During an interview yesterday, President Obama defended his attacks on Mitt Romney over decisions Bain Capital made while Romney was on a leave of absence from that entity:
SCOTT THUMAN: What about Bain Capital? It’s a big issue for the past 24 hours right now. Mitt Romney’s campaign says he left in ’99, yours says it’s 2000, there’s a significant difference, is he being dishonest with the American public?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, here’s what I know, we were just talking about responsibility and as president of the United States, it’s pretty clear to me that I’m responsible for folks who are working in the federal government and you know, Harry Truman said the buck stops with you.
Now, my understanding is that Mr. Romney attested to the SEC, multiple times, that he was the chairman, CEO and president of Bain Capital and I think most Americans figure if you are the chairman, CEO and president of a company that you are responsible for what that company does.
Ultimately Mr. Romney, I think, is going to have to answer those questions, because if he aspires to being president one of the things you learn is, you are ultimately responsible for the conduct of your operations, but again that’s probably a question that he’s going to have to answer and I think that’s a legitimate part of the campaign.
Permit me four observations about this latest bit of cynicism from the President of the United States.
First, notice how Obama ducked the question. He was asked whether Romney is being dishonest with the American public. Obama knows that Romney is not being dishonest and, more importantly for Obama, knows that he can’t get away with alleging dishonesty on Romney’s part. So he answers a question other than the one he was asked.
Second, Obama’s answer to the question he wasn’t asked is ridiculous. Our president knows next to nothing about the world of business. But even he understands the distinction between having the power to control the operations of an organization and not having that power.
For the past three and a half years, Obama has had the power to control the operations of the U.S. government and to make final decisions about what the U.S. government will do. Unfortunately, he has not taken a leave of absence from office. Nor has he devoted 100 hours per week or more to another job.
After early 1999, Romney lacked the power to control the operations and decisions of Bain. He was on a leave of absence. By all credible accounts, he often devoted 100 hours a week or more to the task of salvaging the Olympics.
Thus, Obama’s analogy falls of its own weight, or lack thereof.
Third, consider the logical consequence of Obama’s acknowledgement that “as president of the United States, it’s pretty clear to me that I’m responsible for folks who are working in the federal government.” As Jonah Goldberg observes, this mean that Obama “is responsible for: Solyndra, Fast and Furious, the GSA scandal. . .oh you fill in the rest.”
It also means that the president should finally stop blaming George Bush for his failings. After all, Harry Truman didn’t say, “the buck stops with FDR.”
Fourth, this train may already have left the station, but it’s still worthwhile to remember what we’re really arguing about here. Obama isn’t saying that Romney lied about his status at Bain — that’s the question he was asked but did not answer. The supposed relevance of the period in which Romney was absent from Bain is that during this time, Bain was involved in the offshoring of jobs.
But in a rational world, the decisions of private companies, even if they had been made by Romney, to have work certain work performed overseas for reasons of cost and efficiency would be a non-issue. The benefits of offshoring to the average U.S. citizen typically equal or exceed its costs.
And even in the world in the Democrats believe (probably correctly) we live in, the offshoring by the U.S. government of jobs created through taxpayer money is a worse offense than any Bain-related offshoring.
And, as Obama has finally admitted, when it comes to such matters, the buck stops with him.