Over the weekend, The LA Times published a piece that was intended to showcase the side of Mitt Romney that doesn’t come across in his robotic delivery, his stiff appearance, and his poorly defined stance on issues of political concern. We’re in trouble from the subtitle:
Friends see a warm, charitable man with a sense of duty rooted in his Mormon faith.
So right off the bat, we know this article is going to offer us no information of value. “Mitt Romney’s friends like him.” I don’t think there’s been a lot of debate in the public forum about whether or not Mitt Romney is cool with his pals. I would like to see the presidential candidate whose friends told the press, “That guy’s a total prick.”
The opening story is a doozy.
Edward Albertian had been working for only a few weeks at his new job, managing the first two Boston-area Staples stores, when he got an unnerving call from his wife. As Staples staffed up, Albertian had been poaching talent from his old company, and his former boss was piqued.
That morning, a courier had delivered papers to Albertian’s wife threatening them with eviction unless they immediately repaid the $250,000 loan from Albertian’s former company that they had used to buy their home.
Okay, first of all: what?!? What is happening here? From what I understand, this guy borrowed $250,000 from his company to buy a house. Let’s stop there for a minute. He worked at a company that loaned him $250,000. How many of us could go to our employer and ask for $250,000? He must have been really awesome at selling paper products.
Point 2: we learn a little while later in the article that this is in 1987. Adjusted for inflation (which I did using this cool tool), $250,000 is almost half a million dollars. I live in LA, where $500,000 will get you an Amazon box and a tarp, but in Boston in 1987, this sounds like a pretty fucking nice house.
So THEN, Albertian LEAVES the job to manage a couple of Staples stores(!), and he starts hiring all his old coworkers away to work for him! So his old boss gets pissed and says, “If you’re going to leave me dangling in the wind and then kick me in the balls, I would like you to give me back the money I loaned you. And, by the way, I am going to evict you, because somehow I have the power to do that.” How? Did the boss cosign on the house? Did the old boss loan Albertian $250K, or did he buy him a house? In 2 paragraphs alone, this story has more holes than all of Mitt Romney’s private golf courses combined.
A few days later the couple, with their newborn son and 2-year-old daughter in tow, were invited to Staples’ Watertown headquarters and found themselves sitting across from Mitt Romney, whose company, Bain Capital, had invested money in Staples. He had heard about their predicament from the chain’s co-founder, Tom Stemberg.
Hold hold hold hold. This guy’s pulling all these shenanigans with TWO YOUNG CHILDREN? The only way I’m going to gain any respect for Mitt Romney in this situation is if he shoots Albertian in the head so his wife and children will never have to have their lives ruined by this creep’s ill-planned grifts again.
They talked for less than half an hour about the young store manager’s goals and his role in the company. Then, “Mitt opened his checkbook and wrote a check for $250,000,” Albertian, who is now chief operating officer of the Massachusetts-based Transnational Group, said of the 1987 encounter.
“He said, ‘You’re going to be great. As soon as you sell the house, then you can pay me back, but I want you to focus on Staples and building this into a great company,’” Albertian said. (Stemberg later assumed the loan, and Albertian paid it back over a number of years).
And there you have it. Definitive proof that Mitt Romney is a mensch. Some swindler comes into his office with a sob story and he loans the guy money. A LOT of money. A lot more money than most people see in 5 years of hard, honest work in 2012, let alone 1987. Was this transaction ultimately in Mitt Romney’s self-interest? It sure seems like it! He got his money back (probably with interest), and he kept the guy who’d been single-handedly destroying the competition on the payroll.
Also: “As soon as you sell the house?” So in addition to all his other lapses in judgment, did Albertian intend to flip this house? Most people do not buy houses to sell them, Mitt. They buy them so they will have A PLACE TO LIVE.
While some might see a contradiction between Romney’s private acts of generosity and his plans to shrink government programs that help the poor or college students, those close to him say there is none. It stems from his belief in individual responsibility and self-reliance, and the view that every American has a duty to help others either through their community or through their church.
If Mitt Romney believes in individual responsibility and self-reliance, fine. It’s a belief that can only be held by those born into conditions that allow them to succeed through individual responsibility and self-reliance, but fine. The question is, if this is Mitt Romney’s core belief, then WHY DOES THIS ARTICLE FOCUS ON ALL THE MONEY HE GIVES TO PEOPLE?!? You cannot preach the value of self-reliance while bragging about how much money you’ve given to help people. If you write someone a check, you should do it with a hangdog expression, ashamed at how much you have betrayed your values.
I also really love this principle that if we need financial help, we should turn to our community. I don’t know about your community, but my community doesn’t have any more money than I do. Why didn’t Albertian just ask his church for the $250K? Mitt Romney’s philosophy only makes sense if your community includes Mitt Romney.
One often-cited episode was his decision to shut down Bain Capital and organize a multiday search party to find a partner’s teenage daughter, who had vanished after a party. After he recruited Bain’s lawyers, accountants and other business associates to walk the streets of Manhattan showing her picture, authorities found the girl tied-up in a New Jersey basement.
Now this is somewhat intriguing. An incredibly strange and convoluted example of a man’s character, but intriguing. I looked into this story, and here’s what happened. Romney’s partner, Bob Gay, had a 14-year-old daughter named Melissa. Melissa went to a rave in New York City and disappeared. Bob told Mitt about it, and Mitt did indeed organize a search party and shut down the offices while everyone looked for Melissa. Was that a nice thing for Mitt to do? Absolutely. Is it an effective search technique to send 50 of your employees, who are untrained as private investigators, into the streets of Manhattan to shove a girl’s picture in strangers’ faces? I will let you be the judge of that.
