As America enters the final throes of the 2012 presidential election, rife with it’s own unique set of problems and platitudes, the Obama campaign appears determined to party like it’s 1994 by resurrecting a powerful jobs-based platform that crushed Mitt Romney’s first election bid for national office.
That’s why former AmPad employee Randy Johnson was on the front lines of the Democrats’ rhetorical war on Wednesday night, just as he was in Romney’s 1994 campaign against Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA). “Mitt Romney once said, ‘I like being able to fire people,'” Johnson told convention delegates. “Well, I can tell you from personal experience, he does.”
Johnson was one of about 350 people suddenly fired one morning in 1994, after his company had been purchased by the Bain-run AmPad. “They rushed in the security guards and we weren’t even allowed to take our personal items. They handed us job applications and told us, ‘If we want you, we’ll let you know.’ Now, the truth is, some folks were hired back. Lower wages, fewer benefits, no retirement. But many others weren’t. And seven months later, they closed our plant for good.”
That should sound familiar to astute political junkies who recall the 1994 campaign. Johnson and the closure of AmPad turned out to be terrifically effective public relations, and Sen. Kennedy used it to bludgeon Romney’s aspirations into defeat. And even though Johnson skipped a few important facts, like the labor dispute and strike that occurred while Romney says he wasn’t actively running the company, Bain did ultimately fire everyone once Romney was back the helm in 1995.
Johnson was just one of three former employees of Bain-managed companies to speak at the DNC on Wednesday, in a slate of speeches meant to emphasize what the candidate once sort-of said himself: That he really does like to fire people, especially when there’s a profit motive to do so. Fellow former Bain-managed worker Cindy Hewitt joined him, all chosen by the party to deliver scripted tales of their short tenures at Bain-managed companies.
It’s an unambiguous sign that the Obama campaign is now fully committed to resurrecting the party’s most effective political weapon against Romney. And Republicans, like vaunted conservative columnist George Will, know that all too well.
Even Romney’s former Republican rivals took gut-shots at his business record. The most notable hit this campaign season came from a super PAC supporting former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), which called the former Massachusetts governor a “corporate raider” and blamed Romney’s business ethos for closing down laundry equipment maker UniMac, electronics maker DDI, toy store chain KayBee Toys and office supplier AmPad.
The difference now is that Gingrich didn’t bite down as hard as Obama appears ready to, letting a super PAC do the talking instead. And while team Obama has thrown a few glancing blows at Romney’s business record, but that was then: simply too early in the campaign to really help Obama, as Raw Story editor Megan Carpentier told The Young Turks back in January.
The tide of Bain attacks has been steadily rising since the Republican primaries finally died down, but Wednesday night’s speeches officially placed Bain at the very epicenter of the president’s counter offensive. Even Karl Rove has been complaining about what he called Obama’s “gutter politics” strategy to undermine Romney’s business record, and that was back in July, before the gloves came off.
The DNC also featured a tribute to Sen. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) that showed him debating Romney, who insists in the footage that he thinks abortion should be “safe and legal in this country.” Kennedy ultimately rebuked him for being “multiple choice” on reproductive rights during the rancorous campaign, going on to win the vote 58 percent to 41 percent. Years later, after signing the Massachusetts health care mandate into law in 2006, then-Gov. Romney admitted that Kennedy had become “my collaborator and friend” — a line sure to make Republicans cringe.
“America cannot afford Romney economics,” Johnson concluded. “Barack Obama is standing up for working people. It’s as simple as that. That’s why I’m supporting him for president.”
This video was broadcast by MSNBC on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2012.
Photo: Screenshot via CSPAN.org.
Correction: Dave Foster was originally identified in this piece as a fellow ex-worker at a Bain-managed company, but Foster’s Kansas City-based GST Steel was never actually managed by Bain.