Integrity Check For Obama Supporters: Is This Really How You Want The Campaign To Go?

On the heels of Newark Mayor Corey Booker’s criticism of the Obama campaign’s anti-Bain ad and his subsequent simpering recant, an interesting thing happened: some people actually checked the ad for fairness and accuracy…never mind that it was widely interpreted as an anti-capitalist statement in the world’s most successful capitalist nation. Part of the impetus for the check was loyal Democratic consultant and spin-master Lanny Davis announcing on television that the ad was deceptive in more ways than one.

If you have not seen the spot, here it is:

It tells the story of the demise of  GS Industries through interviews with sad-eyed, salt-of-the-earth workers who accuse Bain of buying their town’s small steel company to destroy it. 30-year steelworker Joe Soptic tells the camera,  “They made as much money off it as they could. And they closed it down, they filed for bankruptcy without any concern for the families or the communities.” Jack Cobb, a another steelworker, calls Bain “a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us.” Things were going fine, they all say, until Bain Capital, under the leadership of Mitt Romney, bought the company and soon sold them down the river, laying everyone off and pocketing a huge profit. How that would work…how buying a company and its equipment and then quickly shutting it down would be profitable….is never explained, because actual information is irrelevant to the makers of the ad. The point of the Obama campaign is to contrast the intercut video of Mitt Romney saying he created jobs with the weather-beaten faces of hard-working Americans who say he threw them out of work to funnel money to his rich friends.

Deceit, you’ll recall, is when one uses facts to deceive, usually by omitting other facts that make the revealed facts understandable. Deceit is a form of lying, a very effective and insidious form. President Obama’s anti-Bain ad is, beyond question, deceitful, and deceptive, which means that in this instance at least, so is he. For he, Barack Obama, “approved this message.”

Here, as researched and explained by, the one truly non-partisan and reliable fact-checking organization, are what makes the ad so unethical:

  • By featuring an investment project by Bain that ended in the bankruptcy of the company, the ad misrepresents what Bain does. Factcheck calls it “lemon-picking.” If this were a typical Bain project, the company would be a failure. Its goal is to purchase companies, invest in them, turn them around, save jobs, and make money for investors. The ad is like featuring the Challenger tragedy to represent NASA as a cadre of bungling fools. It is like recounting only the cases of a great surgeon’s patients that didn’t make it off the operating table to make him seem like a butcher. It is like creating an ad showing only Thomas Edison’s inventions that flopped—his machine that he said could communicate with the dead; his single-piece cast-concrete house—to argue that the inventor of the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph and the movie camera was an idiot. The majority of Bain’s reclamation projects have in fact created jobs and built viable companies. That shouldn’t make the former GS workers feel any better or less angry, but using them to represent Bain is dishonest.
  • Bain bought GS when it was in debt and struggling, not when it was thriving, as the ad would have one believe. It had been shrinking steadily, and was regarded as endangered when Bain, under Romney, purchased it.
  • Bain poured many millions of dollars into keeping the company afloat—modernizing equipment and making other changes to help it stay competitive.
  • Bain kept the company operating for more than seven years. That is not the sense given by the ad, which implies that Bain bought the company to immediately destroy it.
  • Bain saved jobs during this period. It is likely that had Bain not bought the company, it would have gone bankrupt years earlier.
  • There were many reasons for the company’s collapse, including some mismanagement by Bain. But it was also being clobbered by foreign competition, like the rest of the U.S. steel industry. Suggesting that Bain put a humming business into bankruptcy is factually false.
  • Finally, Mitt Romney wasn’t running Bain in 2001 when the decision was made to shutter GS!  Don’t you think those watching the ad should have been told that, since the entire point of the spot is to equate Bain’s management with Romney?

Are Democrats really satisfied with this level of dishonesty and misrepresentation from its chosen leader? Are the American people? Should the public really be lied to as it seeks to make an intelligent, informed choice about who will lead the country? Is this really how everyone wants to see the campaigns run?

I certainly hope not. The ad is an extended effort to mislead, and once recognized as such, is a greater indictment of Obama’s character than it is of Romney’s competence. It should be pulled, and the President owes Mitt Romney, Bain, and the American public he chose to deceive apologies. Let’s see how many Democrats and progressives can match Lanny Davis in integrity…and Davis, who was among the most shameless defenders of his client, Bill Clinton, has never been regarded as a paragon of that virtue.


Pointer: Rush Limbaugh (I know, I know…but he was right.)


Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at






16 thoughts on “Integrity Check For Obama Supporters: Is This Really How You Want The Campaign To Go?

  1. I think you’re being unfair here, Jack.: PolitiFact, which I respect more than you, rates the ad mostly true. I don’t think Obama has anything to apologize for here.

    • And that’s why I don’t respect Politifact, Bob. It has a well-earned rep for being a Democratic shill if it can figure out how.This is a great example. How can that ad be “mostly true” and omit the 7 years and the fact that Romney didn’t shut the mill? Deceit is always “true,” and Politifact always seems to give it an OK if its in service of a Democrat.

      I’ve missed you!

      • Read the PolitiFact analysis before you dismiss–even Dem shills (not that I buy that monicker) sometimes get their facts straight. Romney didn’t shut the mill, but he did burden the company with huge debt, proceeds of which went straight to Bain. I think in this case Bain stripped the company and sentenced it to death.

