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:

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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. Bushper

    Stop the bogus Bain claim Mr Romney before it sinks you. Just tell the American people that Bain Capital only creates wealth for investors NOT JOBS. Anything less makes you a liar. Ok.

    May 21, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  2. Mike in Des Moines

    There is no one more qualified to understand what it means to not be qualified for the presidency than our current president. He's proven he's unqualified over and over again, so I guess he has a pretty good idea about it.

    May 21, 2012 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  3. Scott IL

    Great. Rev.Wrights fair game, Bill Ayers is fair game, His college transcripts are faiir game, His drug use is fair game, Solyndra , healthcare, fast and furious, Lobbyists,transparency, stimulis, and on and on

    May 21, 2012 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  4. tstorm92

    Absolutely Bain is in "play". I support the president 100% on this issue. How Romney raped and pillaged companies, laid off employees, and sent jobs overseas is exactly how he would handle our economy. No thanks!!

    May 21, 2012 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  5. aalisa31

    Romney's record on Bain is fair game... I am sure there were so good and so bad.... but if you have the mentality of just making money... those decisions come with a price.... what do you let fold in order to see profits? Remember Romney said let the auto industry go bankrupt... he said that because that is what he is used to.... he is not someone who can think beyond profits.... and thats scarey.... no matter how you look at it!

    May 21, 2012 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  6. Josh

    Wouldn't it be great if the Obama campaign weren't so obvious when it came time to unleash its minions on comment boards??? 83% of the posts so far are straight off of campaign talking points.

    May 21, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  7. tigerakabj

    Bring it Mr. President. Keep this up, and by late-July the GOP will be looking seriously for another person to run.

    What Romney did at Bain Capital was nothing less than middle/working class extortion and racketeering that this country has no use for. He's out there talking a good game about "I understand the economy/free enterprise" and how "I can fix this." Well, his type of record indicates that the type of system he wishes to augment is the anything-goes, take-what-you-can-get-however-you-can-get-it economy that nearly brought down this country in 2008. It is those same awful values that is reflected in the Paul Ryan budget, that Romney supports and calls "marvelous."

    It's time for the Democrats to get on the bandwagon and speak truth to power relentlessly 24/7 about this. President Obama is certainly clear on this. They need to back him up as well as quiet the likes of Cory Booker who go out there and speak before they think. Romney needs to be down by at least 15 nationally by the time Septembe gets here. W/o his so-called "business experience, he's got nothing.

    Obama/Biden/E.Warren 2012

    May 21, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  8. Stephen in VA

    Romney = profit over people. Obama = twenty straight months of improved economy in spite of Republican obstructionism. It's really a silly question.

    May 21, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  9. KM

    For that matter, a failed health care reform package that you had to vote for to "see what was in it" is also fair game. When you don't have a record to run on, attack, attack, attack. Success breed success, so does failure.

    May 21, 2012 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  10. Eddie

    Obama cannot run on his own record again, so he deflects and tries to define Romney. Obama just stepped in it, because if its going to be about records. Then Obama does not have much to show except increasing national debt, solyndra, high unemployment, need i say more?

    May 21, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  11. gabe

    Seriously?!?! I borrow my entire year's income to spend in a couple years (say upgrade my house) and then claim that I have turned around my economy?!? How come it takes a businessman to understand this is obsurd. Romney has turned around and stimulated economic growth (through Olympics and Bain) . Romney did this responsibly because he knew he would be accountable. This president took out a larger loan than all of the presidents combined (in just three years!!!) and placed it on the backs of our children. Time to make him accountable and kick him out.

    May 21, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |

    Loving these comments! ~Pres. Obama really answered that question concerning Bain at the NATO news conference, SUPERBLY!! I was very proud of our President! ...Go get 'em, #45!!!

    May 21, 2012 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  13. sqeptiq

    Romney wants to talk about what great work he did as a businessman but doesn't want Obama to talk about his business. Can't have it both ways.

    May 21, 2012 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  14. ERO

    He's right but on the flip side of the coin his job isn't to run us into the ground either. Its a balance we have to move forward and make the world a better place but we also need to be able to pay for it.

    May 21, 2012 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  15. Why Ignore

    The Presidents job is to make sure everyone gets a fair shake? It is his job to enforce the laws already in existance for certain. But I am confused what part of executive power says he is supposed to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. I thought that was what congress was for. If he is refering to his minor responsibility of legislative facilitator, that would be the same catagory as the president's role in suggesting changes to federal spending. I think Obama tries to play to hard with peoples emotions and deals too infrequently with actual facts.

    May 21, 2012 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  16. T'sah from Virginia

    ►Obama: Romney's Bain record is fair game◄
    And if it is not we'll always have 47th in job creation – His governor fame!
    Let us NOT forget who started it – the Bach – the Satantorum and the Grinch
    PerryWinkle also put his 2 cents in – They are the ones who should be LYNCHED!!

    It's fair game.............PERIOD.............Because for the last year when R-Money practically had the floor to himself, all we heard from him s how much he is a JOB CREATOR!!!

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!

    May 21, 2012 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  17. jimranes

    Someone should ask Romney about the source of the funds he has hidden away in the Cayman Islands. $21 million and a 13.9% tax rate is Romney's idea of "fair" for the very rich. The rest of the peons can pay 25%+ when he is the POTUS! He's a wierdo who believes God wants HIM to be President. It must be the majic pants.

    May 21, 2012 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  18. Grow up already...

    "Cause the last "businessman" who held the Presidency did SUCH a great job (NOT!)

    May 21, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  19. CBR

    Mr Romney continues to talk about all the wonderful things he accomplished while working and heading up Bain. So long as he does then the President has the right to react to his statements. People have lost their jobs during the restructuring process and have been unemployed for long periods of time. State governments have been taking up the slack by offering the people assistance by state workers who are pros at helping those who lose their jobs.

    We don't hear that much anymore in Maine. This is not the way Republicans do things.

    May 21, 2012 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  20. getoverit

    Where do you live where the economy is improving? I want to move there.

    May 21, 2012 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  21. Daveinil

    Obama's "everybody in the country has a fair shot" is code for "I'm going to protect my union supporters like I did with GM and Chrysler as well as my big contributors like I did with Solyndra even if it bankrupts the country".

    May 21, 2012 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  22. t3chn0ph0b3

    Romney 2012! He's the greatest creator of overseas jobs in this election!

    May 21, 2012 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  23. Larry L

    Republicans expect Democrats to sit and wait to get "swift-boated" by Karl Rove and his fat-cat backers. Those days are over. Game-on!

    May 21, 2012 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  24. Evan

    Maximize benefits at any cost, that was Romney's job.He was not a job creator or the poster boy of free enterprise, he was the guy that make sure that people like the Facebook dude that just quit being an American so he didn't have to pay taxes got the most for their money

    May 21, 2012 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  25. JFC

    Obama seems like a pretty smart dude.

    May 21, 2012 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
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