The Romney Standard

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Taking a few moments from my edit to grab this note from my fellow Voice, Jim Fallows:


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?

For me this is the real substance of the thing. It certainly is quite possible that Mitt Romney intended to be involved in Bain, got overrun by his job at the Olympics and effectively ceded even his part-time duties with the company. But for most people in this country, if your name is on something, you are responsible for it. I may well consent to let my son open a credit card in my name. But I will be ultimately responsible for what happens to that bill. I may well sublet an apartment I own to someone else who pays the bills, and manages the place. But my name is still on the paper, and I will be responsible if something goes wrong.

This has shades of the Ron Paul newsletter controversy, in that summons up this separate bizarro universe where people are not responsible to the document to which they attach their names. In the world of most people $100,000 a year is a lot of money. If you collect that kind of paycheck and your name is on the company as an executive, by what standard are you then not, in any way, responsible for that company's actions? 

The Romney Standard, holding that you are not responsible for signature, is contrary to the basic standard to which we hold young school children. If you can't adhere to that, how will you adhere to the standard of Leader of The Free World?
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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