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. Ron

    Bill up to his old politics again. Seems like he is a Romney supporter on the down low. He may have sour grapes as to when Obama attacked Hillary when she was running for Pres (which was nothing like her vicious attacks on him) Bill said at the time Obama was not qualified..then when Obama won..he became instantly supportive after he offered Hillary a job. Point is if Hillary was going for a 2nd term @ SOS would be be giving Romney such praise. Obama may be in a tougher race if the Clinton's luke-warmly back him. Saying Romney is qualified to be president, is not only a ridiculous statement, but coming from a supporting democrat is unheard of. Perhaps they want him to fail as a sort of revenge..hmmmm.

    June 1, 2012 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  2. john196782000

    if the president wants to be re-elected he should personally pay each american the money he's helped the average small business owner loose including me as I have lost about 40k trying to keep my business open while believing his lies
    about how the economy is getting better.Hey mulla obama it took two years for my wife two years to find a job and I had to close my business and take a minimum wage job at pizza hut.Americans is our ecomony getting better? stop telling lies Barach!
    I hope he burns in hell for the financial hardship he has caused americans.Oh I hope I'm not arrested for whatI said; but on second thought,a prision cell at a federal pen
    would be an upgrade from my current living conditions.Oh thanks for the food stamps I'm getting Barach as I made
    too much money to qualify for them before you took office.
    Wake up America!

    June 1, 2012 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  3. Marie MD

    Sure, sterling for him but garbage for all the fired Americans.
    Then again, sterling for the folks in China and India who got our jobs!

    June 1, 2012 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  4. Wake up people

    Just being real, I don't think either of the Clintons truly got over the fact that President Obama beat out Hillary for the nomination. So Mittens career was sterling? I guess it was when your business is being a corporate raider. When your business is about making money for the fat cats while the little people lose. Could the media be more biased against President Obama? They have allowed Robmey to make up countless lies on the POTUS for months but as soon as someone questions Robmey's motives, they scramble to make him look better. Pathetic.

    OBAMA 2012!

    June 1, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  5. Birdwatcher1

    Oh Bill, if you could run again, you'd be re-elected!

    Obama – Clinton 2012 (Bill, that is) !

    June 1, 2012 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  6. Ricky vee

    Bubba is towing the liberal ine here by saying Obama will be reelected. This man-child is going to lose so big in November the libs will be falling on swords for the next 4 years. Grab the popcorn, its gonna be fun to watch.

    June 1, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  7. Anonymous

    Way to wimp out, Bill. Vulture capitalism is easy to call out and criticize because it is fundamentally different from venture capitalism.

    June 1, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  8. sbssue1

    Good Job, Bill! It takes a good business person to recognize a good business person.

    June 1, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  9. F Minus

    Obama himself said during 2008 campaign (while he was promoting "Change") that we cannot expect different results by doing the same thing.
    So we now know what Obama did in his first term (national debt grows to 15 trillion, unemployment rate 8.2+%, etc, etc), how can we expect his second term will be any different?

    June 1, 2012 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  10. BlahStoopidBiznitch

    We need to put as much emphasis on who we elect into Congress as we do the office of the President. They ultimately control all of the things that Presidents like to propose and take credit for. We should be asking of the President to be the best manager, the best diplomat, and the best leader. We should be asking our Congress to be the best legislators, the best representatives of the electorate. Often times we ask the President to do all of these things, when we really need to be focusing on who is writing legislation and how they are doing it.

    June 1, 2012 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  11. Chedar

    Obama tried. In no way can Romney the etch and sketch president ever compare with what Obama did with so many good deeds to this country.

    June 1, 2012 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  12. Lucky18

    What is in dispute is Romeny's assertion that his business career will make him a great President and that is not so.
    Given, what is going on in the world, I'd say, the current President is doing a fine job.
    Give him credit for keeping most off the bread lines, as opposed to Romney, who would have created bread lines with his bankruptcy of the auto industry!

