the fact that we had raised a lot of money and then we hoped to be able to return it with a good return,” Romney said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Here’s Romney’s defense of the photo on Fox News Sunday.

Andrew Leonard of Salon also discussed the comparison of Romney with Gekko.

Like Gekko, Romney made his fortune buying and selling companies; and like Gekko, he believes that his “greed is good” version of rough-and-tumble creative destruction is a positive force for America, weeding out the bad performers and nurturing lean-and-mean profit engines. If you are looking for the paradigmatic exemplar of the new style of capitalism mogul launched by the Reagan revolution, Romney is your man. Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko is merely ersatz.

But what Leonard finds so amazing is that this attack on Romney and his leverage buyouts is being led Newt Gingrich.

The shock is to see Newt Gingrich and his financial backers channeling the Oliver Stone critique so passionately and wholeheartedly. If you have not seen the three-minute advertisement “When Romney Came to Town,” the soon-to-be debuted documentary lambasting Romney as the enemy of the American worker, prepare to be flabbergasted.

“Their greed was only matched by their willingness to do anything to make millions in profits.”

“This film is about one such raider and his firm.”

“His mission: To reap massive rewards for himself and his investors.

“Romney took foreign seed money from Latin America, and began a pattern exploiting dozens of American businesses.”

And so on. Michael Moore doesn’t sting this hard, and MoveOn isn’t this angry. If Romney, as expected, ends up winning the Republican nomination, Obama’s campaign team can relax. Their work has already been done.

Here’s the trailer for the 27-minute documentary that Gingrich backers have purchased.

Politico calls it “the Bain Bomb.”

While conservatives look unlikely to unite around one alternative to Romney, the campaigns themselves are uniting around the theme that the former head of Bain Capital looted companies, tossed people out of jobs and is now exaggerating his success at the venture capital firm.

In the context of this moment in American politics, in which frustration with the privileged is boiling hot, the attack, from Republicans on one side and the Obama campaign on the other, will test Romney. If he ends up looking more like an opportunist who profited for the few than like a man who created jobs for the many, it’s hard to imagine his polls numbers won’t drop.

Conservative bloggers, who generally can’t stand Romney have begun defending him against his rivals attacks, and Dana Millback called Romney “the Scrooge McDuck of the 2012 presidential race. Bloomberg reports that buyout firms are getting nervous about damage to their reputations.

This could be fun to watch. I thought Newt’s attack on Romney yesterday was spot on.

Is Romney full of shit or what? He even makes Newt Gingrich look good. I hope Newt sticks around and continues letting it all hang out. Every single word he said about Romney was the truth.

I’m going to wrap this up with a more serious take on Romney from Robert Reich: Mitt: Son of “Citizen’s United.” I had forgotten that Reich ran for governor of Massachusetts in the the Democratic primary in 2002. Please go read the whole thing and try not to weep while you’re doing it.

As Reich says, Romney is the ultimate big money candidate. He was in 2002, and now with the help of the Roberts Court, he has more money than any candidate ever dreamed of before. If you thought Obama was the candidate of Wall Street–and he was in 2008–Romney is soooo much more so. He has money and connections that make Obama’s fundraising look pathetic. And none of this money even needs to be reported–it could be coming from overseas, even from foreign governments, and we’d never know.

Tonight we’ll find out of any of this barrage of Gordon Gekko/Mitt Romney comparisons will have any effect. I’m rooting for Romney to be taken down a peg. And then on to South Carolina!

Please share your links in the comments, and I hope to see you tonight for the live blog.

27 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Gordon Gekko for President?”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    The only candidate on that stage who ever held a real job is Ron Paul. As a practicing physician he at least showed that he had to get up in the morning and perform a service. The others are nothing more than seasoned politicians who made their fortunes by pushing paper or mixing with the right crowd who could ease their way through access.

    Newt tries to up his creds by establishing that he is not as well off as Romney since he only made a paltry 2 million last year. Santorum and Perry live lives of privilege all gained from their years of “public service” while Huntsman comes by his fortune through his father. Who are these people trying to kid?

    Romney represents the worst since his fortune was “earned” largely through the suffering of others whose benefits and pensions found their way into his pocket by generous tax loopholes put in place that would only benefit the investor class.

    The hypocrisy is in their pretense to understand and relate to the ordinary person who is faced with the struggle to maintain a modicum of dignity in a culture that prefers to honor the rich who make money with money.

    These are “career politicians” with their eyes on the prize of how much money they can gather unto themselves at whatever cost is involved. This usually means selling their very souls at the altar of Mammon if that’s what it takes to “succeed”.

  2. peggysue22 says:

    Hahaha. We must be on the same wavelength, BB. I found Gingrich’s line of attack beyond belief–The Anti-Capitalist rides to the rescue.

    Rick Perry, of course, chimed in because he has no ideas of his own. And now Santorum? Of course, they’re all tripping over one another and contradicting 3 years of declaring that the remedy for what ails us ‘was’ a CEO in the WH. Government should run like a business, I’ve heard countless times. I think the maxim is dead wrong but that hasn’t stopped the GOP from saying it over and over and over again.