        I’ve missed you too, stuffing myself with lobsta, lobsta rolls, lobsta stew, and lobsta bisque Down East.

        • The Factcheck coverage made that point, and it’s valid…but it doesn’t change the fact that the ad leaves out essential information—including that. The fact that Bain did turn the company around and that it did invest cash in the millions and that Romney wasn’t there when everyone was laid off—the public had to be told all that to make an informed decision. No way an ad can be “mostly true” while omitting all of that!

          • Funny how Romney doesn’t want to be blamed for layoffs when he wasn’t there, but wants to take credit for jobs that were created at Staples when he wasn’t there. Can’t have it both ways. I think Politifact got it pretty much right–and believe me, they’re no sweetheart of the Left.

            • Credit has nothing to do with the issue of whether or not the ad is misleading, Jan. If it wants to say that the jobs lost after Romney left were the result of his management, them make that case. It is still a lie to imply that he was the one who ordered the lay-offs.

              And of course if you build a business, you are responsible and take credit for the jobs it produces, forever, as far as I’m concerned. Babe Ruth can take credit for the fact that the New York Yankees are worth billions today. He is not, however, responsibly for the Yankees blowing a 3-0 lead against Boston in the 2004 play-offs, because he wasn’t there. Would Romney, as CEO, have decided to give up on GS? You don’t know that, and it is wrong for the ad to suggest that.
              PolitiFact is operated by a Democratic leading newspaper., is funded by the independent Annenberg Foundation. It also doesn’t have an entire website devoted to proving its liberal biases, like Politifact does. And Politifact Bias makes a pretty compelling case.

  2. Hmmm…. I generally like PolitiFact too, but this is one of those forest and trees issues.

    The simple fact is, private equity is a legitimate and ultimately useful part of a capitalist economy. Its ultimate effect is to improve the efficiency of capital allocation and the effectiveness of businesses. The problem with the ad is that it suggests the contrary – that private equity itself is evil, destructive of jobs, anti-economy and working class, etc. That goes too far.

    It is perfectly true that private equity owners aren’t interested in job creation; that experience in P/E doesn’t particularly qualify one to create jobs; and that private sector experience itself doesn’t have much to do with pulling the economic levers of government. All those would be great talking points for the Democrats.

    Unfortunately this demonizing ad drags truth down to, if I may be so partisan, Tea Party levels. It certainly doesn’t make me feel any better about voting for Obama, hard core Democrat though I am.

    I think Jack’s quite right on this one.

    • Here is your partisan reply;

      The only ‘economic levers of government’ pushed by this administration have all resulted in an enormous, continuous FLUSH of what used to pass for free-enterprise. Along with jobs, homes and our credit rating. I refer you to the goverments’ own data. I especially like the CBO graphs, for my math challenged liberal friends…(oops, that IS redundant.).

      As regards the Tea Party: I would take any 5 random Tea Party protesters, as a group, as less likely to lie, cheat, steal, obfuscate, deceive and generally be rascals, than any 5 of this administration’s most revered members.

      Of course Jack is right on this one. How many like this will it take to change your vote?

      Cheers! Joe

      • Joe,

        :-). Actually, the Bush administration added government workers; the Obama administration has cut them.

        The ballooning federal budget is very simply due to three things: a massive increase in payments to the unemployed (thanks Bush for the bubble), an increase in health care payments (thanks Bush administration), and a reduction in revenue which was supposed to generate economic growth (thanks Bush for the misguided economics).

        Sorry, but the rhetoric about anti-private sector just doesn’t hold up to data. The problem with Obama has not been that he was too liberal, it was that he caved early on to the strident tones of the Wall Streeters who insisted they knew how economies worked, and that need to start with rescuing the banks.

        • Although the playbook DOES call for ‘blame Bush’ in each and every circumstance, I doubt that the success anticipated by liberal politicos carefully mimicking FDR’s ‘blame Hoover’ program will materialize. The party in power simply does not have the control of the media required; neither are the citizens as poorly educated. Ah, the information revolution, it’s gotta suck to be a demagogue these days, what with the internet and all.

    • The problem is not with private equity in general, it’s with unscrupulous private equity.

      When private equity adds liquidity that allows businesses to modernize their equipment and infrastructure, it’s good. When private equity is just playing games with balance sheets to leverage companies for loans that are then paid back as capital investments, it’s horrible.

        • I go with slightly deceptive. The message is generally accurate and the details are accurate. It’s the inbetween picture of how Bain caused the issues that’s left out. The add does deceive, but it does in such a way that the audience actually gets a sense of the actual problem.

          I don’t like this ad. It’s surely effective and generally true, but I think replacing 1 anecdote with more explanation wouldn’t go over the heads of the general citizenry and would clear up the “good” deceptions.

  3. That ad is like saying: “Hinckley shot Reagan. Reagan died.” Both sentences are 100% true but said in that way, it’s misleading.

  4. The problem as I see it is that these kind of propagandistic manipulations have become an accepted part of political discourse. That’s what needs to change. The good news is that more and more outlets exist to combat these shennanigans. But do enough people take the time to read and think?

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