Audio: Limbaugh hits Gingrich for Bain attacks

A snippet from a sustained critique. This came earlier in today’s show but, according to Guy Benson, Rush was still laying into Newt at around 2:15 for sounding like Elizabeth Warren.

Are we sure Newt’s the worst offender, though? From ABC:

“Allowing these companies to come in and loot the, loot people’s jobs, loot their pensions, loot their ability to take care of their families and I will suggest they’re just vultures,” Perry said during a townhall at a retirement community here. “They’re vultures that sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick and then they swoop in, they eat the carcass. They leave with that and they leave the skeleton.”…

“I don’t think they want someone who has killed jobs in South Carolina on the altar of making more money for themselves and their company,” Perry said of Romney. “His other remark is elect me president because I’ve been in the private sector and I’ve created jobs. Well that’s we’re starting to see maybe not a honest assessment of what he did. He was also involved in the destruction of a lot of jobs in South Carolina.”

Lefty Greg Sargent, stunned to hear this sort of rhetoric pouring forth from America’s “jobs governor,” vents his amazement:

As Steve Benen notes, this is all a sign of how much the debate over free enterprise has shifted: “For all the talk about this being a center-right nation, there’s a realization that Americans are uncomfortable with excessive greed and the kind of ruthless, screw-the-workers style of capitalism Romney used to get rich.”

I’d go even further. This general election will turn heavily on a battle over the two candidates’ visions of capitalism and the proper role of government in regulating it. Yet the leading GOP candidates are on record arguing that Romney’s practice of it — which he regularly cites as proof of his ability to create jobs, as a generally constructive force and even as synonymous with the American way — is not really capitalism at all, but a destructive, profit-driven perversion of it. Thanks to them, this is no longer a left-wing argument. As the GOP candidates have themselves confirmed, this argument reflects concerns about Wall Street excess and lack of accountability that are thoroughly mainstream, and you’ll be seeing plenty of footage of these Republicans making it in battleground states this fall.

Indeed you will. But wait: Couldn’t the same be said of Romney’s early attacks on Perry for criticizing Social Security? That also played into the left’s hands by giving them bipartisan cover on a major ideological flash point. And that wasn’t a case of Romney attacking a marginal candidate either; had Perry been smoother at the debates he could have been the nominee and Mitt surely knew it when he dropped that entitlement bomb on him. Like I said yesterday, I think part of the reason Newt and Perry are getting grief now is because they waited so long to toss this grenade. If you’re going to do it, do it early before the field is settled. Doing it now, when Romney’s odds of winning the nomination have become nearly prohibitive, smacks of vindictiveness and desperation. (I didn’t hear Rush’s show this afternoon but Benson claims he made the same point.) The other difference is that entitlement reform has faded a bit as an issue over the past six months. It’s still vital and will remain vital, but after the Ryan budget passed, it looked like it might be the Democrats’ main weapon in trying to distract voters this year from unemployment and the economy. That seems less likely now: After the OWS hype and Obama’s embrace of gimmicks like the “Buffett rule” and the millionaire surtax, a crude class-warfare campaign against the predatory “one percent” seems more likely. (Ryan’s stepped away from his budget too and joined forces with Ron Wyden.) Newt and Perry are playing directly into that, as Sargent notes. Hence the anguish from some on the right.

For a thoughtful argument on why attacks on Romney’s Bain tenure should be fair game, read Jonathan Last at the Standard. The chief problem with the Newt/Perry attacks isn’t that they object to the practice of acquiring a troubled company with an eye to liquidating it — although we can, and will, have that “creative destruction” debate in cases where it happens — but that the demagoguery about “looting” implies that that’s all private equity firms do. Not so, as Last acknowledges. Sometimes they provide venture capital to grow a fledgling company, sometimes they take over with an eye to turning a struggling company around. To ignore that for some halfwit “vultures” talking point is to endorse the left’s caricature of financiers as Gekko-esque bloodsuckers. Didn’t think we’d have to worry about that in a Republican primary. Click the image to watch.

Update: Ron Paul to the rescue?

“I think they’re wrong. I think they’re totally misunderstanding the way the market works,” Paul told me. “They are either just demogoging or they don’t have the vaguest idea how the market works.”…

” I think they’re way overboard on saying that he wants to fire people, he doesn’t care, Paul said. “You save companies, you save jobs when you reorganize companies that are going to go bankrupt. And they don’t understand that.”

Compare and contrast: Team Gingrich’s rhetoric on “predatory” companies with that of … Britain’s Labour Party.

Update: Ramesh Ponnuru sarcastically echoes Rush’s point about who Gingrich sounds like.