Guy Benson

Democrats keep crowing about Barack Obama's "commanding" electoral college lead (it's a less than a mile wide and an inch deep), but for all their apparent cockiness, they strangely continue to go thermonuclear on Mitt Romney.  This ad from Obama's SuperPAC doesn't seem desperate at all:
 


 

When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant, I lost my healthcare, and my family lost their healthcare.  And a short time after that my wife became ill ... And she passed away in 22 days. I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he’s done to anyone, and furthermore I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned.


Recapping: Mitt Romney fired this poor guy, he lost his healthcare, then his wife died of cancer -- oh, and Romney couldn't care less.  As distasteful as it feels to debunk a political ad that exploits a woman's tragic death, Obama's close allies are ultimately responsible for the content they produce for public consumption.  Aside from its jaw-droppingly vicious implications, there are numerous substantive problems with this spot:
 
(1) GST -- the company for which this gentleman once worked -- shuttered the factory in question back in 2001, two years after Mitt Romney left Bain Capital. Romney did not "close the plant;" he was off saving the Olympics.
 
(2) The Wall Street Journal's Kimberly Strassel examined GST's history in a May column (Obama and his backers have been using this particular company to pummel Romney for months).  She explained that Bain's investment gave GST an eight-year "lease on life," even though the factory -- along with the broader industry -- eventually faltered, thanks in part to organized labor's stubbornness:
 

GST is a tragic tale, though in a different way. The real story of GST is that of a private-equity firm trying to spark some life into a uncompetitive, over-unionized industry. Bain's crime here—if that's what you call it—was giving a dying steel plant an unexpected eight-year lease on life. When Bain bought the Kansas City mill in 1993, steel was a scene of carnage. Global players were pouring out cheap products, and America's high-cost steel plants couldn't compete. The industry had lost 200,000 jobs in preceding years. In 1992 alone, the six largest U.S. steel mills had lost a combined $3 billion. Armco, the company Bain would buy the plant from, would lose $641 million in 1993. The Kansas City plant was itself dying. At its 1970 height it employed 4,500; by the late 1980s it was down to 1,000.

The late 1990s saw a new outpouring of cheap steel from elsewhere around the globe. The Asian financial crisis walloped the mining industry, cutting demand for GST products. The price of GST's electricity and natural gas skyrocketed. The union dug in, refusing to make concessions. By April 1997, it was on strike, shooting bottle rockets at guards. Labor costs spiked, and by 1999 GSI was reporting $53 million in net losses. In 2001 it would become one of 31 steel companies that went bankrupt from 1993 to 2003.


In other words, Mr. Soptic would likely have found himself unemployed eight years earlier if it  hadn't been for Bain's 1993 investment.

(3) I've saved the most egregious element for last.  Mr. Soptic's wife died in 2006, seven years after Romney left Bain and five years after the plant went under:
 

In the case of this particularly jarring super PAC ad, it may also be relevant that Soptic’s wife died in 2006, years after the GST factory closed down. A 2006 story in the Kansas City Star reported the death of Ranae Soptic, a former champion roller skater: “Soptic went to the hospital for pneumonia, but doctors found signs of very advanced cancer, and she died two weeks later on June 22.”


It is downright vulgar to blame Mitt Romney for a cancer-stricken woman's death in a political advertisement, period.  It is beyond repugnant to do so using incomplete, misleading and inaccurate information.  In case you were curious, Obama's SuperPAC (run by one of Obama's former deputy press secretaries) fully stands by the spot.  The White House isn't commenting on the controversy, though Obama's defenders will note that the Obama campaign cannot be held responsible for its SuperPAC's decisions because the two entities are legally prohibited from coordinating.  By the way, have you heard about Obama's new "Romney-hood" attack line?  You know where he got that line?  From his SuperPAC -- with whom he's not at all coordinating, mind you. 

Two final points: First, this ad unwittingly makes the conservative case for healthcare plan portability, a policy goal supported in Republican  reforms.  Individuals and families would own their plan, so it couldn't be ripped away due to job loss.  It would also go a long way toward eliminating the pre-existing conditions problem.  Second, it's still summertime, yet the Obama campaign itself, one of its top Congressional surrogates and its SuperPAC have already baselessly accused Romney of being a felon, a tax cheat (for which Reid has now been awarded "Four Pinocchios" and "pants on fire" ratings) and a heartless giver of cancer.  What will the attack ads look like in October, especially if Romney has opened a lead in the polls?


UPDATE - An excellent tweet from Bretibart's John Sexton, illustrating the dark absurdity of this commercial:
 

If you worked at a GM dealership shuttered in 2009 and your spouse dies of cancer before 2015:


Quite a standard, isn't it?


UPDATE II - Enjoy:  #OctoberObamaAds


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography