There was a point late last year in which Mitt Romney clearly wanted to run once again for president. Romney and his aides kept telling reporters about his interest, and just as importantly, they told Republican donors to wait before rallying behind a 2016 favorite.
Team Romney realized that Jeb Bush was well positioned to be the GOP establishment’s candidate of choice, but Romney and his staff also saw Bush as vulnerable. “You saw what they did to me with Bain [Capital],” Romney reportedly told allies behind closed doors. “What do you think they’ll do to [Bush] over Barclays?”
The argument may have lacked self-awareness, but it raised a legitimate point. Jeb Bush’s work with the investment banks Lehman Brothers and Barclays would likely be a problem if he wins the Republican nomination.
But perhaps no candidate would be as closely associated with Wall Street as Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R). The Democratic National Committee circulated this clip today of the Ohio Republican talking about his private-sector background.
“My military reform activities were basically completed, so I decided to leave Washington [in 2001]. So, I went out and spent 10 years in the private sector and I just loved it. I never thought that I would be back in politics.”
Kasich made similar comments to Time magazine just last week. Asked whether he has any regrets from his time in the private sector, the Ohio Republican was incredulous.
“It was fantastic,” Kasich told Time. “Are you kidding? Regrets? I thought it was a fantastic time. I traveled all over the country. I got an incredible education. I worked my tail off. It was great.”
As much as I appreciate the governor’s enthusiasm, there’s a small problem with his “fantastic” experiences in the private sector.
After leaving Congress, Kasich went to work at Lehman Brothers. In fact, he was there in 2007 and 2008 – which you may recall was a particularly unpleasant time for Lehman and the global economy that was falling off a cliff.
I’m not prepared to say working at Lehman is necessarily a disqualifier, but Kasich makes it sound as if he was at summer camp – he “just loved” his time at the firm. It was “fantastic.” It was “great.”
Asked about possible regrets – remember, he was there when Lehman made the biggest bankruptcy filing in the history of the United States – Kasich responded as if the question itself was ridiculous.
We’ll learn soon enough whether Kasich runs for president, whether he’ll be competitive, and what kind of message he’ll present to voters. But my suggestion for any former managing director at Lehman seeking national office is simple: try a little contrition. Don’t make it sound like working at imploding Wall Street firm was a barrel of laughs.