I appreciate your willingness to engage on this subject. This deserves a well-planned and thorough response, and you shall have it. I’m going to start with generalities, and I hope my arguments will become more persuasive and pointed as I finish.
Firstly, I have already read this article. It was probably the top laughingstock opinion piece in Left Blogistan this morning. Although David Gergen is far from the worst hack D.C. pundit (Alex Pareene seems to respect him enough to have not included him in either his “Hack 30” or “Hack 20” lists either of the past 2 years), he is a fine example of the Washington, D.C. “Village Elite” class of journalists. In other words, he is someone who is entrenched in the establishment, and the way one becomes entrenched in the establishment is by jettisoning one’s journalistic sense of truth or falsehood and replacing it with a motivation to be “even-handed” and share the other side of the story, even if it is complete bunkum. After all, you don’t get invited to all those swank Georgetown cocktail parties if you start pissing off the people throwing the parties, know what I mean?
OK, so the ad hominem portion of the program is complete, except for the fact that Gergen comes out directly in his second paragraph and states that HE IS BIASED in this area because of his numerous friends at Bain and his numerous financial dealings with them! Yes, I suppose it is better for him to disclose these connections before writing an opinion piece on the subject, but it begs the question, “Wasn’t there some OTHER Senior Political Analyst at CNN who could have written on this topic, rather than the person in the bureau who is most in bed with the subject?” It’s damned near impossible to take anything he says seriously after this confession.
I have come to admire and like the leaders of Bain Capital because I have learned firsthand that in a private equity industry, where there are obviously some predatory companies, Bain stands out for the respect in which it is generally held and for the generous philanthropy of some of its partners. Nothing I have seen so far has shaken that view.
So, David Gergen has met and knows several people associated with Bain, and he likes them, and they are charitable, and nothing he has read so far has shaken his view that his friends are nice and charitable, as far as vultures in the private equity business go. That's high praise indeed, Mr. Gergen, but of course, it has nothing to do, one way or another, with any actual facts or evidence regarding Mitt Romney, his tenure with Bain Capital, or his statements from the stump or in SEC or FEC filings to the contrary. But thank you very much for adding that little taste of honey for all your readers before you get into the serious stuff.
Gergen, to his credit, proceeds to fairly properly, if rather narrowly, lay out the nature of the controversy and the meaning behind it, by explaining that yes, it is proper to scrutinize Romney's Bain tenure (since he is basing his campaign almost entirely on his past experience as a business leader, in the most general sense), and that it would be a significant revelation if it turned out that Romney had in fact been involved in some of the unpopular outsourcing, job killing, and fetus disposal business that Bain is known to have engaged in during the period when Romney was primarily running the Olympics from February 1999 through August 2002. Unfortunately, Gergen seems to imply that this is the ONLY possible significant revelation from the filings, statements, and other evidence that have come to light regarding Romney's tenure at Bain, both before 1999 and after, and regarding statements and testimony he has given in the past 10 years about it. But I'll cover what Gergen neglects later.
The real hackery begins with the next section, where rather than diving right into the known and accepted facts of the matter, the Villager in him can't help but first ask whether Romeny has "handled the scrutiny well". While this is interesting from a political angle, and may shed some light on the type of President Romney might make, who gives a shit, David? Is this all just a game to you, a horse race, entertainment to fill programming hours on your network? Your headline says that the FACTS don't support Obama's criticisms. Well, I haven't seen FACT #1 yet, but you're already discussing whether Romney his handling the scrutiny well or not. It would be hard to craft a better parody of D.C. insider wankery.
Fortunately, he answers his stupid question correctly, and also answers his next slightly off-topic question correctly when he says that Romney should release his tax returns. Not that anyone came to David Gergen, Moral Compass, to find out what a presidential candidate should or should not do, except that Gergen is a political analyst, so he gives his answer based on what would make for the best optics for the Romney campaign.
As an aside, I have a feeling that Mitt Romney and his campaign team have already considered this imaginative solution, David, and they've come to the conclusion that unfortunately, the better optics are to NOT reveal what is in his last 10 to 15 years of tax returns. Mitt Romney has many shortcomings as a candidate, but being stupid and uncalculating is not one of them. As bad as it looks to stonewall, showing his tax returns would look worse. I'll leave the reason for that to your imagination...
In any case, Gergen has now completed the maneuver in Centrist non-Analysis that I like to call the "Sensibility Shuffle". He has made several statements that are quite sensible to practically anyone in the political middle, and even leaned a touch to the left by weakly calling for more transparency from Romney. Now he can feel free to shift to the right and say things that might not stand up to scrutiny on their own, except that he has given himself political cover by speaking some sensible centrist platitudes first. I'm not going to simply follow the magician's hand, though. Let's see what he actually does (and does not) say when we get to the actual issue he is claiming to address in this article.
