Weekly Standard Online
October 11, 2012
by Irwin Stelzer
Never underestimate the ingenuity of the New York Times when it comes to creating – not finding, creating – misfeasance by Mitt Romney. In a front-page, above-the-fold story on Wednesday, under the headline, "Romney's Trade Message and Bain's China Ties," Sharon LaFraniere and Mike McIntire ran into a problem. After reciting how a company owned by Bain Capital since 2010 had closed down U.S. plants and shipped the work and jobs to China, the Times reporters (columnists?) say that Romney's "private equity dealings, both while he headed Bain and since, complicate" his message that we must crack down on Chinese trade cheating.
Since Romney left Bain long before the deal in question, the "and since" presented a difficulty. A small, soluble matter for a newspaper unwilling to let facts get in the way of its drive to help reelect Barack Obama. Journalistic standards demanded that the reporters mention that Romney's investments are in a blind trust over which he has no control. So first call that fact into question while at the same time reporting it. "Mr. Romney's campaign insists he has no control over his investments since they are held in a blind trust." Note the "Mr. Romney's campaign insists…" a bit of sly innuendo suggesting that, well, it might not be true because all we know is that the Romney campaign says it's so, but we have no proof that Romney has any say over his investments.
There is worse. Since Romney's investments are beyond his control, and since he left Bain before these job destroying investments were made, what is a columnist working for a newspaper that has become an Obama house organ to do? Resort to that great trick, that bridge from a fact to a non sequitur, "That said…" So, after grudgingly conceding that Romney had no say in the transaction that resulted in a shift of jobs to China, the authors go on, "That said, a confidential prospectus for one of the Bain funds, obtained by The New York Times, promotes China as a good investment for some of the same reasons Mr. Romney has said concern him…".
In other words, the folks now in charge at Bain Capital think China is a good investment, perhaps because the president has failed to stop it from cheating, and are doing their job of maximizing the returns to their investors. How they do that is beyond Romney's control: A "blind trust" is just that, with a trustee making decisions that remain unknown to the investor.
Robert Caro, in the latest volume of his biography of Lyndon Johnson, points out that the then-president had telephones installed in the White House living quarters that were independent of the White House switchboard, and were used by the president to communicate with the trustees of his only supposedly blind trust. Let's hope that some Times reporter doesn't notice a bedside telephone in one of the hotels or motels used by Romney during his campaign treks, and tell us that he has no proof that Romney uses it to give directions to his trustee, but, "that said," at least one former president (probably best not to name a Democrat) used a bedside phone to give eyes to his blind trust.
Irwin Stelzer is a Senior Fellow and Director of Economic Policy Studies for the Hudson Institute. He is also the U.S. economist and political columnist for The Sunday Times (London) and The Courier Mail (Australia), a columnist for The New York Post, and an honorary fellow of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies for Wolfson College at Oxford University. He is the founder and former president of National Economic Research Associates and a consultant to several U.S. and United Kingdom industries on a variety of commercial and policy issues. He has a doctorate in economics from Cornell University and has taught at institutions such as Cornell, the University of Connecticut, New York University, and Nuffield College, Oxford.
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