Jennifer C. Braceras | Boston Herald | Monday, January 16, 2012 | Op-Ed |

OK, ’fess up: Who snuck into the party and spiked the Kool-Aid?

Until about a week ago, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry seemed if not electable, well, then at least sane.

Each had begun to establish a credible (if not entirely accurate) narrative that he was the true heir to the Reagan legacy — the so-called “conservative” alternative to Mitt Romney.

But then, in language more reminiscent of Karl Marx than Ronald Reagan, Gingrich and Perry attacked Romney, former CEO of Bain Capital, as a greedy corporate “looter”; “a vulture capitalist.”

By attempting to paint Romney as Gordon Gekko 2.0, Gingrich and Perry adopted the rhetoric of the far-left. Worse yet, the anger with which both men unleashed their assaults left many conservatives wondering if Gingrich and Perry are not only desperate, but also mentally unhinged.

The crux of the Gingrich/Perry argument is summed up in a now discredited 28-minute video produced by “Winning Our Future,” the pro-Gingrich super PAC.

The video, entitled “When Mitt Romney Came to Town,” begins with an ode to the American Dream, but then goes on to say that, “in the wrong hands, some of those dreams can turn into nightmares.” The stealer of those dreams? Why, Bain Capital and Mitt Romney, of course!

The film is filled with inaccuracies, paranoia and anti-capitalist hyperbole.

If you didn’t know better, you’d think the attack was funded by MoveOn.org or the Democratic National Committee.

Coming as it does from Republicans, it’s just plain weird.

So what is so objectionable about Romney’s record at Bain Capital?

Yes, some of the companies in which Bain invested failed, and people lost their jobs as a result. Others — like Staples, Sports Authority and Domino’s Pizza — succeeded and created hundreds of thousands of jobs. Your point?

Do private companies have an obligation to maintain workers or remain in business, even when they are no longer profitable?

Is a job just another entitlement?

Lately it seems as if Gingrich and Perry have been studying economics at Barack University: The underlying premise of their attack is that private business exists only to pay workers and pay taxes. Wrong. Capitalism thrives because entrepreneurs and business people want to earn a profit.

There will, of course, always be economic winners and losers. Under capitalism, private money bears the risk and the free market determines the outcome. By contrast, under Obama’s “crony capitalism” the government tries to pick the winners (such as Solyndra and other green businesses supported by liberals), and the taxpayers are stuck with the loss.

It is not clear if Gingrich and Perry are genuine converts to Obamanomics or if they are just blowing smoke.

After all, turning an opponent’s greatest strength against him (in this case, Romney’s business creds) is the oldest political trick in the book.

The case for Romney in 2012 hinges on his track record of making the tough economic choices necessary to turn around financially distressed entities. And with a spiraling $15 trillion national debt, what is our federal government, if not financially distressed?

To defeat Romney, his opponents necessarily have to discredit his economic bona fides — which is difficult to do.

But regardless of the reason for the attacks, by turning the GOP primary into a battle over capitalism, Gingrich and company are actually doing Romney a favor. When asked to choose between a capitalist society (with free markets and opportunity for all) and an entitlement society (with guaranteed jobs and benefits), Republicans will choose capitalism every time.

The general election will be fought on this turf anyway. Romney might as well have at it now.

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