Red herring society

I agree with what Newark Mayor Cory Booker said yesterday on Meet the Press. Issues like Bain Capital and Jermiah Wright are red herrings, or as Booker says, “a distraction from the real issues.”

I’m not sure who’s to blame for the proliferation of red herrings in society.

The media? I imagine they push the stories that produce responses.

Society? Probably the most to blame. We do like our red herrings.

Education? I would put some blame here, too. Many of my college educated friends can’t explain to me what red herring means. Every sixth grader should know this and be able to spot them.

For those of you who don’t know, red herrings are distractions from the real issue.

You tell me that my gum chomping annoys you. I respond that your yawning bugs me. Not only did I not address my gum chomping, but I attempted to distract you from that issue by introducing a new, unrelated topic — your yawning — and I put you on the defensive hoping you will begin to discuss that or something else (maybe my throat clearing) rather than my gum chomping.

According to Wikipedia, William Corbett first used “red herring” in his weekly newspaper in the early 1800s as a metaphor for a political maneuver to distract people from the issue at hand. A red herring is a cured and pungent fish. Corbett wrote that hounds can be distracted from the scent of their mark by dragging a red herring across the trail.

Silly Gingrich

I wish I could advise Newt Gingrich not to attack Romney’s business record as the head of Bain Capital.  It should actually be applauded.

Gingrich can distinguish himself easily enough from Romney on their political records alone.  Gingrich brought financial accountability to the Federal government and reformed welfare under a Democrat President.  Romney basically implemented the liberal platform as Governor.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Romney’s political opponents are stepping up attacks on his business record.

The attacks will center on Bain’s failures and portraying Romney as a “corporate raider” that acquired companies and fired people.

The journal tracked the results of the 77 companies acquired by Bain when Romney was in charge.  Here’s what they found:

1. “…22% either filed for bankruptcy reorganization or closed their doors by the end of the eighth year after Bain first invested, sometimes with substantial job losses.”

2. “An additional 8% ran into so much trouble that all of the money Bain invested was lost.”

3.  “Bain produced stellar returns for its investors”

4. “Bain produced about $2.5 billion in gains for its investors in the 77 deals, on about $1.1 billion invested.”

5. “Bain recorded roughly 50% to 80% annual gains in this period, which experts said was among the best track records for buyout firms in that era.”

6.  “If the Journal analysis were limited to bankruptcies and closures occurring by the end of the fifth year after Bain first invested, the rate would move down to 12%. “

It’d be tough to argue with this record.  It’s outstanding.  Criticizing this record is a bit like criticizing a major league baseball player who hit .350 driving in multiple game winning grand slams.

I agree with Romney’s response to Gingrich:

Doesn’t he understand how the economy works? In the real economy, some businesses succeed and some fail.

Many times in business, even if everything is done right, the business fails.  Consumer preferences change, competitors get a leg up, innovation obsoletes a product, new regulations put a crimp in the economics of a business.  Any number of things can happen. Sometimes they happen all at once.  Sometimes the best baseball hitters strike out.  Sometimes the most winningest professional teams coaches lose.

And to the argument that Bain fired people, they also created lots of jobs.  You don’t create $2.5 billion in gains without employing a few people along the way.

I realize that Gingrich is likely trying to appeal to voters who reflexively scoff as phrases such as “corporate raider” and “firing workers”, but for those of us who know better, this just makes Gingrich look silly.