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Looking for a new drinking game for the remainder of the Republican debates? (According to the schedule, there’s at least five more to go.) I’ve got one that, even with the remaining candidates, is guaranteed to put you under the table well before the end of the debate: Take a shot every time these guys attack each other and get each other right.

Just please give your car keys to someone who’s not playing this drinking game. According to the rules, you’ll be taking a shot every time the candidates attack each other, because every time they attack each other they get each other exactly right.

Case in point, the squabble between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich at the most recent debate in Tampa, FL. — which, as others have noted, amounted to a cage match between two rich guys.

Maybe some Republican voters are still interested in hearing how Newt will “bloody Obama’s nose” in a general election, but the rest of us are noticing how many punches these guys are landing on each other.

Romney hit Newt hard about his paycheck from Freddie Mac.

Romney hammered Gingrich hard on some financial information Gingrich released Monday: his contract with Freddie Mac. While Gingrich insists he didnt lobby, Romney noted that his newly released contract showed he was hired by the firms chief lobbyist. We have congressmen who say you lobbied them, he told his rival. I didn’t lobby them, Gingrich shot back, his voice getting high and whiny the way it did when that Iowa voter told him he was a disgrace to his party last spring. At one point he fell awkwardly silent. You can call it whatever you like, I call it influence peddling, Romney concluded. Score that round for the wealthy former frontrunner.

That one probably stung Newt a little, because it’s true.

“…took $1.6 million from Freddie Mac”

The same Romney ad said that Gingrich took $1.6 million from Freddie Mac. That’s because he did.

Newt Gingrich made between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consulting fees from two contracts with mortgage company Freddie Mac, according to two people familiar with the arrangement.

The total amount is significantly larger than the $300,000 payment from Freddie Mac that Gingrich was asked about during a Republican presidential debate on Nov. 9 sponsored by CNBC, and more than was disclosed in the middle of congressional investigations into the housing industry collapse.

Gingrich’s business relationship with Freddie Mac spanned a period of eight years. When asked at the debate what he did to earn a $300,000 payment in 2006, the former speaker said he offered them advice on precisely what they didn’t do, and warned the company that its lending practices were insane. Former Freddie Mac executives who worked with Gingrich dispute that account.

Don’t take Romney’s word for it. Andy Kroll has Newt’s Freddie Mac contract. Read it for yourself.

It’s hard to blame Gingrich for squalling, but he actually started pouting before Romney landed that punch. Because first the Mad Doctor tag-teamed with the Mitt-enator on Newt’s turn as Speaker.

But he failed. Presidents dont pout. A sulky Gingrich complained the GOP campaign had become unnecessarily personal and nasty, and that’s sad. Gingrich objecting to personal and nasty is as believable as Romney pretending he does his own laundry. That’s really sad. But Romney had the better night, hitting Gingrich early and often for having to resign the House speakership in disgrace due to ethics charges. And when Gingrich tried to claim he left his leadership post voluntarily, Ron Paul double-teamed him with Romney. He didn’t have the votes, that was what the problem was, Gingrich’s former House colleague told the crowd.

Right out of the gate, Newt got body-slammed by the truth in the first round.

“… fined $300,000 for ethics violations”

One Romney attack ad said that Gingrich was “fined $300,000 for ethics violations.” That’s because he was.

The House voted overwhelmingly yesterday to reprimand House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and order him to pay an unprecedented $300,000 penalty, the first time in the House’s 208-year history it has disciplined a speaker for ethical wrongdoing.

The ethics case and its resolution leave Gingrich with little leeway for future personal controversies, House Republicans said. Exactly one month before yesterday’s vote, Gingrich admitted that he brought discredit to the House and broke its rules by failing to ensure that financing for two projects would not violate federal tax law and by giving the House ethics committee false information.

“Newt has done some things that have embarrassed House Republicans and embarrassed the House,” said Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.). “If [the voters] see more of that, they will question our judgment.”

House Democrats are likely to continue to press other ethics charges against Gingrich and the Internal Revenue Service is looking into matters related to the case that came to an end yesterday.

The 395 to 28 vote closes a tumultuous chapter that began Sept. 7, 1994, when former representative Ben Jones (D-Ga.), then running against Gingrich, filed an ethics complaint against the then-GOP whip. The complaint took on greater significance when the Republicans took control of the House for the first time in four decades, propelling Gingrich into the speaker’s chair.

(Washington Post, Wednesday, January 22 1997)

That’s not to say that Romney emerged unbloodied. Desperate, without the roar of the crowd to make him look like a good debater, Newt resorted to his signature move: hitting Romney below the money-belt.

Cornered, Gingrich pivoted to an attack on Romney s background as a vulture capitalist: Whats the gross revenue of Bain during the years you were working for them?

When that didn’t quite fly, Gingrich went all college professor on Romney. Recalling the negatives Romney peddled in his failed 2008 run for the nomination, the former Speaker said: I understand your technique, which you used on McCain, you used on Huckabee. Its unfortunate and its not going to work very well, because the American people see through it.

Newt didn’t exhibit the form that made him the winner in South Carolina, but he sort of landed a punch with that one. Returns in both New Hampshire and South Carolina show American are seeing through something, but it’s not much Romney’s attacks on Newt. It’s Romney’s annointing of himself as an exemplar of free enterprise.

The problem is, “free enterprise” is not on trial, and Bain isn’t so much the representative of capitalism as the Frankenstein monster of capitalism stitched together and brought to life by conservative policy.

As a former manager at Bain made plain in an LA Time interview, job creation was never the mission at Bain Capital. So, there’s very little evidence to support Romney’s claim of creating 100,000 jobs at Bain. Bain won’t release its overall record of jobs lost or created. Probably because it wasn’t anybody’s job to create jobs at Bain. Ask them about how much they returned to investors they can probably do that. Creating wealth was the job at Bain, not creating jobs. And we’ve already had a decade of the Bush tax cuts benefiting the wealthy, the rich getting richer, and zero job growth to teach us that creating wealth doesn’t necessarily lead to job creation.

Warren Buffet, in a Time Magazine interview, made clear another reason why Romney couldn’t follow Palin’s advice if he wanted to.

When I ask whether Mitt Romney is a job creator or destroyer, Buffett says that while businesses shouldn’t keep people they don’t need, “I don’t like what private-equity firms do in terms of taking out every dime they can and leveraging [companies] up so that they really aren’t equipped, in some cases, for the future.”

Even without a release from Bain, we what we know about one of Bain’s acquisitions in which Romney was a very hands-on manager is exactly what Buffet described.

But an examination of the Dade deal, which Mr. Romney approved and presided over, shows the unintended human costs and messy financial consequences behind the brand of capitalism that he practiced for 15 years.

At Bain Capitals direction, Dade quadrupled the money it owed creditors and vendors. It took steps that propelled the business toward bankruptcy. And in waves of layoffs, it cut loose 1,700 workers in the United States, including Brian and Christine Shoemaker, who lost their jobs at a plant in Westwood, Mass. Staggered, Mr. Shoemaker wondered, How can the bean counters just come in here and say, Hey, its over?

Why release records on jobs created or destroyed and risk confirming stories like the one above?

Americans already know Romney’s rich. His $250 million net worth places him not just among the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, but among the wealthiest 0.001 percent. Somehow that still doesn’t stop him from reminding us. As Josh Marshall points out, we know Romney was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and then made enough money to upgrade it to gold.

That’s how vulture capitalism works.

A former managing partner at Bain, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, made it clear that job creation was never the point at Bain.

Bain managers said their mission was clear. “I never thought of what I do for a living as job creation,” said Marc B. Walpow, a former managing partner at Bain who worked closely with Romney for nine years before forming his own firm. “The primary goal of private equity is to create wealth for your investors.”

Mitt Romney, Mr. 1% - Cartoon Under Romney’s leadership, Bain certainly created wealth for its investors, no matter what happened to the companies it acquired or the the people worked for them. The Wall Street Journal’s revealing look at Romney’s time at Bain shows that 22% of the companies Bain invested on under Romney’s watch either filed for bankruptcy, reorganized, or closed their doors sometimes with substantial job losses. As Pat Garofalo pointed out, that’s nearly one fourth of the companies Bain invested in.

Some failed so badly that Bain lost its investments. That didn’t put a damper on returns, though. Bain produced about $2.5 billion in returns for its shareholders, out of just $1.1 billion invested. (Romney did alright, too. His campaign estimates his take during his term at Bain as anywhere from $190 million to $250 billion. That’s enough for a lot of $10,000 bets.)

The LA Times piece makes it clear that Bain and its investors profited, no matter what happened to the companies in its portfolio. According to the Wall Street Journal, 70% of Bain’s returns came from just 10 deals. The LA Times article notes that “Four of the 10 companies Bain acquired declared bankruptcy within a few years, shedding thousands of jobs.” Still, Bain profited in eight of those ten deals, including three of the four that went bankrupt.

That’s the way “vulture capitalism” (as I like to call it) works. Bain and its shareholders profited in the end, no matter what else happened.

Since Newt’s first attack on Romney’s vulture capitalist past, Americans have learned even more about Romney. We know that, despite being one of the wealthiest one-percent Romney’s tax rate is decidedly middle class, thanks to the capital gains tax — even though “his money makes money for him, rather than his labor.” Given what we know about his $20 million IRA and his millions in offshor accounts, Americans are beginning to understand how Romney went from “born rich” to “even richer.” Dean Baker explains.

Anyone trying to understand the role of the government in the economy should know that whatever it does or does not do by way of redistribution is trivial compared with the actions it takes to determine the initial distribution. Rich people don’t get rich exclusively by virtue of their talents and hard work; they get rich because the government made rules to allow them to get rich.

I could go on. In fact, I already have.

The bottom line remains the same. John Nichols sums it up pretty well — the thing about Newt and Romney’s attacks on each other is that they’re both right.

It was wild and edgy, as intense as presidential debates get. Romney and Gingrich went back and forth at one another, interrupting, charging, challenging.

And the funny thing is that they were both right.

Gingrich was, by all evidence, a lobbyist for a firm that had a hand in the foreclosure crisis.

Romney was, by all evidence, a self-serving economic opportunist who raided companies and communities in pursuit of ill-gotten gain.

Ron Paul and Rick Santorum took some pokes at the front runners — indeed, Santorum got off a decent there is no difference between President Obama and these two gentlemen riff late in the debate. But neither of the other contenders stated the obvious: the leading contenders for the GOP nod embody everything that leads Americans to dismiss politicians as crooks.

…That’s what was missing at Mondays debate the truth that both these men have histories that should disqualify them from contention.

That’s why my GOP Debate Drinking Game is guaranteed to get you drunk well before the end of the debate.

That’s also why I can’t in good conscience recommend playing it. Given how much these guys get right in their attacks on each other, my GOP Debate Drinking Game is likely to land you in the emergency room with alcohol poisoning, if not the morgue.




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