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Posted by on Jul 15, 2012 in Politics | 64 comments

A NEW Romney Camp Explanation on Bain Capital: Romney’s “Retroactive Retirement” (UPDATED)

File this one in your Verbal Gymnastics or Stunning Spin files. Senior Mitt Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie has now issued an explanation for the timeline of Romney’s heading Bain Capital — one that was not offered in this way days ago when the story broke. It seems that this explanation was overlooked until today.

Let’s cut away the talking points in the quote and get down to the explanation as carried in The Hill:

Democrats have raised questions about when exactly Romney left Bain. Romney has said he left in 1999 to oversee preparations for the Salt Lake City Olympics, but SEC documents show him listed as Bain’s CEO beyond that time.

Gillespie on Sunday sought to clarify the matter, saying that Romney initially thought he would be leaving Bain on a temporary basis, but the challenges of the Olympics led him to “retire retroactively.”

“There may have been a thought at the time that it could be part time, but it was not part time,” Gillespie said.

“He took a leave of absence and in fact he ended up not going back at all, and retired retroactively to 1999 as a result,” he added. “He left a life he loved to go to Salt Lake City and help a country he loves more, and somehow Chicago… is trying to make it something sinister.”

QUESTION: If this was the case why wasn’t this offered days ago by the Romney camp? Why didn’t Romney hammer this home when a slew of network interviews on Friday?

The fact it’s being offered now suggests two things:
a)Political malpracticee on the part of team Romney.
b)It’s spin — the kind of explanation a defense attorney comes up with to defend a client.

Republican partisans will accept this and say the matter is settled. Democratic partisans will say its a lie.

But the question truly is: if this is the case, why wasn’t this hammered home days ago? I hate to use the trite awful phrase, but I will:

The timing of this explanation and the fact it was not put in this manner days ago doesn’t pass the smell test.

Rush and Sean will now say it’s all settled. But I don’t think it’ll stop media curiosity on Romney and the Bain issue and it’s enough of a loose end that it will not halt any planned Obama ads on the issue.

UPDATE: You can see how this issue will be used in the context of the campaign by this just released transcript of Obama’s chief campaign advisor David Axelrod with CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union” on CNN:

CROWLEY: Let me read for you a couple of things. Our John King wrote an article Friday quoting two Democratic members of Bain Capital who said the following, “Mitt Romney left Bain Capital in February 1999 to run the Olympics and has had absolutely no involvement with the management or investment activities of the firm or with any of its portfolio companies since the day of his departure.” That’s from the Bain managing director, and another employee said, “he was just gone,” meaning Romney, “and it happened very suddenly. After that, he was not on calls or writing memos. He was gone.”

At what point will you be ready to accept, if ever, that Mitt Romney, you know, may have been on a lot of filings, listed as the owner, but he had no day-to-day management, and, therefore, when you talk about outsourcing, he was not there when those decisions were made.

AXELROD: Well, it’s interesting, Candy, because he’s very willing to take credit for everything good that he thinks happened after that point that Bain Capital was involved in, but he’s not willing to take responsibility for this. If their story is that he was the chairman, president, chief executive and sole shareholder of the company, and took no interest in any of the decisions they made, then they can make that case.

AXELROD: We know that “The Boston Globe,” the AP, Bloomberg News have done reporting that calls these assertions into question. There, too, I mean, they could release their board minutes from that time and other records that would show exactly what his involvement was.

We do know that he said he had no involvement with any of the entities that Bain was involved in and yet he came back for board meetings for meetings of a couple of those entities.

But the larger point, Candy, is he was in charge when they bought these firms whose principal mission was to facilitate outsourcing and offshoring. What he’s saying is, well, I left before they actually moved these jobs to China and to Mexico, and I’m not going to be held responsible for it. You know, Harry Truman had a plaque on his desk saying the buck stops here. If Mitt Romney became president he would have a placard on his desk saying the buck stops there.

If you’re the head man, you have to take responsibility. And, you know, he’s going to have to explain that to the American people.

UPDATE 2: The Boston Globe reports that Romney’s account of his departure from Bain Capital has…”evolved.”

UPDATE 3: Be sure to read Doug Mataconis.

UPDATE 4:
Twitter is having fun with this phrase.

UPDATE 5: John Cole nails the impact of this (if it does become widely publicized) on people who are not members of the Fox News, talk radio political culture, or GOP activist choir. And I am specifically talking about a good chunk of independent voters or Republicans who are unhappy about the sharp right shift their party has taken:

[T]ry that nonsense out on someone in your neighborhood- “Sure, he was listed on the SEC documents from 1999-2001 as CEO, and sure, he was paid six figure salaries, and yeah, he signed a bunch of filings, and sure, he’s admitted to flying back and forth to attend board meetings and sat in on a bunch of them by phone, but he wasn’t really involved because in 2002 he retroactively retired in 1999.” I’m betting that 99 times out of 100, the reaction you get will be “Who are you trying to fool with that garbage?”

In other news, immediately after hearing the phrase “retroactive retirement,” Penn State University officials began drafting paperwork to retroactively retire Paterno and Sandusky in 1997 so as to avoid any civil litigation related to the Nittany Lion child rape regime.

I wonder if I can go on a retroactive diet?