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.

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

    His record at Bain is fair, but for the Obama campaign to put out a falsified version of his time at Bain is not.

    May 21, 2012 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  2. A not-so-stupid former republican

    Romney was a corporate raider who broke up companys and pick their bones to generate profits for his company. He also cost the American taxpayers by shifting pension benefits of the companies he bankrupted to the American taxpayers. Romney is an elite vulture capitalist through and through. NOT a good trait in a presidential candidate!

    May 21, 2012 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  3. nurseteacher

    DT- You think Obama is very intelligent but would not vote for him? You liked what he did before the House? You are sure making weird statements.

    May 21, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  4. paula

    "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,"

    which is exactly why 99% of this country should NOT vote for Mitt Romney!!!

    May 21, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  5. sks

    It's fair game because Romney is running on a JOBS platform. Question is, why are some people, including Anderson Cooper during this evening's (monday) AC360 show suggest no one should be talking about Bain? Let's keep them honest, using Anderson Cooper's own words.

    May 21, 2012 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  6. Melvin Painter

    So did Bain fail or succeed?

    May 21, 2012 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  7. mark

    The professional history of either man is surely fair game; even without taking sides, if the GOP can attack him for being a community organizer than it stands to reason that Mitt does not get a free pass. Isn't that the whole idea, two men want one job – Americans look at their experience and record and make a decision.

    May 21, 2012 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  8. Independent Mind

    Society is like cake. You have the lower and middle class, which can be thought of as the cake layers. Then you have the upper class, which is kind of like the frosting. Without the middle class, the frosting has no support, no purpose, nothing to fuel its great wealth. In comes Romney, who is all about the frosting. And Obama, who is all about the cake. You do the math!.

    May 21, 2012 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  9. popseal

    Any enterprise that produces honest profits for stock holders, jobs or private advancement for risk takers is a sin to Obama and his Marxist friends.

    May 21, 2012 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  10. Andy

    Wow....I'd take Romney's experience at Bain over Obama's that has a whopping 88 million unemployed and a record number of people on food stamps. And you crazy liberals think this is a win for you guys? Laughable.

    May 21, 2012 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  11. BHPT

    Very amusing watching Newt Gingrich on Piers Morgan desperately trying to spin his criticism of Romney and Bain Capital not that he's supporting Romney. "Socialism" vs. "Free Enterprise." No comment on how "socialist" Canada's economy is growing twice as fast as ours –

    May 21, 2012 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  12. Loop

    Hey Women in California.. two sides to every coin. I had a good paying job and am now unemployed and unable to find a job because nobody wants to hire for fear nobody knows what Obama will villify next. I'm happy for you, but Obama's regulations have hurt businesses across this great country and that is who creates jobs.

    May 21, 2012 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  13. Jeb

    Of course it's fair game. Why wouldn't it be? Romney fired thousands of people and shipped their jobs overseas.

    May 21, 2012 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  14. DDanny1

    Imagine a board meeting at a Bain acquired company. They announce profits have increased 30% in the past year. What is Mitts response?
    1. Bring back some who have been laid off?
    2. Increase wages and benefits for the employees who's hard work provided the increase?
    3. Split the increase between Bain and the companies investors?
    Now try to figure out if a similar scenario was presented to Romney who is not the Bain CEO, But POTUS. And the "company" is now the country, you can probably figure out who the "laid off" are. And who the "employees" are. But who would the "investors" be?

    May 21, 2012 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  15. myk_H

    Recently, the Romney camp was touting 70 0/0 success for Bain. Now they claim 80 0/0. So whomever wants 20 0/0 unemployment, vote Romney. Losing argument.

    May 21, 2012 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  16. BeverlyNC

    Once again desperate Republicans lie because that is all they can do. Corey Booker was speaking up against negative campaigning on both sides and saying the ads should be on issues. Republicans immediately cut off half of what Booker said and made it into an attack ad on President Obama. So typical of the hate monger and liars they are.

    Bain is fair game since it is the only thing Romney uses as his qualification for President. Venture capitalists go after companies, buying them, evaluating them and then deciding whether to sell off their assets or run the business. Most times companies like Bain sell off the company assets, raid the employee funds and bankrupt and close the business. All this profit goes to Bain and their investors and the employees and the communities are destroyed.

    That is not a qualiification for the Office of the President. What will Romney do – sell off America's assets and give the profits to corporations, bankrupt the middle class fully, and then walk away? Romney is no leader, has no solutions, does not even understand the issues, and is a daily liar about President Obama and his record of success and accomplishments for We the People.

    Enough Republicans! Vote them all out from every local, state, and national office so we can bring sanity, honesty, dignity, intelligence, and real service to the People back to Congress. Republicans need to go find a soul and some humanity before they show up again.

    I stand with my President who is a true leader and advocate for ALL Americans.

    May 21, 2012 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  17. Jim in PA

    LOL-ing at the GOP panic. After 4 years of calling the President a Kenyan Marxist traitor, Rethugs have gone all soft and dainty on us now that their candidate is on the receiving end of criticism. Quick! Someone get them a fainting couch!

    May 21, 2012 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  18. HenryMiller

    If Romney's record is "fair game," and it is, Obama's record is equally in play. And Obama's record of one economic or political screw-up after another makes Romney's record look absolutely stellar.

    May 21, 2012 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  19. Darryl

    The President said it exactly right. Mr. Romney won't make the POTUS and Ive said it all along.Not only does he just not have what it takes but the people of this country will not take the chance of balling back into the horrific depression we're just climbing out of.People lost everything and lost lifes too.This will never happen again if President Obama stays right where he belongs. All the things he has put in place to protect us and see to it we all have afforadable health care will kick in and it will be for the good of all americans.Thats who we have as a POTUS, Comander & Chief.Thats who will be re-elected in November. And that I know.!

    May 21, 2012 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  20. Jim in PA

    Mitt Romney's strongest selling point is his executive experience.... that you aren't allowed to talk about. Hahahaha!

    May 21, 2012 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  21. James

    This statement is so hypocritical of Obama,' "Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot," the president said'. His been saying for his entire term how just the middle class deserve better, not anyone else.

    May 21, 2012 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  22. Libs are dumb

    Franklin SD they have a new tool out called research you should look into it. True some jobs were created in the private sector. However real unemployment has reach an allt time high of over 17%. The private sector has also shed more jobs than created. Game set match? How about checkmate. I WIN!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 21, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  23. RudyG

    Of course it has to be Bain, Bain, Bain. They have to talk up anything that'll take the focus off the poor jobs growth. Bain, Bain, Bain. Bain, Bain.......
    Anything but jobs, jobs, jobs.......
    The slowest recovery from a recession in history.......Bain, Bain, Bain........

    May 21, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  24. Former Republican, now an Independent

    Obama is right. Romney would love for his record with Bain to be declared off limits. In my opinion, Romney wasn't just a corporate CEO, he was a ruthless corporate raider overseeing a vulture capital company.

    May 21, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  25. NOvember 2012

    go for it will not end well have everything else you have done.

    May 21, 2012 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
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