GOP rallies around vulture capitalism, not Romney

Attacks on Romney's Bain career backfire with Limbaugh and party leaders, but they could still resonate with voters

Topics: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, 2012 Elections, ,

GOP rallies around vulture capitalism, not RomneyRepublican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, celebrates his New Hampshire primary election win in Manchester, N.H., Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) (Credit: AP)

I’ve got to admit it: Liberals are at a disadvantage when it comes to judging where the GOP primary is headed. Last week I was sure that conservatives were settling on Rick Santorum, and his supposed blue-collar family values, as the official not-Mitt Romney candidate after his strong Iowa showing. Not quite yet. Sunday I was sure Newt Gingrich’s slashing “King of Bain” ad, attacking Romney as a looter and a job destroyer for his Bain Capital record, would be devastating in a country where the economy is the top issue and unemployment remains high.

It was devastating, all right. To Gingrich. The former House speaker got a beatdown from fellow conservatives this week, with Rush Limbaugh mocking him as an Occupy Wall Street supporter and the National Review harrumphing at the notion that Gingrich targeted Romney’s Bain success because he “apparently expect(s) Republican voters to regard that as a liability.” By the time he made his “I’m tied for fourth place!” speech in New Hampshire Tuesday night, Gingrich looked broken. He abandoned his slashing attacks on Romney’s career and stuck to decrying the “years of decay” under President Obama, recounting his alleged successes as House speaker in the ’90s, and rambling wearily about “innovation.” A few minutes later, over on Fox, a disapproving Sean Hannity smacked sixth-place loser Rick Perry for his attacks on Romney, and echoed Limbaugh’s sneering comparison with Occupy Wall Street ideology.

It’s an interesting moment. Multiple news organizations reported that even close allies are telling Gingrich to cut out the attacks on Romney, but he’s already purchased an estimated $1.5 million in South Carolina airtime for his “House of Bain” spots, plus a nasty ad claiming Romney had “governed pro-abortion” in Massachusetts. What’s Gingrich going to do? He hates Romney, but he loves predatory capitalism as much as Limbaugh does. He doesn’t believe his own Bain Capital attacks. Can he continue to hurt Romney without damaging his own chances to return to the right-wing gravy train when he goes down to defeat? Trust me, the monied interests are not interested in hiring anti-capitalist “historians” to not-lobby for them. Gingrich is torn between vengeance and greed. Sucks to be him. Fun to watch.

It’s also fun to watch conservative Republicans rally around Romney not because they like him but because he’s become the face of the hallowed free market.  As he headed to conservative South Carolina, hotbed of Tea Party radicalism, Romney got a boost from its extremist Sen. Jim DeMint, who predicted the former Massachusetts governor would win the Jan. 21 primary. DeMint is staying neutral, he told radio host Mark Steyn Tuesday night, “because Republicans are not yet united and I want to focus on the Senate.” But he praised Romney’s victory speech for “hitting a lot of the hot buttons for me about balancing the budget,” adding “Frankly, I’m a little concerned about the few Republicans who have criticized some of what I consider free market principles here.” He went on: “Some of the others who might have had an advantage here have really crossed paths, crossed ways with some Republicans as they have criticized free enterprise concepts.” DeMint’s remarks could give other Tea Party leaders an excuse to back Romney, though they don’t trust him, in the name of defending capitalism.

I still think there’s a possibility the Bain attacks will resonate with some Republican voters, and maybe in South Carolina, which has a 9.9 percent unemployment rate, compared to under 6 percent in Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s possible Gingrich and Perry’s attacks will open up political space for Santorum, who’s been careful not to attack capitalism as he sticks to his blue-collar platitudes and culture-war campaign. It was great to see New Hampshire voters chasten Santorum by repeatedly challenging his homophobia in public forums and giving him a fifth place finish. But his campaign told the Huffington Post he’ll spend at least $1 million on advertising in South Carolina. Maybe he’s still got a chance.

It’s a tiny one. Super PACs connected to Romney are set to spend $6 million in South Carolina and Florida in the next three weeks. Meanwhile, as every non-Romney candidate vows to head to South Carolina, they split the conservative vote and increase the chances that Romney gets the victory. Perry claimed he’s soldiering on. So did Jon Huntsman, despite a third-place showing that wasn’t enough to make him a serious candidate, since he bet everything on New Hampshire. “Third place is a ticket to ride, ladies and gentlemen,” Huntsman told the crowd, but nobody believes that. Late Tuesday night, Huntsman’s father and financier reportedly hadn’t decided whether to keep bankrolling his son’s bid. (And people mock Romney for his wealth.)

If it weren’t for Ron Paul’s foreign policy views, we might be talking about whether conservatives could coalesce around his candidacy. He underperformed expectations in Iowa but he came in a strong second Tuesday night. As much as I loathe his domestic politics, I enjoyed hearing the crowd chanting “Bring them home” when he promised to get troops out of Afghanistan. Paul will stay in the race and, given his caucus strategy, he could rack up delegates. I don’t know where that will take him – is he dreaming of Vice President Rand Paul? – but it’s great to think about the Ron Paul crowd heckling Mitt Romney when he doubles down on his hawkish, expansionist foreign policy promises in Tampa.

Romney’s heading into a scorched-earth South Carolina primary, but he’s got to be feeling pretty good about his first two outings. In New Hampshire, he won the ultra-rich, of course, but he also got Tea Party members and evangelicals, according to exit polls. He gave a much better victory speech than he did a week ago, because this time he used his teleprompter. He hit not only Obama but his Republican rivals for practicing “the bitter politics of envy,” which has more zing than the standard GOP class warfare line.

The private equity mogul can’t understand that criticism of his Bain career — “restructuring” companies, cutting their workforce and forcing almost a quarter into bankruptcy — isn’t about jealousy, but justice. People are starting to understand that finance capitalism works for the top 1 percent, but not the rest of us. So while Gingrich’s attacks aren’t likely to help his candidacy, they’re a boost to the man he presumably wants to defeat more than Romney. President Obama has to look forward to running against a guy his GOP rivals called a looter and a vulture capitalist. The fact that all of those rivals are fighting on after New Hampshire helps Romney win the nomination, but it could also help the Democrats hold the White House.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>