Matt Taibbi is hardly the first to compare Mitt Romney to Gordon Gekko, and he's not the first to argue that Bain Capital's corporate takeovers were insidious, but he goes further in his latest long-form Rolling Stone takedown by connecting Romney's uncompromising pursuit of profit at Bain with his changing political stances. Taibbi argues that Romney was among the true believers in Wall Street's "church of making money," with a "revolutionary's zeal" for getting government out of the way of profit. What's new here is Taibbi's connecting that particular hardliner sensibility with Romney's flip-flopping record, which Taibbi argues comes from the same mindset.
That cultlike zeal helps explains why Romney takes such a curiously unapologetic approach to his own flip-flopping. His infamous changes of stance are not little wispy ideological alterations of a few degrees here or there – they are perfect and absolute mathematical reversals, as in "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country" and "I am firmly pro-life." Yet unlike other politicians, who at least recognize that saying completely contradictory things presents a political problem, Romney seems genuinely puzzled by the public's insistence that he be consistent. "I'm not going to apologize for having changed my mind," he likes to say. It's an attitude that recalls the standard defense offered by Wall Street in the wake of some of its most recent and notorious crimes: Goldman Sachs excused its lying to clients, for example, by insisting that its customers are "sophisticated investors" who should expect to be lied to. "Last time I checked," former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack sneered after the same scandal, "we were in business to be profitable."
The whole thing is worth a read, to absorb Taibbi's explanation of what he sees as a great American scam. But you might want to save this one for when you have time, as it's something like 6,000 words long. It'll be waiting, over at Rolling Stone.
[Rolling Stone cover art by Robert Grossman]