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. DENNA

    Firing people to make a profit might have worked well for Mitt, but what about the devistated family touched by job loss?

    May 31, 2012 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  2. Chipster

    President Obama has achieved a lot and kept many promises but there is so much false and misleading information being spread that it's difficult to combat it. When I read the letters to the editor in the local newspaper, I notice a number of false statements by Limbaugh and Beck that are repeated word for word. Their followers don't even want to hear facts and evidence. Their minds are closed. They talk about Sandra Fluke's testimony and it's quite clear that they never heard or read a word she said – they just repeat the fabricated story that Limbaugh gave them. It's just shocking how willfully ignorant they are. How can we reach these people? They are being sold a truck load of lies!

    May 31, 2012 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  3. Alexalex

    No more sterling than his marital track record

    May 31, 2012 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  4. normajean @ verizon ,com

    'STERLING'??? To quote Mr. Romney on a recent interview...."Those aren't the words I would have used"!!!!

    May 31, 2012 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  5. Tyler Durden

    Now Billy's going Rogue! We need an Enforcer in this Pary!!

    May 31, 2012 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  6. AqChicago

    I hope some of President Obama's campaign planners are taking heed to what Clinton is saying....there is lot of truth in what Clinton is advising them on. Obama can easily win by focusing on what he has currently done on the jobs and the economy, but looks like they are not have this clear message and are currently muddying the message to the independents...

    May 31, 2012 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  7. Deb in MT

    " 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."

    And thus former President Bill Clinton has perfectly and clearly described Mitten's business expertise in less than 30 words.

    Well done, sir.

    May 31, 2012 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  8. JandJ6488

    Interesting comments. The only thing the former president was missing was a Hillary '16 button on his lapel.

    May 31, 2012 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  9. EJ in Tacoma

    I hope that President Clinton can help re-elect Walker and President Obama! This country will be in sorry shape if the tea party right wingers get their Mitts on the White House! No more collective bargaining, no more middle class as we know it or programs that would help the poor! I can not believe these right wingers are willing to sacrifice our Democracy for their own wealth and elect another puppet to office!!!
    E.J. in Tacoma

    May 31, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  10. scott

    Translation. The bain attacks failed. Lets try the Mass. Governor attack. Supporting Obama must be embarrasing to slick Willie.

    May 31, 2012 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  11. parnell in canada

    I'm a big supporter of the President but I wish democrats would quit bashing Governor Romney over his business activities and fight him on his current statments about the economy, about planned parenthood, about his refusal to support a gay member of his campaign. It's how he'll act as President not how he rna a business that matters. Pesonally, i think he's a fool for not selling the great job he did with medicare in Massacheusatts – he should be saying that the President stole his idea, not basing him over it.

    June 1, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  12. nevada39

    I agree with Clinton..

    June 1, 2012 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  13. Saoirse72

    If Obama has dug up Bill to support him it means Obama has really has lost his marbels. Clinton is the one who gave us this recession, Bush and Obama amplified it. If you don't think so read the number of steel mills declaring bankruptcy from 1997-2002. Also it was during Bill Clinton's time that we saw this trade deficit opening up between the US and China. One of the main reasons why the economy even grew under Clinton is because China's economy opened up and was booming. It was happy days for everyone until the Asian crisis in 1997 the triggered all this. It was the warning shot everyone ignored. So if you want to listen to slick tongue Willy, go ahead. Seriously I won't be.

    June 1, 2012 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  14. nolimits3333

    Romney committed Medicare fraud at Bain Capital.

    Bain was fined $119 million dollars for it.

    June 1, 2012 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  15. independent

    Yet another Democrat distancing himself from Obama's charge against Romney/Bain. The President and team is losing on this issue slowly and surely. They need to re-evaluate this stance or they will soon find themselves in a deeper hole.

    June 1, 2012 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  16. anonymoussource

    This is the man I wish would become President again. I'm FAR from Democrat, but I believe he did an outstanding job.

    June 1, 2012 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
  17. J.V.Hodgson

    Clintons balance in this interview is good to listen to, especially when he talks about the successful and unsuccessful sides of Bain or venture capital. Romney standing in front of Solyndra who got a loan on which interest has to be paid eventually failed and went the Romney way into Chapter11- managed bankruptcy. shareholders generally are the biggest sufferers, creditors next, and depending on loan terms often these people are a priority creditor after the IRS and enployees.
    AS clinton says Bain+ governer ship says he is a qualified candidate the issue is whose policies are better for the American people as a whole. As one independent my vote is strongly on the Obama side as I believe Republican policy is too targeted to the right wing of the GOP as whole.... not policies I want to see made fereal or national.

    June 1, 2012 04:01 am at 4:01 am |
  18. Gurgyl

    Mittens is a total nonsense and disgrace.

    June 1, 2012 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  19. fernace

    Yep, that's right! Forward /Obama 2012!!

    June 1, 2012 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  20. Jill-IN

    Romney stood in front of Solyndra yesterday and told bold faced lies in front of a bus full of reporters. Reporters do your fact checking and ask him why and at least have the guts to ask him why he says something that is false. It's your job.

    June 1, 2012 06:40 am at 6:40 am |
  21. Jerry

    Oh wow! Here's ONE Democrat that is coming around and trying to keep IT clean. Even though, as a life-long Democrat, I now believe he sold out to the Mr. Obama demagoguery, it's very refreshing that in essence HE is contradicting this clueless/divisive president's rhetoric.

    "Adelante" Bill!

    June 1, 2012 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  22. FactChecker

    I agree that Romney's Bain record is not that important. It's more disturbing that Romney didn't want to save the U.S. auto industry. I think he cares more about proving his economic theory than about helping people.

    June 1, 2012 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  23. DemWhisperer

    President Romney's business record is STERLING!

    Love it!

    I am voting for Romney.

    June 1, 2012 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  24. Tony

    Romney's business success comes at the expense of workers. Bain makes money taking over and then selling companies. Companies assume huge debts, and should they go bankrupt, workers lose jobs. Regardless, Bain generates profits for itself and its investors. This is the kind of business experience Romney wants to bring to the White House. Romney would make money for the GOP's most important supporters, the rich, by giving them huge tax cuts, while the government would be stuck with the debt.

    Romney wants to keep Bush tax cuts, and adds a 20% tax cut across-the-board. The rich do not use tax cuts to create jobs. They create jobs only when there is demand for their businesses. Otherwise, the tax cuts simply go into their bank accounts. Romney, like the Ryan budget, does not specify what programs he would cut to pay for the tax cuts. Cutting popular conservative targets in the budget (National Endowment for the Art, Planned Parenthood, etc) does not come close to balance the books. Repealing Obama's health care bill also repeals the revenue that comes with it, so a repeal would actually increase the deficit, according to the CBO. The result: bigger deficits. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Romney's tax cut plan will add more than 3 trillion to the deficits over 10 years.

    June 1, 2012 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  25. dina

    Well he could have been a little more supportive of Obama. What's his problem?

    June 1, 2012 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
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