May 21st, 2012
05:29 PM ET
2 years ago

Obama: Romney's Bain record is fair game

(CNN) – President Barack Obama took Mitt Romney to task on Monday, arguing the likely GOP presidential nominee's history as a corporate CEO does anything but qualify him for the Oval Office.

"When you're president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot," the president said during a press conference at the NATO summit in Chicago.

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Obama's stinging comments marked the boiling point in a weeklong back-and-forth between the two camps over the actions of Romney's former equity firm, Bain Capital.

Team Obama has aggressively zeroed in on Bain, hammering Romney as a greedy businessman and releasing videos that feature laid-off workers at companies bought by his former company. Their attacks echo previous criticism of Romney's corporate experience raised by some of his opponents during the Republican primary.

The negative campaigning escalated to a point in which some called for the attacks to stop. Obama supporter and Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker made headlines Sunday morning when he argued Bain should be off limits, though he quickly changed his tune later that afternoon, saying Romney's private sector experience was fair game, after all.

Asked about Booker's comments on Monday, Obama said Romney's private equity experience should be up for debate, arguing the candidate uses his private sector tenure as his "main calling card" on the campaign trail.

"If your main argument for how to grow the economy is 'I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,' then you're missing what this job is about," Obama said.

Careful not to fuel Republican backlash, Obama said maximizing profits is a "healthy part of the free market," but argued a president's role is different from that of a CEO.

"My job is to take into account everybody, not just some," the president said.

While Romney's team frequently chalks up the Bain attacks to an attempt by the Obama campaign to distract from other issues, the president insisted Monday the Bain question is here to stay.

"This is not a distraction," he said. "This is what this campaign is going to be about, is what is a strategy for us to move this country forward in a way where everybody can succeed."

Romney has repeatedly beat back efforts to sour his record over Bain. Romney has repeatedly beat back efforts to sour his record over Bain. On Monday, he responded to the president's comments, saying in a statement that Obama was continuing "his attacks on the free enterprise system."

"President Obama refuses to accept moral responsibility for his failed policies. My campaign is offering a positive agenda to help America get back to work," he said.

Bain also responded on Monday, releasing a statement decrying the recent ads and touting the firm's successes.

"Despite political attacks that emphasize the few companies that have struggled, the facts are that during Bain Capital's ownership, revenues grew in 80 percent of the more than 350 companies in which we have invested," the statement read.

The Obama campaign, meanwhile, said it's message will remain "Bain, Bain, Bain," an Obama campaign aide told CNN Monday.

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Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • NATO • President Obama
soundoff (120 Responses)
  1. COguy

    Many of the things Bain Capital does are unethical but are done for efficiency (profit) of Bain – this is not surprising when mere hundreds of people combine in a firm worth over 60 Billion dollars.

    May 21, 2012 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  2. kevgood

    Nearly half of the Ma and Pa operations Bain took over through leveraged buyouts during Romney's time at Bain lost money or went bankrupt.

    May 21, 2012 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  3. mlr

    Jeffrey Zients was hired by obama to run the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). He is an even more recent Bain executive Alum than Romney... So – what does that say about Obama if he doesn't like Bain's way of doing things? hmmm?????? Maybe that is why even more jobs – and direct money is going overseas with Obama in office???

    May 21, 2012 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  4. Charlie in Maine

    And we shall make it the "bane" of Romney's existence. Reap what you sow pal.

    May 21, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  5. steve

    So what's Obama's experience to be president? He was a community organizer and a senator who voted absent most of the time.

    May 21, 2012 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  6. Al

    Lets see, a guy who was raised by communists, and who's credentials include an illustrious career...as a community organizer. Or, a guy who has run a multi-billion dollar hedge fund, and ya know...wasn't raised by communists, didn't sit in a racist church for 20 years, didn't preside over the loss of millions of jobs, 5 trillion dollars in new debt, and...well I'll just stop there.

    May 21, 2012 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  7. TM

    As long as Willard points to his time at Bain as an example of his qualification to be President, we have both the right and the responsibility to examine that experience. Both the good and the bad.

    May 21, 2012 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  8. Tanker-A

    I'm starting to come around to the right wingers way of thinking.

    Maybe the country should be run like a business, liquidate the deadbeat red states and sell off their assets.