    Which only proves these so-called candidates will say just about anything. Even if it’s contrary to their own underlying message.

    Let the games begin!

    • bostonboomer says:

      If they manage to slow Romney down, I don’t care what they say. Gingrich, though, is telling the absolute truth. He has Romney nailed and I’m rooting for him to show that documentary.

  3. Minkoff Minx says:

    Let’s see what happens tonight…BB, check this out: New Hampshire Primary | Buddy Roemer Comes Out Swinging | Mediaite

    GOP Presidential candidate Buddy Roemer, the former Congressman and Governor of Louisiana who has been shut out of the debates thus far, appeared on Morning Joe Tuesday, and ripped into his fellow GOP candidates — as well as President Obama — for their relationships with their Super PACs and excessive fundraising efforts.

    Roemer, who is polling at 2% in the latest New Hampshire poll — doubling Rick Perry’s support (1%) — has been running a campaign based on getting corruption out of politics. He wasted no breath hammering his rivals for their ease in getting involved with their Super PACs:

    “It is disgraceful to watch Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, and the others with Super PACs talk about, oh, they don’t have anything to do with their Super PAC. It’s a lie. This election is corrupted by Super PACs and big money. And you know who knows? All these guys running for President.”

    • Pat Johnson says:

      Buddy is correct. Going forward the only candidates running for office will come only from the top 1%.

    • bostonboomer says:

      That’s funny, Minx. I didn’t know that Roemer is ahead of Perry now. What a comedown for the guy who thought god wanted him to be president.

    • quixote says:

      I know Roemer is well thought of here at Skydancing, and that Dak is a whole lot more aware than I am of his recent history. So set me straight if I’m being too jaundiced. I was very put off by him switching from Dem to Repub, while in office as Governor!, for what sure looked like opportunistic reasons. (In 1991, just before Bill Clinton roared out of nowhere to win the Presidency, the Republicans were the only game in DC, and I think Roemer had visions of moving on up.) Admittedly, he always was a conservative Democrat, but switching while actually in office, and elected presumably as a Democrat, left me with a bad taste.

      He wasn’t bad as Governor, and given that most Govs in Louisiana are nails-on-blackboard screechingly awful, that does speak in his favor.

      • dakinikat says:

        I am not what I’d call a supporter although I could vote for him over Obama. He is basically a moderate republican or a conservative Dem that is better on the issues than the rest of the Republicans. He also isn’t all that different on issues from Obama. I don’t agree with all his positions but he is the only one talking about corruption and money in politics and corporatism. He always said the switch had something to do with the overwhelming control the dem party had on the state at the time but now we are in the opposite situation now it seems. He was a fairly good governor. The economy was improving nationally so it was not a really challenging time to governor although there was the post Gulf War recession to consider. Louisiana had its typical bad economy though because of corruption and the collapse of the oil prices. I wasn’t here at the time. I was in Nebraska so I’ve only got the stories second hand. I think he should’ve be allowed to debate. I think he has been blocked because he is not radical on the social issues like the governor of new mexico. I believe Norquist and the plubs have blocked both of them. I used to be bugged by the switching party things but now that I’m so down on both parties, I’m less disturbed by it.

      • quixote says:

        “I used to be bugged by the switching party things but now that I’m so down on both parties, I’m less disturbed by it.”

        Good point!

      • quixote says:

        And I definitely agree about voting for him over B0.

  4. HT says:

    Perhaps I might be forgiven for election fatigue? Why on earth does it go on for so long? All the candidates have foot in mouth disease, so why do they prolong their agony like this? Not one of them are worthy of cleaning the toilet, much less leading a nation. Geebus, what is the world coming to? On the subject of Geebus, seems the Pope has decided that same sex marriage is a threat. This is a man who was in the Nazi youth movement, and who during his tenure as pope oversaw one of the worst scandals to encompass the Catholic Church. Hmmm, I should give him respect? I think not, but unfortunately, millions of Catholics will. BTW, I’m one of those ex-Anglicans and quite frankly – from the frying pan to the fire.

  5. quixote says:

    This sparks off of Pat Johnson’s comment, but it’s something that’s been nagging at me for a while.

    I’m convinced that the only useful grounds for judging politicians, or wannabees, is what they have done. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but it is our best indicator. Speeches mean nothing. Whether anybody wants to have a beer with them means less. What their family members do or don’t do is not actually up to them. We need to judge these mugs on what they do.

    So I’m bothered by the concept that having or not having a “real job” is important. Or that inherited wealth is important. Or that being a self-made billionaire is significant. Or being currently unemployed.

    The question ought to be: what have they done with what they had? Have they used their time in past office to advance reality-based policies, justice, economic fairness? If yes, great. There’s some hope they might go on doing that. If no, it really doesn’t matter whether they connect with people or not. All that means is that they’re better actors than the next guy. Archetypal case in point, St. Ronnie himself.

    So what do other Skydancers think? Is wealth a hereditary taint? Or are we actually using it as a proxy for something else?

    • bostonboomer says:

      Wealth isn’t disqualifying, but in Romney’s case his performance as governor sucked and what he chose to do in his business career did too. I don’t think only performance in government jobs counts. It’s clear that Romney has even less capacity to empathize with working people than Obama–or even Gingrich!

