I understand Mitt Romney’s basic argument, which is that he took a paid leave of absence from Bain Capital in 1999 and that he didn’t exercise any executive authority over the business again afterward. He didn’t originally know that he wouldn’t be coming back, so he continued to act as CEO in some capacities, like filling out paperwork or even, perhaps, attending a board meeting of some subsidiary, but he can’t be blamed for decisions that the company made while he was focused on the Olympics or launching his gubernatorial bid. That’s basically the theme the right is using to defend him, and it makes sense as far as it goes. The problem is that it doesn’t go very far.

Let’s just phrase the charge a little differently and say that Mitt Romney enriched himself by owning a business that made huge profits by outsourcing jobs and downsizing companies. Can he dispute that he personally profited as the CEO, chairman, a sole shareholder of Bain Capital in the 1999-2002 period? Obviously, he cannot make that claim.

Moreover, if he didn’t like what the company was doing, he had the power to make them stop. I haven’t seen Romney come out and claim ignorance about Bain’s activities. He’s just saying that he didn’t make those decisions. At best, he approved those deals retroactively by not expressing any displeasure.

So, what is Romney’s defense? That he didn’t work on the deals even though he made tons of money off them and never complained?

That’s why Dick Durbin said he was running away from Bain Capital like a scalded cat. It was his company. His baby. He created it. He grew it. He wants us to admire his work there so much that we make him president. And then he turns around and says, “I didn’t have anything to do with that.” I mean, that’s just remarkable. And it’s not like Bain Capital behaved any differently once Romney took his leave of absence. He’s just trying to avoid responsibility for certain deals, even though there is nothing particularly special about those deals.

Imagine if Bernie Madoff had taken a leave of absence a few years before he got busted. Would anyone take him seriously if he claimed he wasn’t a bad guy because some of the fraud took place while he was on his paid leave of absence? Either what Bain Capital did in 1999-2002 was shameful or it wasn’t. If it was shameful, then so is what Bain Capital did throughout the 1990’s.

Why is Romney acting like his company was a criminal enterprise the second he stopped running it, and not a moment before?

And, you know, you have to ask some lawyers if Romney committed any felonies. I don’t think he set out to commit perjury or defraud anyone, but he might have done those things inadvertently. You know, the law can be tricky that way.

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