Film: When Mitt Romney Came to Town (Killian Meath, 2012)

As the bizarre contest that pits nutters against nutters looks ready to eat itself, this 28-minute film attempts to besmirch Mitt Romney’s public image

-George E Harris

As the Republican Primaries hurtle towards the all important South Carolina vote next Saturday, the bizarre contest that pits nutters against nutters looks ready to eat itself.  Electable candidates have almost been left out of this gaggle of swivel-eyed extremists.  Each nominee who has been exposed to any amount of scrutiny has proven incompetent, sleazy or insane.  The slick Mitt Romney has largely remained the front-runner because he has managed to completely reinvent himself.  He has moved to the right of his previous position as Governor of Massachusetts, covering the tracks he left while he was pro-abortion and involved in reforming the health system of the state.  He has also tried to appeal to the left, by downplaying his links to his asset-stripping past.  When Mitt Romney Came to Town is a part of Newt Gingrich’s scorched earth attack policy against Romney, and is interesting because it focuses on this second part of his make-over, causing all of the nominees to look bad.

The documentary focuses on Romney’s privileged background, the nature of his business, and four examples of where it bankrupted successful businesses in order to make the board millions of dollars.  The focus of the film is the human aspect of the job losses caused by Romney, and consists mostly of plodding interviews with victims of asset stripping, with utterances such as “that hurt so bad” made along to a sentimental piano backing.  There are high-level descriptions of how the take-overs worked, and how much money they made Romney, spliced with doctored snatches of the nominee talking to crowds or TV cameras.  The voice-over is orated by a very talented individual, and he lends gravity to the excellent summary:

“Now Romney says he wants to bring what he learned on Wall Street to the White House. What would his Cabinet look like? Who would he put in positions of power around him?”

Romney looks really bad after the 28 minutes are over, but the extent of the film is character assassination.  Because it was made by Republicans for Republicans, it does not explore any of the wider implications of policy that could make such abuse possible.  The omission is the fact that Romney’s take-overs were only possible because of the shortage of regulation in the US; regulation which Republicans oppose.  One of the final screens informs that “The bulk of Mitt Romney’s personal wealth remains in blind trusts and overseas bank accounts”, yet the Tea Party Republicans oppose taxation so much that they have vowed to vote against any increase.  Some shots would even be suited to a film made by the Occupy movement, with Romney struggling to explain to a crowd of unemployed workers the ‘trickle down’ effect.  Collateral damage has been carefully avoided, but central tenets of the Republican faith are implicated in Romney’s smug faced exploitation.

This film will probably be seen as an own goal by Gingrich’s supporters, either by convincing Republican extremists to finally back Romney, or by its wider effect when he faces Obama.  It will be amusing to watch the desperate nominees riding the negativity of the film, while trying to appear utterly pro-business.  The guaranteed effect of this film will be to make the rabid final week before the decisive poll dafter than it would have been.

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