May 21st, 2012
05:29 PM ET
10 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.

Also see:

Political jabs are 'nauseating,' mayor says

Gingrich is millions in the hole

Boehner and Pelosi say they feel good heading into November

Axelrod: Fund-raising pitch cited Wright threat to combat super PACs

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

    Darn right it is fair. That clown Romney wants to run on his experience as a businessman, then we will here all about it. And it is a win win issue for the Obama camp.

    May 21, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  2. cali girl

    Yes it is, the proof is there. Toys R Us, a Bain problem. Many, many Many stores closed. That was the Bain decision.

    May 21, 2012 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  3. DT

    I felt bad for the reporter who asked the question. I would never vote for Obama but he's clearly one of the most intelligent politicians. His response reminded me of when he went in front of House Republicans a year or so ago for a Q&A session that looked like a teacher putting the whole classroom in their place

    May 21, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  4. Woman In California

    The bottom line is this: IF you want to work 2-3 part time jobs without medical benefits Willard is your man. On the other hand, IF you want a good paying "position" with FULL benefits (which I have now and not just a "job") stick with the president – as he has shown time and time again he wants EVERYONE to succeed and not just the top 1%. Think about that when you cast your vote in November. CEO or CIC?

    Obama ALL the way.

    May 21, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  5. v_mag

    The President's comment is on-target. For far too long, people have accepted the bogus notion that being a successful businessman qualifies one for the presidency. That is patently wrong. The goal of the businessman is to maximize profits, and to that end, he will push right up to, and often past, the letter of the law. He will do his best to influence law-making to make it easier to maximize profits.

    A president's job should be almost the opposite. It is to ensure that everybody has a chance to get ahead, or at least provide for his family. The businessman cares nothing at all for the individual, except in regard to gaining all the wealth possessed by that individual. In fact, a businessman is about the worst qualification (with the possible exception of a career criminal) for the office of the presidency.

    Romney = Bush.

    May 21, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  6. FrankinSD

    Romney has already shipped American jobs overseas. That is demonstrable fact. And Obama has already presided over an employment turnaround that has led to twenty consecutive months of private sector job growth. Game, set, match.

    May 21, 2012 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  7. gg

    other president allways had the plant down the street to fire up, now there parking lots thanks to bush.creating jobs from basement up takes time,,bains,ecomomics–will only work for the chosen few

    May 21, 2012 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  8. reaper081087

    Obama's right! Buisiness and politics are NOT the same thing. Just because Mittens has experience as CEO of Bains doesn't mean he will make a good President. Perhaps his experience and Governor might. BUT...I do not Mittens' political ideologies! In fact, as a Liberal, I do not likeconservative Republican values. I would much rather stick with Obama and vote for him ANY DAY!!!

    May 21, 2012 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  9. keeth

    If Obama's past before 2009 is fair game, so is Romney's past.

    May 21, 2012 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  10. Mark

    Wonder what Jonathan Lavine thinks about all this?

    May 21, 2012 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  11. KeepItReal

    You're Right Mr. President! Obama-Biden 2012

    May 21, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  12. Bushper

    Mitt Romney's job creation record as governor was abysmal, his state ranked 47th in the nation. This is a record only Mitt Romney could be proud of.

    May 21, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  13. ddt

    The President is not after Bain the company, if anything he is asking Ramney's experience as a job creator. The goal of Bain is not to make money and that is why Ramney is rich. As simple as that. After watching the vidio looking at those people it was clear to me and felt their pain

    May 21, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  14. arale norimaki

    How can Politician complain about obama health care when taxpayers are paying for there family socialized medicine?

    May 21, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  15. Four and The Door

    The Obama campaign, meanwhile, said it's message will remain "Bain, Bain, Bain," an Obama campaign aide told CNN Monday.
    Good! For Mitt Romney & the Republican Party. Bain Capital is a hard working successful American company helping a variety of companies recover. Big plus for Mitt Romney. I am proud of the good work Bain does for companies, their management, employees and communities. All benefit when a company survives.

    Romney 2012

    May 21, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  16. Andy

    Why would anyone vote on Romney Economics, which was the same as Bush II. 8 yrs of trying trickle down economics does not work and it showed itself. Romney has nothing new to offer except failed old policies. Build the middle class and you will have a stable economy. Why is that so difficult for tea partiers/ conservative right wingers to understand. You never build a house top down, always bottom up.

    May 21, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  17. Ryan MC

    Voted for Obama in the last election (my first eligible year to vote) and I will not be voting for him again. I'm not a fan of his policies. TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT for me. And Romney will not get my vote either, he seems fraudulent to me. I am going to vote for a third party candidate if there is one or I will just write in Ron Paul. Down with the two party dictatorship, vote out democrats and republicans.

    May 21, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  18. Rick

    Let's review. Bain was a venture capitol company that expanded several businesses while Romney was there. 2 years after Romney left they closed down a company that couldn't make it on their own without a bail out. A leading figure that was with Bain when it closed down the steel company is now a major funds handler for Obama's campaign. Obama chooses to make a campaign statement in front of world leaders when he should be addressing important and relevant issues as the leader of the free world. Correct me if I've missed anything here, I'm trying to see a logic flow here and I'm just not getting it

    May 21, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  19. Randy, San Francisco

    Romney is the poster boy for the greed and excesses of Wall Street. No surprse that Wall Street money is flowing into his super PACs.

    May 21, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  20. ProtectAmericanJobs

    The bottom line is that “Our Government” has to protect American industry and the jobs that those industries provide. If they do that, the rest will take care of itself.

    May 21, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  21. arale norimaki

    Welcome to Washington, D.C., where the buck stops here! And then it's handed out to AIG and many others.

    May 21, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  22. Four and The Door

    cali girl
    Yes it is, the proof is there. Toys R Us, a Bain problem. Many, many Many stores closed. That was the Bain decision.
    It worked. Better to have a company with 250 stores survive than a company with 500 stores go bankrupt. And if you recall Cali girl, this all happened when a huge change came to retail. The Internet. So any brick and mortar company surviving such a change like that is a success story.

    May 21, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  23. Bluecrab

    Good for him. Tell like it is!

    May 21, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  24. Liz the First

    If Romney is going to tout his experience with Bain as a reason to elect him, then that experience is fair game. Experience in business, even if a lot more stellar than Romney's, doesn't translate into ability to function in government. it's like someone walking into a hospital and asking for surgical priveleges because you're a good salesman. Obama has had a lot of success even if the repug mantra is 'he's a failure.' that's wishful thinking on their part. we know better! just ask oSama!

    May 21, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  25. Sheldon Blubaugh

    And please,tell me how it is a companies fault for laying off jobs when they are not creating enough revenue to sustain them at that rate. Tell me how it is a companies job to give you a job. Working a successful job is not a right but earned through beating out others. Oh and tell me how Obama had any better record going in for the job. Would you rather a company lay off 3,000 people or completely shut down and get rid of 15,000. Open your eyes

    May 21, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
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