Never Let the Facts Stand in the Way of a Meme

ABC News has been doing some research, and they seem to think they are on to a scoop: “Romney in Stem Cell Biz, Despite Political Opposition.” Mitt is in the “stem cell biz”? Sounds like he’s carrying out experiments in his garage. Well, not exactly. It turns out that something less than one one-thousandth of Romney’s fortune is invested in a company called Novo Nordisk, which carries out some kind of stem cell research. ABC portrays this as a “gotcha” moment, in which they have caught Governor Romney in a contradiction.
The article’s subtitle, of course, tells the story: “Campaign Insists Investments Are in Blind Trust Only.” The word “insists” is a kind of code: journalists use it to suggest that the victim’s “insistence” must be untrue. Here, though, there is no question about the fact that Romney’s fortune–legitimately earned, as opposed to, say, John (“Fortunate Husband”) Kerry’s–is invested in a blind trust. This means not only that Mitt Romney doesn’t control where his money is invested, he doesn’t even know where it is invested. That is the whole idea: when a politician doesn’t know where his money is invested, he can’t be accused of taking one action or another to further his own economic interests. Which is, in any event, a silly idea when speaking of someone like Romney, one of the ten or twenty most successful businessmen in the United States.
Which leaves the question, how does ABC know how Romney’s blind trust is invested? I don’t know the answer; maybe when you run for President this information somehow comes out. The real point, though, is that Romney has earned his fortune, and has turned it over to others to invest while he pursues a political career. The fact that an infinitesimal portion of that wealth has been invested in a company that carries out research which–if he knew about it–Romney might disapprove of, is of zero political significance.
There is a real hypocrisy, too, in ABC’s attitude toward this story. Their reporter writes: “Still, Romney’s holdings could present a problem for him with some conservatives who oppose all human embryonic stem cell research.” Needless to say, the reporter isn’t one of those conservaties who “oppose all human embryonic stem cell research.” The whole point of the story is to stir up discord on the “other” side: let’s get those conservatives fighting among themselves! It is not an edifying spectacle.
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