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Rotting from the Top

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A question: why exactly did Romney do his full media blitz Friday afternoon? I strongly suspect it was driven in large measure by Romney's personal umbrage at being called a liar or having the word 'felony' spoken even in proximity to his name. The only logic of doing that kind of full court press is to bring forth something new to the table that can change the direction of the debate. But the only thing that counted as somewhat new was Romney's emphatic restatement that he'd release only this and last year's tax returns.

When pressed on how it is that a CEO isn't responsible for what a company does, Romney reacted much more out of frustration and emotion than political logic ...

CBS News's Jan Crawford asked Romney that even if he wasn't involved in day-to-day operations at Bain, as the listed owner of the company, "Doesn't the buck stop with you?" Romney insisted he should not be politically liable for anything that happened after 1999.

"Actually, when you leave an enterprise and you have other people who are managing the enterprise, who take responsibility for the investment decisions, who decide who's going to get hired and fired, who decide compensation decisions, they're the managers, they're the people running the business," Romney said.

I think the best angle on what's happening here comes from TPM Reader WM ...

I'm not a GOP operative (thank God), but I do work on Wall Street (the industry, not the geographic location) and I think it's worth noting that Romney's reaction to the Bain Storm is very much of a piece with the way assorted hedge fund managers, bankers and other Masters of the Universe have responded to even the slightest criticism from Obama -- with as much shock as outrage.

Over the past 20-25 years these guys have gotten used to extreme deference from BOTH parties (think Cory Booker and Ed Rendell) and like to think of themselves as rational beings who are far, far above the partisan sandbox in Washington, up there in the financial heavens, doing the Lord's Work -- to quote Lloyd Blankfein.

I've had enough contact with the PE guys to know they particularly see themselves in a heroic light -- as the saviors of capitalism from the quasi-socialist clutches of entrenched management, the unions, outside pressure groups, and the other "stakeholders" of the big public corporations (the PE guys really detest that concept).

What's more, they're usually insulated enough from normal human reality that they can assume all "reasonable" people see things the same way. And when you've got as much money to spend on campaign contributions, endowed chairs, wingnut welfare, etc. as they do, an awful lot of people are going to see things your way, or at least tell you that they do.

Point is, Mitt is not only congenitally blind to the optics of all this, he also appears -- to quote Sonny from the Godfather -- to be taking it very, very personally. That's the only way I can explain his incredibly bizarre decision to spend the entire afternoon on TV talking about it, which is about the best way imaginable to keep the feeding frenzy going.

You'd think after a gubernatorial race and two runs for president, Romney would have adjusted his attitude, or at least figured out a strategy for dealing with it. But he apparently can't -- the sense of his own rectitude (upon which his sense of entitlement rests) just won't allow it.

What's odder is that the entire Romney campaign seems to have the same inability to engage on Bain on any other level than personal indignation. And indignation, as you correctly note, is for whimps.

My guess is that this reflects the same rigid, top-down, sycophantic management structure that Wall Street loves -- which if it didn't cause the 2008 financial crisis, a least contributed to it. The campaign can't really be any cooler or capable than Mitt is himself -- which, when it comes to dealing with criticism, clearly ain't much.

I shudder to think what that would mean if Mitt ends up in charge of the U.S. government.