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LAMBRO: Making Romney’s day over employment

Job-creation attack leaves Obama vulnerable on his own dismal record

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President Obama is attacking Mitt Romney's job-creation record when he headed a capital investment firm that turned failing companies and startup businesses into success stories.

The Obama campaign's two-minute TV attack ad was a breathtaking display of political gall by a president whose failed jobs record in a lackluster economy has been dismal at best.

This week's Gallup poll puts the underemployment rate (people forced to work fewer hours or temporary jobs and long-term jobless Americans who have dropped out of the labor force) at 18 percent. The unemployment rate is still stuck at more than 8 percent. Fifty percent of college graduates can't find jobs commensurate with their educational level and work skills.

But Mr. Obama's campaign this week is running an attack ad criticizing Mr. Romney's job-creation performance in his 25 years in the world of business.

The late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy used the same attack strategy in his rough-and-tumble Senate re-election battle against Mr. Romney in 1994.

The two-minute ad, which will air during the evening news Wednesday, tells the sad tale of a shuttered steel mill in Kansas City, Mo., in which Mr. Romney's former firm, Bain Capital, invested, only to see it go bankrupt.

The company's collapse cost 750 workers their jobs. In the ad, former workers at this plant call Bain a "vampire" outfit that "came in and sucked the life out of us."

But unlike 1994, when Mr. Romney was unprepared for the Kennedy attack ads, the former governor's campaign was ready for this one, immediately releasing its own video ad, titled "American Dream." It tells of Bain's investment in Steel Dynamics of Indiana, which helped the firm grow from 1,400 workers to more than 6,000.

Mr. Romney's message is twofold: 1. Not all investments worked out, but far more often than not, his turnaround efforts succeeded, creating jobs and strengthening the U.S. economy. 2. Mr. Obama hasn't a clue about how the economy works because he's never worked in it, while Mr. Romney has succeeded in it.

The Obama ad is being aired in swing states that likely will decide the election, including Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

It is political demagoguery pure and simple. Bain tried to save the company, but risk-taking investments do not always work, and this one didn't, as happens in some cases. However, Bain officials did nothing wrong that would warrant a political attack.

Who says so? Why, none other than Steven Rattner, who was Mr. Obama's "car czar" and one of his economic advisers.

"I don't think there's anything Bain Capital did that they need to be embarrassed about," Mr. Rattner told MSNBC.

What the Obama campaign leaves out of its attack ad is that Mr. Romney no longer worked at Bain when the steel plant went bankrupt. He had left the company for two years to take charge of the Salt Lake City Olympics.

In fact, when Mr. Romney was running the company, it had one of the investment industry's best records, and it still does.

One of its successes was a tiny, undercapitalized startup office-supply company in Framingham, Mass., called Staples. Mr. Romney helped build it into a global corporation in 26 countries, employing thousands of Americans.

There were many success stories in Mr. Romney's career, ones we'll be hearing about in the months to come. They underscore one of his chief strengths in a painfully slowing economy where jobs are in short supply.

Mr. Obama's track record on job creation not only has been abysmal over the past three years, it is the worst record of any president since the New Deal era.

Keith Hennessey, a Stanford University economist, went back over the past 10 presidents, charting the average jobless rates of their presidencies. Here's what he found:

Lyndon Johnson, 4.2 percent; Dwight Eisenhower, 4.9 percent; Richard Nixon, 5.0 percent; Bill Clinton, 5.2 percent; George W. Bush, 5.3 percent; John F. Kennedy, 6.0 percent; George H.W. Bush, 6.3 percent; Jimmy Carter, 6.5 percent; Ronald Reagan, 7.5 percent; Gerald Ford, 7.8 percent; and Barack Obama in his first three years, 9.2 percent.

Mr. Obama's job-creation record not only is a mediocre one, it's been a colossal waste of hard-earned tax dollars.

Unlike Mr. Romney, who was building businesses and jobs with private investment capital, Mr. Obama through his job stimulus bill was dishing out nearly $1 trillion to federal, state and local government agencies, with little to show for it.

After nearly 3 1/2 years of his costly stimulus spending programs, unemployment remained between 9 percent and 8 percent. A Washington Post poll last week reported that nearly half of all Americans surveyed expressed an unfavorable view of his stimulus, 49 percent to 47 percent.

Mr. Obama tried to create jobs by "investing" money directly into clean-energy programs that he said would create tens of thousands of jobs in the future.

One of them was the Solyndra Corp., which made solar panels. Administration officials in several agencies sent repeated warnings to the White House that this was a bad investment, but Mr. Obama pushed it anyway with a half-billion-dollar loan guarantee. The firm went bankrupt, more than 1,000 workers lost their jobs, and the taxpayers were left holding the bag.

Other Obama "investments" went belly-up, including a $118 million grant to Ener1, a manufacturer of electric car batteries that also filed for bankruptcy.

Mr. Romney will be reminding voters later this year of the money Mr. Obama's poor "investments" have lost thus far and the job-creating deals he killed, including the TransCanada oil pipeline. That decision to block the 1,700 mile Keystone XL pipeline cost the American people more than 20,000 jobs.

That's going to make one heck of a campaign ad, ending with a line like, "Would you want Obama investing your money?"

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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