A Corporate Veteran Writes ...

... with a suggested question for Mitt Romney, bearing on when he was and was not responsible for the plans and decisions of Bain Capital:

If you weren't in charge at Bain in 1999-2001, who was?  If Mitt Romney had 'retroactively' retired -- who was 'proactively' managing Bain Capital? Just a simple name -- or a committee would do. (Next question, why wasn't this person listed on the SEC forms?)

I've worked in corporate life for >35 years and always knew who was "in charge". I'm sure Romney knows who was in charge at Bain during the time in question. After all this is the company that he founded. 

Answering this simple question would clarify matters greatly. (BTW - "the person in charge" of a company is not supposed to be a secret.  This isn't the Sopranos you know.)

The reader adds:

I think this is becoming the opening of Obama's end game.  In chess -- I think it's called a fork. Can't move here because I get taken -- can't move there because something else gets taken.

A lot can still happen between now and Election Day. The economy and its massive joblessness are still grievous weaknesses for Obama, and Mitt Romney's money-raising success gives him advantages. The press narrative needs variety, so someone will have to start arguing soon that Romney team is actually handling Bain questions well, and following a shrewd long-term plan. But as of mid-July, the Bain matter, especially when combined with Romney's reluctance to release past tax returns, is turning into an amazing "own goal"/"self-Swiftboating" for his campaign.

A long-time lawyer writes:

I haven't heard anyone in the media make the point why Romney's poor response to the Bain capital issue is so damning:  In effect, Romney is saying that he should get a pass for what Bain did in his "absence" because he wasn't running the company at the time (even though he was technically still its CEO), and/or that he should get a pass for telling the SEC that he was CEO of the company for three years while he had passed off those duties to others because he didn't actually exercise control.
 
The Obama campaign mistakenly focused on whether that makes him a liar or a criminal.  In my opinion, the more damning conclusion comes from accepting Romney's story at face value. If he can't deal with two big issues at the same time, and [won't] take responsibility for what is done on his behalf (by those he chose to act on his behalf--because he was the sole owner of the company), how can he possibly be competent to be President of the United States?

The Romney team has to have a better set of answers than the ones it has offered so far. I use "has to" in both senses: (a) it seems logical that they must have something better to say, and (b) operationally they will be required to handle this issue better to keep their chances alive.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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