Populist Fizzle


The Obama campaign and the DNC appear increasingly desperate in their attempts to find some attack on Romney that resonates with the American people. They’re desperate, of course, because the economy continues to drift in the doldrums, and the election looms.

The latest is a populist ploy. Key Democratic politicians started attacking Romney for having invested in foreign companies and having assets in Swiss and other offshore accounts. This was immediately trumpeted by the mainstream media. How dare Romney invest abroad! He’s the pioneer of offshoring!

Now, it is by no means illegal — yet — to put some of your portfolio into foreign assets, and it is in all the “Investing 101” books that you ought to do so. You need to diversify your assets to minimize risks, and this may include diversifying outside your home country. Putting money in a Swiss account, for example, is a good hedge against inflation, given the historic stability of the Swiss monetary system. But the Dems are banking on the fact that the average person doesn’t understand all this — and that is a very good bet.

Alas, however, the attack fizzled when it was discovered that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), chair of the DNC, had herself invested abroad, repeatedly. She invested in the Davis Financial Fund, with holdings on the State Bank of India, as well as a Swiss private banking group. She also invested in the Fidelity Advisor Overseas Fund, which has holdings in HSBC (a British bank), Novo Nordisk (a Danish drug company),VW, Rakuten (a Japanese shipping firm) and so on.

It also turns out that another person who has invested abroad is the ever-offensive Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Venus), “head” (though not the brains) of the House Democrats. She earned millions from her investment in Matthews International Capital Management, which focuses primarily on Asian equities.

Obama, like his spiritual mentor Nixon, is much given to what psychologists call “projection” — calling others what you yourself are. Obama once accused McCain’s campaign of “throwing stuff up against the refrigerator to see what sticks.” Yes, President Obama, and you don't have an infamous "enemies list."

But it looks like this little piece of magnetized crap isn’t sticking. Try again, guys.

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Every study has shown voters in presidential elections have all made up their minds who they will vote for by June of that year.

Any attempt to sway them only makes them more entrenched for their candidate.

It's a foregone conclusion Obama will win, quite easily. It's a waste of time and money trying to convince people Romney really is not that bad a guy, and they should switch their loyality.

Jon Harrison

Whether the psychobabble about projection is correct or not I don't claim to know. But Romney is very vulnerable to attacks for being both utterly out of touch with ordinary Americans and an extreme flip-flopper.

This election is primed to be a rerun of 1980, yet Romney can't seem to get any traction. He just doesn't fit the Reagan mold. Add to this the fact that Obama is generally more popular as a person than Carter was, and it looks like we're going to have a replay of 2004, with the incumbent squeaking by an out of touch challenger.

Romney, unlike Reagan, fails to convey any compelling reason why he wants to be president, beyond the fact that he's a rich guy who has nothing better to do. Getting his name on the presidential roll is just another merit badge for lifelong Eagle Scout Mitt.

I worked at Bain (on the consulting side) and I lived in Massachusetts when Romney was governor. He's not a bad guy, but outside the boardroom he lives a world of his own making. Reagan appeared to be living in fantasy land but wasn't; Mitt, on the other hand, has built a home there.

He can beat Obama if the world economy collapses before November. He can also win if he does well in the debates. But I think he will perform poorly on stage with Obama.

We're barreling down the road to perdition in any case. But a Romney victory will return us to the foreign policy of George W. Bush, with a harder line toward Russia to boot. That could spell finis des Etats Unis, in the sense that the country could fall apart under the pressure of another foreign war (Iran) combined with another 2008-like financial and economic crisis.

The author of this piece predicted some months ago that Romney's Mormonism would be attacked by his opponents. This will never happen because of the politically correct environment we live in today. Any attempt to attack Romney's beliefs would provoke obligatory outrage from even MSNBC-types. Personally, I think such outlandish beliefs deserve examination. But then mainline Christianity is a rag bag of astonishing assertions, and 80 per cent or more of Americans claim to believe in it. There's just no political capital to be made attacking Mormonism, except among extreme Evangelicals. And they already have set ideas about Mormonism -- no Democratic or media attention to the issue required.

Gary Jason

Mr. Harrison, I am puzzled at your shot at my prediction a few months back that Romney's religion would be under critical scrutiny (along with his wealth) during this campaign. You suggest that my prediction has proven false.

Are you joking?

Since my piece, there have been major smear-jobs from Lawrence O'Donnell (on MSNBC), William Schnoebelen, Richard Packham (on an ezine called "Recovery from Mormonism"), and Andrew Sullivan.

Another ezine has been set up called "Mitt Romney and Mormonism," which publishes a weekly hit-piece. It offers a free ecopy of the book, "The Mormon Faith of Mitt Romney."

