Slate’s Dave Weigel makes an astute observation about the burgeoning Mitt Romney “Did he or didn’t he work at Bain Capital in 1999 – 2002” story:

“…(W)ho gave people the idea that Romney had completely severed ties with Bain in February 1999? The Romney campaign! On May 14, bristling at the first Obama/Bain attacks, the Romney campaign (via spokeswoman Andrea Saul) sent out a kitchen-sink debunking statement. The argument, made VERY LOUDLY in bolded sentences, was that Romney “left Bain Capital” in 1999.    …[snip]…

You can see how people got the idea that Romney was out, see-ya, exit-stage-left when it came to Bain. But here’s the weird part. The articles being cited (by the Romney campaign) clearly said that Romney had left the company but would provide some advice when it was needed.”

Mitt Romney’s role at Bain Capital after Feb. 1999 is a story that’s been building for at least two months now, and appears to have finally reached critical mass.  (How do we know?  Romney did television interviews today with multiple non-Fox News channels for the first time in months.)

Now, the Romney campaign has its own reasons for wanting to distance Romney from Bain Capital in that three year period.  First, all the evidence we have so far is that he really didn’t do much (if any) work for Bain Capital in those years.  Second, some of Bain Capital’s investments (like Stericycle, a medical-waste firm that disposed of aborted fetuses) in those years would cause trouble for Romney with social conservatives who are already mistrustful of him.  Third, other Bain Capital investments (like Dade Behring’s medical technologies business) went bankrupt in the early 2000s, leading to the loss of hundreds of jobs while Bain Capital investors made huge profits.

Instead of answering those questions, Romney and his campaign find themselves trying to explain how the “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president” of Bain Capital—according to its own SEC filings at the time—really had nothing to do with running the company.  Despite the $100,000 he received in annual salary.

If, at some point over the last 7 1/2 years (or the last 7 1/2 weeks!) of running for president, Romney and his chief advisers had sat down and come up with a more-or-less coherent explanation for his role during his last three years at Bain Capital, he wouldn’t be stumbling to answer these questions.  Instead, we may look back on this as one of the more spectacular own goals in the history of modern presidential campaigns.

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