    • HT says:

      I don’t think wealth is a taint. As you’ve so ably and succinctly put it, the proof is in the pudding – meaning what have they done with it and how have they conducted themselves. One wonders how one defines a “real job”. I tend towards the attitude that if you have wealth, then you are fortunate and should assist those less fortunate to get to the same place – IE, you got up the ladder, now reach down, extend a helping hand and assist others to climb. Today it seems to be the norm that once one climbs the ladder or is born on the top rung, one kicks the ladder over so no one can follow cause there can only be so many very special people.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I define a “real job” as working for someone else for a salary that you depend on to pay your bills and otherwise survive.

      • dakinikat says:

        I think some folks can get wealthy running family businesses and be human, full of common sense, and lacking a sense of entitlement. I think if you’re basically a spoon fed trust fund baby, having character is a lot more difficult. The continual hand outs just soften your sense of reality. Also, you swim in favoritism and entitlement. Some times it’s hard to live that expectation down and there’s a few that do it. I was a rich kid growing up. I walked away from all of it.

      • HT says:

        As a 35 year slogger in a multinational corporation, I agree with you, and believe me, retirement doesn’t obliterate those concerns – bills – food – heat – electricity – food – heat – electricity etc (yes, I’m being repetitious). Unfortunately, people such as all of the Republican candidates and most of the Democratic elite have no concept of what the average person lives with and they have no concept of what a “Real Job” is.

      • quixote says:

        I get the sense that what y’all are talking about is empathy, and the research is on your side. Trust fund babies, as a group, have loads less empathy and a huge sense of entitlement. But it’s important to remember that the empathy is the point, not the wealth. If somebody demonstrates a capacity for understanding what’s going on, disqualifying them for wealth would be a mistake. Classic example, of course: FDR.

    • Pat Johnson says:

      I see your point but my fear is that going forward only those coming fully equipped with big bucks, inheirited or otherwise, will be the only ones who can afford to run in this present political atmosphere.

      Though I take perverse pleasure in watching the Newt/Mitt fiasco, it wasn’t until some billionaire donor from Nevada came up with the monies to fund Newt’s pac and level the name calling, dirt discovering playing field. Without it Newt would be pretty much on his own to “fight back”.

      The money from filthy rich donors is also behind much of these elections which is the point I was trying to make. Unless a candidate is willing to do the bidding of a rich donor then the donor has no need to kick in. The trade off itself is apparent.

      Money is choking the system and the average guy has little chance of being seen or heard as Buddy Roemer’s campaign can attest.

      A perfect example that that if you are not safely within the embrace of Wall Street and other corporate entities, your chances of being heard are essentially slim to none.

    • quixote says:

      I couldn’t agree more that money in politics is pure poison. We so-o-o need public campaign financing and no option to use your own or anyone else’s money. Absolutely. 100%. (Interesting article on that, by the way, on Connecticut’s turnaround from corruption to useful legislation the moment they got the money out of politics.)

      Still, that’s not the same as an individual being less worthy simply because they’re rich. I think HT hits it when she says the point is have you helped others or kicked the ladder out below you. With Romney, for instance, that would be “B.” And, as BB points out, he didn’t exactly shine as Gov. Huntsman, I don’t know. I don’t actually know what kind of Gov of Utah he was, or what he’s done with his money. Who has he helped, and why?

  6. dakinikat says:

    The more I see about and hear from Romney, the more I dislike him. Underneath that preppy interior lies a stone cold heart.

    • peggysue22 says:

      There really is a soulless quality to Romney. That may be an unfair comment to make but I watched him during the debates when Huntsman came back at his comments about working for Obama. There was grimace/smile but a really cold, steely exterior.

      Reminded me of people who are control freaks–never any emotion on display [and you wonder if there’s any felt]. He just seems buttoned up wa-a-ay too tightly.

      • HT says:

        My mom, bless her, always drilled into us that gut reactions are valid. Mine – Mitt is no different from his competitors – they are all out to grab the brass ring regardless. They don’t give a good gosh darn about the vast unwashed. Where is FDR when you need him? Trust me, typing that last sentence almost gagged me. FDR has been dead over 60 plus years and we’ve advanced – how?

      • quixote says:

        Being a soulless ghoul is starting to seem like the main qualification for high office. Cheney, Bush II, Obama, Romney, they all seem willing to do anything without a flicker of concern. At least Nixon talked to pictures of dead presidents. And if our choice is O vs R, it’s soulless ghoul 1 vs soulless ghoul 2. The choice will settle on the one able to put on a better smile, which would be O. Gawd.

    • quixote says:

      That “fire your insurance company” has got to be one of the dumbest comments ever.

      When they do surveys, the people happy with their companies are the ones who haven’t gotten sick. Once they are sick, and discover the scumbags cheat, I’m sure they’ve got all the time in the world to research other companies, compare plans, and bargain for lower rates. And the companies, of course, are happy to take on a new customer with an existing disease and cover it.

      /*My head turns purple and explodes*/