COMMENTARY | Romneyworld. It’s a world of parking garages with elevators, $10,000 bets and Swiss bank accounts. It is a world most of us can barely imagine, let alone reasonably hope to inhabit. But it is not Mitt Romney’s wealth that gets him in trouble with average voters, who generally speaking do not begrudge the affluent their riches. Rather, what worries even his supporters are those moments when the truly alien nature of the world in which Romney resides becomes painfully apparent.
This is why the Boston Globe story reporting that according to SEC documents — and despite his claim to have left Bain Capital in 1999 — Mitt Romney remained the firm’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president” until 2002 (and received $100,000 in compensation as an “executive” during this period) has become and will remain a problem. It reminds everyone how separated the rarefied atmosphere that Romney resides in is from the lives most of us live.
To begin, most of us don’t get paid $100,000 in compensation for jobs we are actually employed in much less for jobs we have left, any more than most of us think of corporations as people. Moreover, it quite simply defies our common understanding of words to say that you have left a business of which you are still, according to legal documents “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president.” And the proof of this is that if I tell the guy sitting next to me at my local bar that I am “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and president” of a company that I have nothing to do with, he will either walk away because he believes I am crazy or hit me because he thinks I am messing with him.
In neither case is he going to want to have a drink with me. This is a problem because the question “which candidate would you rather have a beer with” is not without some relevance to the presidential campaign. Given Mitt’s tee-totaling ways, he doesn’t need to alienate the average voter any more in this regard.
The situation is made worse because, as evidenced by his response to the Boston Globe story, where his defense is essentially to repeat the charge against him, Mitt seems to be in denial about how bizarre this all seems. As an expert quoted in a recent Vanity Fair piece on Romney’s finances concluded, “What Romney does not get is that this stuff is weird.”
The danger for Republicans is if the same charge starts to be leveled not only against Romney world, but the man himself.