msnbc | August 30, 2012
>>> three days before the scheduled start of this republican convention , this op-ped ran in the " wall street journal ." title "what i learned at bain capital by mitt romney ." that's how mitt romney attempted to set the stage and the media before the biggest political event of his life. although mr. romney at various times has tried to run for office on the basis of his business career, its use as a political asset for him is at least balanced out by the time it has been used against him. in mr. romney 's first run for elected office, his senate run against ted kennedy in 1994 , bain was a large part of why mr. romney lost that race. ted kennedy 's ads showed middle class workers who lost their jobs, lost their health insurance , lost their pensions because bain capital took over their company and because of the way bain behaves thereafter. bain capital is how ted kennedy beat mitt romney in 1994 . bain capital is also how most of mr. romney 's republican opponents ran against him. the last time he ran for president in 2008 .
>> we're looking for a presidential candidate who reminds them more of the guy they work with rather than guy that laid them off.
>> right. and i think the --
>> mike huckabee gave mitt romney his full throated endorsement last night, but as you saw there from 2008 , mike huckabee and other republicans who have run against mitt romney have just spent years attacking him on the basis of his work at bain .
>> i will suggest they're just vultures. they're vultures that are sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick. and then they swoop in. they eat the carcass. they leave with that. and they leave the skeleton.
>> look, i'm for capitalism. i'm for people who go in to save a company. i'm for people who take real risks. if somebody comes in, takes all the money out of your company and leaves you bankrupt while they go off with millions, that's not traditional capitalism.
>> bain capital was how newt gingrich beat mitt romney in south carolina this year. the superpac that was supporting mr. gingrich at the time bought and released this long anti- bain documentary called "when mitt romney came to town." mr. romney and the republicans are using tonight to tell bain capital 's success stories. bain failures in the cases where bain and romney themselves got rich because they brought ruin on lots of regular working people , those stories have been a powerful political tool that has been used against mr. romney for the better part of two decades now in races at all levels of public service . it's been used against him even by fellow republicans to pretty strong effect. the letter to turn bain from a four letter word back into an asset tonight is somewhat amazing to watch. chris, they went deliberately after the issue of mr. romney 's faith in the last hour. in the next hour they are going deliberately at the issue of mr. romney 's business career in a way that's mostly been defined by his opponents, most recently by the obama campaign . what do you think he needs to do on the issue of bain ?
>> this is a tough one. here ed and i are going to agree completely i think. i think the american people , rightly or wrongly, love people that create jobs. really create jobs. not just get tax breaks but go out there and create and build up american motors and create jobs with compact cars that people didn't have a chance to buy until they came along. he put at compact cars at the time everybody's buying chryslers with big fins and that stupid stuff. he said, no, here's a practical car. put people to work. created a whole company. american motors . people like steve spielberg, they like movies. they like steve jobs , henry ford , thomas edison . guys who make money off money have always had a hard time in american life , whether they're bankers back east, or whatever. they think of them as gordon gecko . of course, michael douglas ' character in the movie " wall street ." they think of guys who come in in the republican ads or just come in and make money off people. chop shop a place where some guy built it up, take over, leave the guy with a minimal payment and chop shop the place and leave it with nothing and fire a bunch of people or go into a company and streamline it. that's their word for it. cut out middle management , streamline it, sell it, flip it, make money and the company dies two years later. that's the image, fair or not, that mitt romney 's overcome. his dad never had to explain why he built cars. people loved guys who biuilt cars, men that built cars. he has to explain why he made so much money and can't point to anything he's ever built. that's his challenge.
>> they're going to try --
>> people have a reasonable view of this. you can be rich if you've done something.
>> they're going to try it tonight, try to make it, sort of brick and mortar him up tonight in matter of speaking by bringing on the guy from staples to talk about staples as one of few companies that sort of came into existence mostly because of bain 's playing essential ly a venture capital role with them which isn't most of what they did. they're really going to play that up to make it more relatable.