Again, over the last few months, major newspapers have regularly run pieces critically examining Mormonism and Romney endlessly, including major articles by: Douglas Pizac; Edwar Issac Dovere; Noah Feldman; Jason Horowitz; Rachel Streitfeld; Sarah Posner; Jonathan Merritt; McKay Coppina; Lois Romano; Josh Poltilove; Felicia Sonmey; Paul Stanley; Matt Viser; David Frum; Noam Scheiber; and numerous others.

No doubt you welcome them, that's fine, I personally couldn't care less, but don't tell me the articles aren't being written. They are, and in droves.

Jon Harrison

I don't welcome them or care about them one way or another. What I meant, and what I thought you meant, was that the Obama campaign would make Mormonism an issue. I guess you'd say that the people you mention are stalking horses for Obama, and receive the silent blessing of the campaign. I find that hard to believe -- not because the Obama forces are above such tactics, but because there's no gain to be made in making Mormonism an issue. There are left-wingers who find Romney's Mormonism off-putting, but they aren't going to vote for Romney anyway. There are evangelicals who think Mormons are not Christians, but they won't decide to stay home based on the arguments of Lawrence O'Donnell or Andrew Sullivan. They don't even read the people you mention.

Members of the commentariat, depending on their personal views, will discuss Romney's Mormonism in a positive or negative light. I never thought that Mormonism would go unmentioned in our hyper-media environment. But the notion that it's a "campaign issue" -- that Democrats will be out talking up Romney's religious views as a means of garnering votes, is silly. That's the point I was trying to make. No doubt I was over-subtle or not specific enough in what I said, which confused you. My apologies for creating that confusion.

My own view is that Romney's Mormon beliefs should be an issue. Indeed, I quail at the notion of a president who truly believes in the doctrines of any of the Abrahamic religions. Whether Mormons are Christians is an interesting issue intellectually, but far less important than the astonishing fact that bizarre, cultish beliefs can find a place in the highest office in the land.

Gary Jason

Of course people like O'Donnell et.al. are Obama flacks, and I made that point in my original piece: the obama camapign will rely on the MSM and superpacs for its attacks on Romney's religion.

Given Obama's own peculiar religious beliefs, it is amusing that religion is only NOW of interest to the MSM. But then, biased people are often blind to their bias.

Jon Harrison

"Biased people are often blind to their bias." No doubt about that. But I say again, there's no political capital to be made attacking Romney's religion. Leftists and secularists won't vote for Romney anyway, and evangelicals will not stay at home because "Obama flacks" talk or write about Mormonism. It's a non-issue, except for some right-wing evangelicals who might not vote. And if they stay home it won't be because Lawrence O'Donnell told them to.

Fred Mora


I find it hard to picture Romney taking a hard-line position about anything. But even so, why would another war spell the doom of the US? The expenses of the current wars are dwarfed by entitlement spendings. Defence represents 14% of the 2012 expenses (not budget, since there isn't any) while healthcare is 22% and pensions is 26%. But maybe you are referring to other crisis factors?

Anyway, it's all academic. The Dems had four year to "prepare" this election, Chicago-style. I predict that in November, we'll see a 150% voter turnout in several swing states.

Jon Harrison

Well Fred, I'm probably just tired and a little depressed, and so I'm thinking of worst case scenarios. But if by chance we were drawn into a major war in the Middle East, and at the same time another financial crisis like 2008 came winging our way (courtesy of Europe, perhaps?) then maybe the discontent evident in the Tea Party and Occupy movements might mutate into violence on a large scale -- groups against groups, citizenry against the organs of the state -- ending with a breakup of the US into regions that no longer respond to Washington's dictates. I admit it's unlikely, maybe a 10% chance. On the other hand, a less dramatic buildup of financial and economic pressures, with increasing tension between classes and perhaps ethnicities, may lead eventually to the balkanization of the US. We are stuck with globalization, but at the same time globalization is failing to answer the needs of millions of people. See for example "Superclass" by David Rothkopf. Also of interest (altho' it contains some errors) is "The Collapse of Complex Societies" by Tainter. For a shorter look see my own "Terra Instabilis" in the Nov.-Dec. 2011 issue of The Humanist. It contains a minor factual error concerning Chinese inflation, which is corrected in the version to be published in McGraw-Hill's 2012 International Business Textbook.

I agree with what you say about Romney -- except if elected he will be putty in the hands of the neocons, as was George W. Bush. I disagree with your take on Democratic voter fraud this fall. That sort of thing peaked on the Democratic side with JFK, LBJ, and the first Mayor Daley. Today we have Republican legislatures crafting bogus voter ID laws to keep Democratic constituencies from exercising their right to vote. This is the major fraud going on now.

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