    May 21, 2012 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  9. Neeni

    All your negative comments about Mitt Romney fall only DEAF EARS. ;enough is enough with this didastrous economy , no jobs, ppl are not working for 3 years and the economy is WOIRSE. Rmney 2012 for a better AMERICA.

    May 21, 2012 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  10. J-DIGGA

    save the drama vote obama!!

    May 21, 2012 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  11. Corey

    So, I guess that Barry Bumbles' record on Solyndra and the rest of this dismal economy is just as much in play too, right?

    May 21, 2012 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  12. AgrippaMT

    Bravo, Obama. Romney is precisely what the repugs and tea baggers what to replace you. America does not need a corporate raider and theif to govern us.

    May 22, 2012 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  13. Common Sense

    Obama fair shot fair share! only works for the far left!! they own the media now they head our schools, soon they will head the military and before you know they have turned America the Great to a Godless Nation!!

    May 22, 2012 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  14. 0RacKL

    Obama's dead right. I'm sick of this Republican idea that being the president of a country is like being the CEO of a company. There's no point listing the differences when they should be obvious. The country isn't a company and I wouldn't want it treated like one.

    May 22, 2012 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  15. McCain-in-4

    Bain cannot remain a closed book if Mitt Romney spent time and sweat deciding how best to guide businesses into profitability. Did Bain ship machines and Intellectual Property to China? Did Mr Romney personally sanction that the few (American) businesses suffer or die so that the other (China) may survive? How can Mr Romney prove he is not "The Manchurian Candidate"? Completely opening the books of Bain Capital would seem to be the best way, unless there is something ugly to hide...

    May 22, 2012 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  16. King

    What is left to be used if mitten keep hiding from his fismal public record. I often talkbabout obama taking ln the rich and powerful, inthe defense of regular.folks, we are see how powerful money can be, as the rich is paying off his own s turning against him, youll never see this in yhe repub party, this why they are.dangerous, because even if they are wrong as hell, no one break ranks for the other side.

    May 22, 2012 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  17. mattski

    Of course it's fair game. Romney wants to talk about his vast business experience, so let's talk about it.

    May 22, 2012 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  18. Dave

    Darn right Bain is fair game. Romney claims that he is a "job-creator," but Bain wasn't about creating jobs. It was about lining the pockets of investors and Romney needs to be called on it. Considering that Romney has run an absolutley negative and filthy campaign, I have to laugh when he has an issue with this. He's just a typical Republican – he can dish it out, but he can't take it.

    May 22, 2012 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  19. Johnson

    The Romney mantra has always been: downsize; outsource and declare bankruptcy. Makes lots of money for his Cayman; Swiss; Luxemburg; German; Irish and Australian bank accounts.

    May 22, 2012 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    the facts are that during Bain Capital's ownership, revenues grew in 80 percent of the more than 350 companies in which we have invested," the statement read.
    -------------------------------------------------
    How was that achieved, is the question.
    Outsourcing anyone?
    Obama 2012. Seriously America.

    May 22, 2012 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  21. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    President Obama, once again, is right: leading a country is not a business venture to earn money.

    May 22, 2012 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  22. uzalex

    Stand your ground Mr. President, stand your ground. Just imagine if Karl Rove had this issue to run on against Obama. POTUS just took a page out of the repubs negative ad machine. Good for you! How is Mr. Romney going to make the economy better – fire everybody? Running a country is differnt from running a buisness.

    May 22, 2012 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  23. uzalex

    and BTW, Obama just in a few sentence made his case. None of his surrogate, none has been able to give such a precise answer, none. He gave such an excellent answer and I just do not see how anyone can argue with that. Booker and Co. can wait their time, for now Bain is fair game.

    May 22, 2012 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  24. J

    If Bain is fair game then someone needs to seriously go back and look into the Presidents relationships with Bill Ayers and Reverend Wright. I'm tired of people giving a pass on this stuff. Don't say it doesn't matter because just a few years ago we knew nothing about Obama so it does matter. I want to know where he is coming from and I don't want to hear about it from bs autobiography he wrote. I'm also tired of hearing that somehow his main job as President is to just give people a fair shot. If that's your only focus then he's going to run America into the ground and have people so dependent on government for everything that it's not even funny.

    May 22, 2012 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  25. tailgator

    The venture capitalist for Bain who pulled the plug on that steel company currently works for OBAMA and his re-election committee. Here's some advice for you left wingers. Before you dring the poison you're being fed, read the label first.

    May 22, 2012 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
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