A man and his money

    Here’s an easy quiz. See if you can spot the Democratic buzz phrase du jour.National Democratic chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, on Fox News Sunday, talking about Mitt Romney: “Why does an American businessman need a Swiss bank account and secretive investments?”

    Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, on ABC’s This Week, talking about Romney: “I’ve never known a Swiss bank account to build an American bridge, a Swiss bank account to create American jobs…the Swiss bank accounts and American dollars that Mitt Romney stuffed in that offshore Swiss bank account…”Sen. Dick Durbin, on CBS’ Face the Nation, talking about Romney: “When it comes down to his Swiss bank account, there is just no way to explain it. You either get a Swiss bank account to conceal what you’re doing, or you believe the Swiss franc is stronger than the American dollar.”Clearly, the Obama re-election strategists have identified Mitt’s overseas money as a political liability. There is no way they’d coin “Swiss bank account” as a rhetorical mantra unless they already knew (via internal polling and focus groups) that the phrase was bad for Mitt, that it would reinforce Mitt’s image as an out-of-touch rich guy. “Swiss bank account” is a phrase that reeks of secrecy, of entitlements totally foreign to the experience of American working stiffs.With the economy stuck in neutral, the Obama team’s urgent objective is to discredit the Republican messenger. And how lucky it is for the team that Romney makes the task so easy. Put simply, what a rich man does with his money is a legitimate character issue. And now we know, via news reports, that Romney has parked a lot of his money in Switzerland, Bermuda, Luxembourg, and the Cayman Islands.If Obama had Romney’s wealth, and had deposited a lot of it in secret accounts far from American shores, you can rest assured that Republicans would be assailing the president for dissing America, for unpatriotic investments. They would be citing Obama’s money maneuvers as further proof of his unAmerican alien otherness.Yet now we have reports that Romney for many years stashed a lot of his money in a Romney-owned Bermuda-based company (transferring it all to a trust, in his wife’s name, when he became governor in 2003); that he has at least $30 million in the tax-haven Caymans; that he had many millions in that Swiss account (which is now closed); that he has given us only a fleeting glimpse of his offshore wealth by releasing only one year of tax returns (2010). All told, the investigative report by Vanity Fair says that Romney’s behavior is “a bet against the U.S. dollar, an odd thing for a presidential candidate to do.”And yesterday, the task of defending Romney’s offshore wealth was entrusted to the hapless Bobby Jindal. Not to digress, but I’d like someone to explain to me why the Louisiana governor continues to be touted as a veep prospect or future presidential candidate. Much like Sarah Palin or Rick Perry, this guy seems incapable of making the leap to the big leagues. At least six times yesterday, on ABC News, he was pitched questions about Mitt’s offshore money; six times, he fled to the locker room.1. Host Terry Moran: “Voters still aren’t really sure of who Mitt Romney is, and this week, there were two major articles, Vanity Fair, Associated Press, taking a look at his fortune….He had a secret company in Bermuda. Not a lot of Americans have that, 12 offshore tax haven funds in the Cayman Islands and that Swiss bank account. Let me go to Governor Jindal. Is it fair for voters to consider, Governor, what Mitt Romney does with his money outside the United States?”Jindal: “This election, this is a choice between President Obama and his failed policies and Governor Romney….This is not about the past. This is about the future. Secondly….”2. Moran: “OK, what about his – what about his – “Jindal: “(Obama’s) regulations that cost our economy over $100 million…”3. Moran: “What – what about – “Jindal: “In terms of Governor Romney’s financial success, look, I’m happy he’s a successful businessman…”4. Moran: ” Governor, what about the Swiss bank accounts?”Jindal: “We can’t afford four more years of on-the-job training. Look, the bottom line is, I’m thrilled that Mitt Romney has been successful in the private sector. I want somebody who’s got that private-sector experience…”5. Moran: “But what about his money out of the country? Is it OK for voters to consider the amount of money that he’s put out of the country in tax havens offshore, in secret Bermuda companies? Does that make sense for voters to consider?”Jindal: Look, I think voters will consider all of the distractions thrown out by the Obama campaign.” 6. Shortly thereafter, when Maryland Gov. O’Malley brought up the “secret bank accounts offshore,” Moran tried to tee up Jindal one more time: “All right, I’m going to let Governor Jindal have a brief last word on that.”Jindal: “I need to respond to that real quickly.” He never did.But let’s not dump too much on Jindal; his only choice was to run for cover. Only Romney himself can address this issue. We might even gain some character insights if he did. Does he understand the political liability of betting against the American dollar? Does he realize that his rarefied existence bears no resemblance to the lives of virtually all Americans? It would be instructive to find out whether Washington lawyer and offshore tax expert Jack Blum was right when he told Vanity Fair: “What Romney does not get is that this stuff is weird.”——-My Sunday newspaper column deconstructed the big lie about how the Obamacare health coverage mandate is supposedly the biggest tax in American history, or world history, or the universe, or whatever. ——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

     

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