>> i think this story has got some very toxic tentacles to it because what has mitt romney done with that wealth? he's put it overseas. and he's massaged the tax system as best to his advantage. you know, this is also an issue about personal philosophy. those of us in this country who have been fortunate enough to have a good job and to have a good life and to enjoy some success, what's the philosophy of that? is it to just take it and put it overseas? or is it to take it and move forward and try to create opportunities for other people in our economy? and i think that part of what mitt romney has to do tonight is talk about his personal philosophy of finance. give us an idea of what you believe you should be doing with this wealth to help create jobs. just to go in and say, hey, i was with some businesses and some of them failed and some of them were successful and some of them weren't, wait a minute. bain capital had a reputation of going in to healthy businesses, loading them up with debt, taking people 's retirement, and hitting the trail and only a few people at the top come away looking really, really good financially. and, oh by the way, a lot of that money ended up overseas. i don't think a average americans buy that. that this is going to be a hard sell for mitt romney tonight. but beyond that, i'd like to know what his real philosophy is about rising everybody in the harbor when it comes to business. what opportunities is he going to put on the table for the little guy? talk to the small business guy who's got 10 or 11 employees that has to deal with wsi, you know, workforce safety, that has to deal with state taxes and federal taxes and regulations. and i do agree with the republicans on some things about regulations. i think the democrats need to look forward a little bit on how to help small business and regulations. but these are things, what i'm pointing out is, who's mitt romney ? where is he on this stuff? this is the perfect opportunity to do it because president obama is not going to give him an opportunity to it in a debate.
>> he will try to say his career in finance taught him everything he needs to know about small businesses .
>> here's the irony about the career of mitt romney and this moment in american politics . we have seen with the debt clock that is looming over --
>> we've seen -- maybe we have this graphic, right? we have seen that the story being told about why america lost its path was about debt, about how evil and profid yous debt is to the american. mitt romney biauomney built his career o n death, and one part of our tax code that subsidizes and prefers death over equity in financial transactions . everything mitt romney is, all of his wealth is a testament to the power of debt and leverage at the exact moment that the argument that is being made by the republican party , is that there is something morally odious and offensive about debt. right? that it is somehow a transgression and betrayal. it's what got us into this. he is the testament to how debt creates money and the irony is that the thing that america actually needs at this moment is someone to use the fact that our treasuries sell for essentially nothing and use that cheap debt to finance investment right now. there is a case going to be made for the private equity baron coming into rural america . it's the opposite of the case mitt romney is going to make tonight.
>> let me bring lawrence o'donnell in on this. lawrence , you're a man who knows what you speak on these issues. what do you think of romney and the case he's going to make on bain tonight?
>> reporter: rachel, the founder of staples is up there right now, and his segment began as it were with the doctored video of president obama that has the line "you didn't build that." they, of course, cut out the line that proceeds that, that talks about infrastructure and the various ways in which businesses depend on things outside of their own control in order to grow. that had to be doctored out because no one in this audience knows how to respond to the full text of what the president actually said. and so now we're in another version of the "you didn't build that" chant going on here in the hall. and it goes over very successfully here. and it's -- it's amazing that the central chant of this campaign is based on, and everyone in this room knows it, a doctored quote, an edited quote where they rip out the essence of it in order to create an impression of what the president was saying that's completely untrue.
>> it is amazing. thank you, lawrence , for that. i want to say that the case that they are making tonight about bain is a case that i think, ed, you're right, and chris matthews , you were right to point this out at the very top this idea about trying to give people something they can grasp on to about what in mitt romney 's career really means he'll be good about dealing with an economy in which most people don't work for private equity and can't define what it is and can't necessarily define what equity is versus debt in that graph. this video about mitt romney 's tenure at bain capital , specifically the firm's involvement in an indiana manufacturer called steel dynamics, that video is playing now. let's dip into this so we can see the argument they're making here.