In 1999, while campaigning for the Democratic nomination for President, Al Gore reportedly claimed during a town hall event in Manchester, NH that he had invented the Internet. This claim took on a life of its own, and became late night comic fodder from that moment forward. This alleged remark came to define Al Gore, not because it was true, but because it sounded true. Gore had been repeatedly accused by his political enemies of playing fast and loose with the facts, and this hyperbole seemed believable in that context. The tale still has life because at its core, it reflects something about the candidate that voters were trained to believe.
I use the word “alleged” regarding the Internet remark because I know it was twisted from his actual words.
Four years ago, my daughter and I had the pleasure of visiting New Hampshire during the 2008 primary season. We spent 4 full days visiting campaign offices, attending candidate house parties and town halls, and getting to know the voters in New Hampshire that would shape the contours of that 2008 presidential contest (www.newhampshire2007.blogspot.com). While waiting for one of the candidates to speak, we met a gentleman who was at the Al Gore “I invented the Internet” town hall event 8 years prior. He laughed as he recounted the event. He remembered the comment, and said that Gore was specifically talking about his role in the legislation that allowed the Internet to be funded. Gore never said that he ”invented” the Internet, but never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
This past week, during an event in Iowa, Mitt Romney responded to some hecklers in the crowd with the statement, “Corporations are people, my friend.” The Democratic National Committee jumped on this exchange with voters, and instantly spun it into an attack ad against Romney. It might work and become the equivalent of the Al Gore “Internet” moment, but I think it’s a mistake. This comment is being overblown, and it has the potential to backfire.
It is clear to me from watching the clip that Romney was making a legitimate point. A more artful statement that would have better made his point might have been “Corporations are made up of people, my friend.” Perhaps I am giving Mitt the benefit of the doubt, but I believe that he was trying to explain that when corporations make money, the employees and stockholders make money; when corporations are taxed, the stockholders (people) are taxed. That’s a valid point, and one that the far left likes to paint over, to their peril. In the wake of Citizens United, the Left thinks it has a powerful ‘us against them’ campaign issue that will be particularly effective against the front runner with a documented history as a corporate job destroyer for profit, Mitt Romney. I think it glosses over the real issue.
Like most candidate quotes out of context, this one nevertheless does reveal some truth that bears discussion. Mitt’s statement reveals his world economic view. He is selling a top down strategy – help the top of the pyramid, and the benefits will magically trickle down to the benefit of everyone. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this movie, and we should not be interested in a sequel.
Corporations, Mitt, should not be equated with people. They are not interchangeable entities. Corporations are single-minded in their pursuit of profit, without regard to right and wrong. Corporations are rewarded for short term gain and punished for long term thinking by the markets. Is this what motivates people? Corporations profit at the expense of people, and in Wall Street parlance, people (payroll) represent a company’s largest expense. Certainly Romney is aware of that formula, and he has most of his wealth to thank for it. The DNC ads should focus on Romney’s personal wealth strategy of putting people out of jobs. That’s the legitimate story, not one where the Left is trying to defend that people are not part of corporations. That’s a loser position in my book.
Unlike the Gore moment, the Romney “corporations are people” imbroglio does have the benefit of being on video, and it is a direct quote. Like Gore, though, the story is incomplete at best, and deceptive at worst. I can’t get behind such a cheap attack ad. Hold Romney accountable for his real actions in corporate America, and forget the phony controversy about “corporations are people”.
On a side note, I would like to point out to my conservative friends where the Dems are focusing their attention. Romney is the one who scares them. The Perry and Bachmann attacks ads will write themselves, and rapid response is unnecessary. Future “attack” ads on these two will require a mere recitation of their own printed statements in all their ludicrous and radical glory, and the free press will cover most of these. The best thing for Obama’s reelection chances is the nomination of Perry or Bachmann. Radical versus the Rational is a campaign Obama wins.
When the Tea Party pushes a fringe candidate to the top of a ticket, this movie we have seen before. Think about the self-destructive track record of the Tea Party activists lately. Harry Reid was vulnerable, but the Tea Party promoted Sharron Angle in Nevada. Reid won. The Delaware Senate seat was there for the pickings, but the Tea Party promoted Christine O’Donnell. That sure GOP seat dissolved in a witch’s brew, and Chris Coons won. In the NY 26th race, the same story developed. Want a Democratic landslide? Keep nominating candidates who can win the primaries and lose the general.
If the Left can avoid being overanxious and attacking Mitt Romney on a moment’s notice for such a weak and questionable “gaffes” like the one this past week, there will be better and more powerful examples of Mitt Romney defining for America his real self – Tool of the Trickle Downers.
Just wait for it. Things will get hot when the weather gets cold.