Gergen asks the question, "Has Romney basically lied about when he actually departed Bain? Has he tried to mislead the public or investors?" He concludes that there is not sufficient evidence to support this. I think, after all of the evidence that I have seen over the past few days, I might have to agree that Romney and Bain probably did not try to mislead their investors. There was a offering brochure for one of their investments in 2000 that referred to Romney as being part-time (or something like that, I can't find it right now), and I think that is a fair disclosure to give to potential investors, and I have no reason to believe that other investments were not handled similarly. But if we're going to discuss whether Romney has, at any time since 1999, tried to mislead the PUBLIC, you have to be willfully obtuse to come to any conclusion other then "Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!" Mitt Romney misleads the public with virtually every statement that comes out of his mouth. For the past 25 WEEKS, Steve Benen has been Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity for the Maddow Blog, and he backs up all of his claims of Romney's lies with links to the truth. It's a marvelous resource, if you're interested in truth.
The "investigation" by Gergen of the "facts" is pitiful by any standards of journalism. He wants to know how it all went down at Bain during the period in question, and so he goes and asks some of his above mentioned Bain friends about what happened. This is not an entirely useless exercise, as first-hand insider accounts add much color and detail to investigations like this. But it is the ONLY investigation he did, and he took their accounts on their word, because he knows these people, and they are good and honorable men, who give money to charities and throw great parties, and would never dream of buying a company in 40:1 debt ratio leveraged buyout, pay themselves eight figures in management fees, and then declare bankruptcy leaving dozens or hundreds of people out of work.
Oh, and how many of his Bain friends did he speak to? "But based on relationships over several years, I trust his or her account." ONE!?! Did you speak with ONE person, David? Or was it two, and you're just trying to hide whether it was one or more? You clever investigative reporter, you.
But what corroborating evidence does Gergen present? Why, he presents Factcheck.org! And the article he cites "was co-written [CO-WRITTEN!!!] by a man who was once a top investigative journalist for CNN." Wow! The same organization that employs such stellar fact checkers as YOU, David?!? Regardless of one's opinion of Factcheck.org, it is simply another analysts opinion that happens to agree with Gergen's. It is not by any stretch "corroboration". It is "self-validation", which may be great for Stuart Smalley, but does nothing for journalism.
Most importantly though, in focusing ENTIRELY on the question of whether Mitt Romney was "no longer actively managing the company," he completely misses the LIES that Mitt Romney has told, in both written and spoken testimony, in the years since.
No informed liberal partisan has been arguing the strawman that Gergen refutes in this article, namely that Mitt Romeny, while simultaneously working 100 hours a week to save the SLC Olympics, was taking a concerted, active, day-to-day role in managing Bain Capital in Boston. What we HAVE been saying is that THESE are the FACTS:
1) Mitt Romney left Bain in February 1999 to take over management of the, and in the two and a half years that followed, Bain's SEC filings listed Romney as the "sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president". Whether he was actually performing all of his duties under those extremely important titles, whether he was managing the operations of the company and its investments in depth on a regular basis, he was still, according to federal filings, the party legally (and from the Obama campaign's political perspective, morally) responsible for all of those operations and investment management. This is probably the least important LIE exposed of late, but it sure looks bad when...
2) Mitt Romney collected a salary of (at least) $100,000 per year during the period of 1999 to 2002 for those "executive duties", apart from his earnings from investments and dividend. Either he was actually doing SOME work under his numerous titles with Bain, or he was collecting a six figure salary for doing absolutely nothing. While absolutely hideous from a political optics perspective, there's nothing illegal about drawing a salary for doing nothing. Unfortunately for Mitt, there is quite a bit of evidence that he was doing more than nothing...
3) In June 2002, Mitt Romney testified before the Massachusetts Ballot Law Commission in order to establish that he met the residency requirements to run for governor. In that testimony that during his Olympic tenure, "[T]here were a number of social trips and business trips that brought me back to Massachusetts, board meetings, Thanksgiving and so forth." The testimony also disclosed that he "remained on the board of the Staples Corporation and Marriott International, the LifeLike Corporation," all Bain investments at the time. Regarding the Staples board meetings, "I returned for most of those meetings. Others I attended by telephone if I could not return."
And what did Romney's personal lawyer say about these matters at those MBLC hearings? He said that Romney "continued to serve on the board of directors of a significant Massachusetts company and to return here for most of its board meetings," and, "Now while [the Olympics management] was going on, very much in the public eye, what happened to his private and public ties to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? And the answer is they continued unabated just as they had."
So, I think, even if Romney was not heavily involved in the management of Bain Capital during the period in question, his involvement was far from ZERO, and he certainly painted a much more involved picture when it served him to try to establish his residency in order to run for Governor. This is the REALLY big problem, because...
4) On August 12, 2011, Romney filed his federal disclosure form with the FEC for his current presidential campaign, in which he ATTESTED under penalty of perjury, "Mr. Romney retired from Bain Capital on February 11, 1999 to head the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. Since February 11, 1999, Mr. Romney has not had any active role with any Bain Capital entity and has not been involved in the operations of any Bain Capital entity in any way." The 2002 testimony above directly contradicts this statement. This is where the Obama campaign's charges of perjury stem from, and David Gergen didn't address this point AT ALL in his article in yesterday's Washington Post.
So did he lie under oath to the MBLC in 2002, or did he lie under oath to the FEC in 2011? Both cannot be true, no matter what your definition of "is" is.