by Ted Manna
AR Political Correspondent
Merritt Island, Fla.
July 22, 2012
THE ELUSIVE TRUTHS OF THE 2012 CAMPAIGN
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- The truth hurts, especially when it is cleverly presented in 30 seconds.
A new advertisement from the Obama campaign team, entitled "Firms," now joins the pantheon of great political ads of the TV Age.
The ad is simple in concept. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, sings a wobbly version of "America the Beautiful," while the viewer is taken on a whirlwind tour of the places where Romney has either outsourced jobs as head of the venture capital firm Bain Capital, or where he has his personal wealth stashed.
The ad begins with Romney singling on stage (the recording is from a campaign stop in Florida back in January). It then cuts to the interior of a factory as we see the words from a Los Angeles Times story, "In Business, Mitt Romney's firms shipped jobs to Mexico."
Next, we see the brick exterior of a factory, along with the words, "And China."
A scene of a conference room is accompanied by the words of The Boston Globe, "As Governor, Romney outsourced jobs to India."
A scene of a lake with the Swiss flag is soon joined by these words from ABC News: "He had millions in a Swiss bank account."
A scene of a sun-kissed beach with palm trees and gently lapping waves is coupled with the words, "Tax havens like Bermuda" (Vanity Fair) "And the Cayman Islands" (ABC News).
As Mitt finishes warbling, the screen goes black. "Mitt Romney's not the solution. He's the problem," reads the tag line.
Besides burning up the Internet, the Obama campaign plans to air the ad in swing states such as Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Of course, the Romney campaign is crying foul. What else can it do? In 30 seconds, it brings up every flaw that Romney possesses - his fake patriotism, his profiting from sending U.S. jobs overseas, his gaming of the tax system with offshore bank accounts and shelters, and his refusal to tell the truth about his finances.
Compare Mitt's behavior to that of his father, George Romney. When the former Michigan governor and CEO of American Motors ran for the Republican nomination for president in 1968, he took the then-unprecedented step of releasing 12 years of his tax returns.
The elder Romney knew that, as a successful businessman, he would come under extra scrutiny that would only be quieted if he showed how he made his money and how much tax he paid on it.
Would Mitt do the same thing? If he did, it would show what happened between 1999 and 2002, when he may or may not have been running Bain while he was also in charge of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games. It would show precisely what offshore tax havens he has money stashed in, and it would show the link between the jobs destroyed by Bain and the profits generated for Romney as a result - which is precisely why Romney has only gone back as far as 2010 with his tax returns.
However, the startling thing, looking back more than four decades, is how much George Romney earned and how much tax he paid.
Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution pointed out that George Romney's average income between 1955 and 1966 was $247,743, or about $1.7 million in today's dollars. That was 74 times what the average median household income was in 1960.
The elder Romney's annual tax bill during that period was $91,629, for an effective tax rate of 37 percent. Considering the top tax rate until the early 1960s was 91 percent, and 71 percent thereafter, that's quite a bit of money.
Compare that to Mitt Romney. In 2010, he reported income of $21.7 million, nearly all of it investment income, he told the IRS. Since the capital gains tax rate is 15 percent, the younger Romney paid $3 million in taxes, or an average rate of 13.9 percent.
The evasiveness of Mitt Romney brings up an important question that the few sane Republicans left in the party are now asking themselves: In an election where, based on a declining economy and an uneasy national mood, they should be running away with the election, how did they get a candidate who seems utterly unprepared to run for president?
Against a professional campaign such as President Obama's, Romney is totally overmatched. History shows that you don't get to the White House unless you are either a skilled politician, or are surrounded by a staff who are skilled and can compensate for your flaws. Romney has neither. His campaign staff appear to be amateurs, and he has none of the political skills one associates with the great politicians of the past half-century - Presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.
Then again, Mitt Romney has never been a great politician. When he ran for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1994, he was soundly beaten. When he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, he was soundly beaten by Sen. John McCain. The only election he did win, the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial race, came because he faced no serious opposition and because he had more money and resources than his rivals.
That wasn't the case in 1994 or 2008.
How did Romney end up the GOP standard bearer in 2012? Because no Republican heavyweight wanted to take on President Obama, and because he had the resources to bludgeon the field of clowns he faced - Michelle Bachmann? Herman Cain? Newt Gingrich? Rick Perry? Rick Santorum? - with attack ads.
Now, the Republicans have begun to realize they are stuck with a flawed candidate with tepid support who is running the most fact-free presidential campaign in history, and it's too late to find a replacement.
AR Chief of Correspondents Randolph T. Holhut has been a prize=winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.