And again: He did all this for one of his pals! No one ever claimed that Mitt Romney didn’t use his enormous wealth to help his buddies out. Under this logic, we should consider the Koch brothers to be altruists for donating $150 million to Mitt’s political career.
Also, there’s this. The day the story ran, the The LA Times ran the following correction:
For the record, 12:08 p.m. Aug. 26: An earlier version of this story included incorrect information about the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the teenage daughter of one of Mitt Romney’s partners at Bain Capital. The article said the girl was tied up when she was found in a New Jersey basement after a search that Romney helped arrange. She was not tied up.
She was not tied up. She was not even there against her will. Here’s what happened: Melissa took some Ecstasy and ended up at some kid’s house in New Jersey, where he hid her from his parents in the basement. After she was found, Gay did not press charges. Clearly, she was not kidnapped if her father did not press charges against the kidnapper. I just discovered that in 2 minutes using this thing called Google. Nice fact-checking department, LA Times!
True, it does not make a difference. No one knew that Melissa was playing hide-and-seek, they just knew she was missing. I just have a really hard time squaring this story, in which Romney helps his wealthy Bain Capital partner find his at-risk daughter, with the thousands of people he laid off during his time at Bain. I’m sure some of those people had children who were in trouble, too.
Now was it Romney’s responsibility to help all of those people? No, of course not. But this story does show a fundamental disconnect between how Romney thinks of masses of people (as numbers on a piece of paper) versus how Romney thinks of individuals (as worthy of compassion). As President of the United States, Romney will be expected to concern himself with the lives of masses of people, not just the members of his cabinet. If Paul Ryan’s daughter disappears (I don’t know if Paul Ryan has a daughter), is he going to shut down the government and let the rest of us suffer while he personally walks around the country showing her picture to people?
I guess when you really think about it, though, maybe it’s this disconnect that makes someone a Republican in the first place. They hate fags, but their gay cousin is okay. They are anti-abortion in cases of rape, but if their daughter is raped, we can make an exception. Drug abusers? Throw ‘em in jail. Rush Limbaugh abuses drugs? He deserves forgiveness. “Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare;” i.e., I do not want the government to provide healthcare but I like the healthcare the government provides me. It is an inherent inability to apply the small and familiar to the large. What’s the word for that? Synecdoche, or something? Moving on.
Cindy Gillespie, who worked closely with Romney when he ran the Salt Lake City Olympics and then moved to Massachusetts to work with him, recalled a less dramatic illustration of Romney’s approach. When movers left her bedroom set stranded in the driveway of her new town house after failing to maneuver it up a narrow staircase, Romney — then the governor — arrived with three of his sons and they worked together late into the evening to hoist the furniture over the second floor balcony.
He helped a friend move! Hahaha. This is without question the best of all reasons why the man should be President.
The Rev. Jeffrey Brown, who heads a faith-based gang intervention group in Roxbury, Mass., and spoke frequently to Romney during his governorship, saw two facets of the man — the executive and the spiritual counselor — come together after Hurricane Katrina when the Massachusetts Legislature provided shelter on Cape Cod for evacuees. Romney wanted members of the black clergy to attend to the arrivals — because he said some would rather talk to pastors than mental health professionals — and asked Brown to lead the effort.
Romney arrived a few days later, telling Brown he wanted to hear the stories directly from the victims, many of whom were from New Orleans’ hard-hit Lower 9th Ward.
“He wanted to make sure that their needs were being met,” Brown said. “He brought 50 state agencies down there, and everybody’s needs were attended to. I’m talking about people who left their houses in such a rush that they forgot their teeth. He had dentists down there to get them their dentures … He was on it.”
But Brown was most surprised watching Romney interact with victims — praying with them, sitting with them on park benches asking about their families, scooping up children and asking for hugs.
I include this just because I want to include the full breadth of the piece. This one is actually a pretty nice story. It sounds like he did the decent thing that one should do when one is the governor of a state that is taking refugees from Hurricane Katrina. He did not ship the refugees to Fenway Park, at least.
One of the stories friends are now telling about Romney — to get across their view of him — details the medical school loan he gave to the daughter of a deceased Bain colleague. Romney met with her every semester, according to his son Tagg, to discuss her grades and expenses. After she graduated, he sent her a Christmas card, forgiving the loan.
Okay. We get it. The guy’s rich. He did rich guy things for his rich guy friends. But dig how even his son can’t really bring himself to fawn over his humanity: Tagg (?) tells the paper that he “met with her every semester to discuss her grades and expenses.” So Romney rode her ass all through medical school, waiting ’til it was all over so he could make this magnanimous gesture? What, did her medical school performance have to meet with his approval before he was willing to forgive the loan? What a power trip! Honestly, dude, just give her the fucking money.
And again, I thought these guys in Bain were masters of the universe! His partner died without any life insurance and left his daughter nothing? It seems like all of these stories have something off about them. It could be the inability of the writer to include relevant details. Or it could be that she’s really grasping at straws to make this guy appear as anything other than a self-obsessed elitist dickbag.
In the end, only one of these stories — the one about Katrina refugees — gives me any pause to reconsider my impressions of who Romney is, and the gist of that story is “Mitt Romney once spent some time talking to poor people.” Which is great! We should all talk to poor people every now and again. it helps us remember how nice it is to be rich.