“So shame on you, Barack Obama!” cries out the voice in the latest TV ad from the Romney campaign, airing only in Ohio. Yet the voice belongs not to presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, but to an unlikely figure to appear in any Romney commercial: Hillary Clinton.
The footage comes from the bitterly contested Democratic primary campaign of 2008, when then-Sen. Clinton – now President Obama’s loyal and steadfast secretary of state – complained about the Illinois insurgent spending “millions of dollars perpetuating falsehoods.”
“But that’s Barack Obama,” the ad’s narrator intones, before adding that the man who went on to win the presidency first attacked Clinton with “vicious lies.”
The ad also cites a Washington Post column from last month that denounced a particular Obama attack ad against Romney as “misleading, unfair, and untrue.”
Tough stuff – and the latest attempt by the Romney campaign to demonstrate that it intends to meet head-on the barrage of attacks it has faced on the candidate’s private-equity career at Bain Capital. The Obama ad denounced in the Post column was one that had suggested Romney outsourced American jobs overseas during his 15-year career at the Boston-based financial firm.
Those Obama ads in turn relied on a Washington Post news article, published June 21, that reported that six companies that Bain invested in during Romney’s tenure at the firm were “pioneers” in the emerging trend of outsourcing U.S. jobs to foreign countries like India and China.
The Romney campaign collected statements from the six companies’ current and former CEOs, all of whom maintained that they had in fact added U.S. jobs during their respective periods of affiliation with Romney and Bain. They also said their reliance of foreign call centers and packaging plants was solely to support existing foreign sales of U.S. exports. After a meeting with the Post’s editorial board, in which the campaign demanded a retraction of the June 21 article, the paper announced it was standing by its reporting.
Then the independent group FactCheck.org weighed in on the Obama ads, declaring “we found no evidence to support the claim that Romney -- while he was still running Bain Capital -- shipped American jobs overseas."
An Obama-Biden campaign spokesman told Fox News that FactCheck.org “did get this one wrong.” Interviewed at the campaign’s headquarters in Chicago, campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt discounted the testimony from the current and former CEOs, and instead urged a reporter inquiring about them to talk to the workers who lost their jobs when these businesses shut down U.S.-based plants.
LaBolt also sought to cast doubt on Romney’s longstanding career narrative, which holds that he left Bain Capital in February 1999 to run the Salt Lake City Olympics.
“What the Romney campaign and others have tried to do is to extract Mitt Romney from his tenure at Bain,” LaBolt said. “Some of these jobs were shipped overseas after 1999, but the fact is that Romney remained CEO and sole owner of Bain Capital through 2001.”
In support of that claim, Obama-Biden campaign aides uploaded state and federal disclosure forms that they said are “unambiguous” in showing that Romney continued to list Bain as his employer in 2001. A lengthy rebuttal sent to FactCheck.org by Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, cited dozens of forms from 2001 and 2002 that listed Romney as the sole owner of Bain or its various subsidiaries and funds.
Contacted by Fox News and asked about the documents, a source at Bain Capital insisted that Romney never returned to the firm or did any substantive work for it, or for its “portfolio companies,” after February 1999. Some of the 2001 documents cited in Cutter’s letter clearly showed Romney listing his occupation with Bain as “former executive” and explaining his role in the firm and its offshoots as “passive…with no management capacity.”
Bill Burton, the former Obama White House aide who now runs Priorities USA, a liberal super PAC that is spending $10 million on ads attacking Romney for his tenure at Bain, claimed the effort is materially benefiting the president’s re-election prospects.
“They're clearly starting to work,” Burton told MSNBC on Monday. “If you look at any of the numbers out there, any public polling or focus groups, they're clearly working. Our fundraising has picked up considerably, and the spending we are doing is having an impact.”
But a veteran Republican campaign strategist disputed that.
“Any time you spend tens of millions of dollars on an ad and it is not responded to, it will have an impact and reinforce your own base, and the Democratic base is obviously solid behind the president,” said Ed Rollins, the Fox News contributor, on Sunday. “I don't think it has moved as much of the independent vote, and that is really what it will come down to.”
James Rosen joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999. He currently serves as the chief Washington correspondent and hosts the online show "The Foxhole." His latest book is "A Torch Kept Lit: Great Lives of the Twentieth Century" (Crown Forum, October 4, 2016).