May 31st, 2012
10:30 PM ET
11 years ago

Bill Clinton, predicting Obama win, calls Romney's business career 'sterling'

(CNN) – Former President Bill Clinton, a stalwart backer of President Barack Obama who's already helped the incumbent Democrat raise funds for his re-election bid, said Thursday that Mitt Romney had a "sterling business career" as chief executive of Bain Capital.

That record, while qualifying him to be president, won't necessarily help him win, Clinton said in an interview on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight.'

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"I don't think that we ought to get into the position where we say 'This is bad work. This is good work,'" Clinton said of the private equity industry. Democrats have been hammering Romney for his role at Bain Capital for weeks, painting the GOP presidential candidate as a corporate raider. In justifying their attacks, Democrats point out Romney uses his Bain record as evidence of creating jobs.

On Thursday, Clinton said Romney's record at Bain was less important than his ideas for the country.

"I think the real issue ought to be, what has Governor Romney advocated in the campaign that he will do as president?" Clinton said. "What has President Obama done and what does he propose to do? How do these things stack up against each other?"

Clinton said there was no question Romney was capable of performing the "essential functions of the office."

"The man who has been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold," Clinton said.

Unlike some fellow Democrats, Clinton acknowledged Romney's time at Bain Capital formed a "good business career." He also acknowledged that the nature of private equity meant some companies inevitably fail.

"There is a lot of controversy about that," Clinton told guest host Harvey Weinstein, who has raised millions of dollars for Obama's campaign. "But if you go in and you try to save a failing company, and you and I have friends here who invest in companies, you can invest in a company, run up the debt, loot it, sell all the assets, and force all the people to lose their retirement and fire them."

The former president continued, "Or you can go into a company, have cutbacks, try to make it more productive with the purpose of saving it. And when you try, like anything else you try, you don't always succeed."

While Clinton is not the first Democrat to defend Bain amid political attacks, he is the highest profile. In May Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker said he didn't want to "indict private equity," saying attacks on Romney's tenure didn't take into account the successes the company had. And on Thursday, current Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick called Bain "a perfectly fine company."

Clinton said November's general election, while close, would ultimately tilt for the Democratic incumbent.

"I still think the president will win by five or six points. I've always thought so," Clinton said, noting current economic conditions were driving down support for Obama in current polls.

"Still people feel uncertain," he said. "You know, when you've got a lot of people getting up in the morning, looking in the mirror, starting the day thinking 'They have failed,' that's a problem. And I think those of us who support the president have to get out there and explain what he did in rescuing the automobile industry, what he did in raising the mileage standards and the way they created 150,000 jobs."

If Obama's supporters can get that message out, Clinton said, "I think he will be just fine. And I think he will be re-elected."

Also see:

Obama campaign launches assault on Romney's Massachusetts record

Obama campaign releases third set of Spanish ads

Gonzales says Romney must make personal connection to Hispanics

Wisconsin guv up in third straight poll

Filed under: 2012 • Bill Clinton • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (111 Responses)
  1. NCP

    Who's better quslified to be Pres – an accomplished executive or a community organizer who's attempt at being an accomplished exec brought us more debt when he promised to reduce it, fewer people employed than when he took office, "investments" in failed companies that gave taxpayer money to his bundlers and cronies, and blaming everyone else for his failures. Shame on him for fooling us once with the Hope and Change hype. If he fools us again, shame on us.

    June 1, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. the Situation

    When the jobs numbers go up, guess who are the 1st to talk negative. The Repubs! They seem almost like they want the job numbers to tank so that they can win, because they know that is the only way they can win this election. Romney is weak and is a twit. "I'm going to send my supporters to heckle a Obama rally!" This guy is a child. Then again, Ann Romney herself said there was six boys she had to raise; Her 5 sons and this clown.

    Deputy Bohner is a bumble fool too. The GOP Congress has done nothing. Have not pass not one meaningful bill that will help the Mid class, beside trying to repell healthcare. Everyone know they don't care for the working poor and middle class. They only care about their rich friend and special interest groups and lobbiest to line their pockets with more cash.

    What's more funny, the job numbers are not good, any challenger should be up big and Romney is still trailing in key battleground states, were unemployment is under the national high. You would think he would be able to be winning by at least 5 to 6 points right now nationally but is deadlock with the president with the slight led. Romney is just not electable. Face Facts Repubs!

    June 1, 2012 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Clinton gave all the praise to Romney about he's qualified to be president because of his success at bain and as governor but when it came between the Obama he only gave advice on what Obama should be doing. These are things he should have said to the Obama team in private. He is not rooting for Obama!

    June 1, 2012 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  4. Intellectualy Honest GOPer

    I heard this interview live. I thought President Clinton was being honest.....that Romney was a superior businessman, but that the issue was what policies he would put in place at President.

    BUT......Clinton did basically say Romney's business career was "sterling"....I thought he said "stellar."

    June 1, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    I love the way Clinton compliments mitt and then reminds us "BUT if you go in and you try to save a failing company, and you and your friends at Bain invest in that company... run up the debt, loot it, sell all the assets, and force all the people to lose their retirement and fire them." Funny how Mitt doesnt tout Bain anymore now that the we all know what a bully he was at college and in business.

    June 1, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  6. FLIndpendent

    I'm a bit disappointed in President Clinton's remarks and not supporting President Obama on this. As an Independent I understand why Romney's Bain experience is being brought to light because that is what Mitt has bee running on. He may know "business" but that doesn't make for a good President. We had that with Bush II..he had an MBA and look where that got us. I want a well-rounded President that represents this country well and has diplomatic skills as that is most needed in today's world. Can't see Romney being that person and want to give Obama 4 more to keep moving this country foward!

    June 1, 2012 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  7. WKT

    Clinton just threw Obama under the bus. He knows Obama is a disaster and Hillary would have been a far superior president.

    June 1, 2012 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  8. jj

    I have trouble thinking Mitt will create jobs. According to his policies, there would be an additional hundreds of thousands of people involved in the auto industry out of work right now...whereas it or not...saved those jobs. This isn't just car's parts...service....sales...

    June 1, 2012 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  9. Gurgyl

    Folks, listen, just vote straight democratic ticket and Obama. Mitt will sell this nation to CHINA, all knew. Count how many mittens supporters, Meager, Negligible, scant in number. I say yes, on OBAMA12.

    June 1, 2012 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  10. PeterD

    An American Experiment of Electing First Black President has Failed Miserably. America Needs New Ideas and New Solutions rather than Failed Experiment.

    June 1, 2012 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  11. gregor1971

    Those close to Clinton will tell you that he doesn't really like Obama and doesn't think he has been a good president. He is towing the company line, but he also has a ton of respect for what Romney accomplished as a republican governor in a highly democratic state. After all, Clinton was a democratic governor in a highly republican state. Note that Clinton suggested that voters compare economic records, and that is in direct contradiction to the Obama campaign. Obama's campaign has been focused on gay marriage and Julia while Romney's campaign has been focused on jobs, spending and the economy.

    June 1, 2012 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
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