    June 1, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  13. Nathan

    Finally some reason. I appreciate President Clinton being honest about this. I love his approach about measuring the merit on what they are going to do and if they can accomplish that. Attacking something because it misunderstood by the general public (Private Equity) just avoids any real issues. It frankly discredits my desire to listen when arguments are only made to sway the masses.

    June 1, 2012 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  14. 2loose2trek

    Who would have ever thought that Bill Clinton would ever be construed as a "voice of reason"? I guess all that it took was a 2 term administration without a clue, and a totally disturbing current campaign from both parties, to make even Bill look sensible. Whoodathunk???

    June 1, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  15. Ready

    Obama's economy sucks, Romney is looking better everyday!!

    June 1, 2012 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  16. milan milenkovic

    I have NO doubt that Pr. Obama will be re-elected in 2012 ( but is NOT done until Obama is officially re-elected)! I do believe that Mr. Romney can get maximum 40-45% votes in November election! Pr. Obama should take ALL help what he can get to win re-election. Country is politically divided, but I think that Bill Clinton can motivate INDEPENDENT voters ( as I know, around 38% of all voters) to vote for Obama , and he can MOTIVATE people to GO to vote ( in 2010. only 44% people vote)??? It will be much easier for Pr. Obama during his second term…He has much more to say and accomplish during next 5 years as a President.

    June 1, 2012 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  17. vbscript2

    Even high-level Democrats are starting to call out Obama on his desperate campaign tactics. That should be a wake-up call to the rest of you who are considering voting for Obama in the fall. When the most popular Dem President in the last several decades calls out his own party's campaign, it should be pretty obvious that they have problems.

    June 1, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  18. Minneapolis

    Why do folks keep citing the debt as some kind of Obama created mess?
    Barack Obama inherited budget deficits of over $1 Trillion. Let me say that again. Barack Obama INHERITED budget deficits of OVER ONE TRILLION DOLLARS.
    Even Mitt Romney said that cutting the deficit to zero at this point and effectively removing $1 Trillion from the economy would be 'economic suicide.'
    Other than head-in-the-sand Conservative austerity promoters, economists agree that the only way out of a recession like we're in is to SPEND, not contract. Greece may be the most potent example of austerity gone awry, but the UK is even more chilling (and more comparable to the USA). The UK is in its worst economic shape of the last century, worse than the 1930's. How did they get there? Massive spending cuts imposing austerity on social programs. The economic effect has been DEVASTATING and would be equally destructive in the United States.
    Obama has prevented a Great Depression and continues to add jobs in the face of prolonged WORLD WIDE economic distress. Compared to the Eurozone, we are LUCKY.

    June 1, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  19. Honeybe

    Why is Romney running on his business experience and not his time as governor of Massachusetts? Why did he and his staff destroy all the hard drives at the end of his term so there would be no evidence of .....what? He can't "remember" violently assaulting a classmate. Still no tax returns for the public to see. Romney is a lying, flip-flopping sneak with plenty to hide. I don't trust him 1 bit.

    June 1, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  20. JCQueipo

    We all lose If Obama loses,

    June 1, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  21. Lizzie

    Lucky18, the car industry went bankrupt, only taxpayers money is keeping them afloat, Chrysler got sold to Fiat, GM is still relying on not having to pay back their bailout, hundred thousands are out of a job, the City of Pontiac is going bankrupt, by shutting down the Pontiac line, more people are on government assistance now then ever before, today unemployment rose again, but in your words, we are doing just fine. There are less people employed now then there have been 25 years, but we are doing just fine. 50% of the population receives government assistance, nanny state here we come, but we are doing just fine.

    June 1, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  22. Joi Gibson

    This is where I'm torn. Willard himself is saying his business career makes him uniquely qualified for president from an economic point of view. So then, why is it unfair to call him out on business? On the other hand, I can see where some folks might be take this strategy as an attack on business. Maybe they could stream line the attacks simply on private equity capitilism; i.e., driving up a company's debt, gutting it, selling it off for profit for the shareholders, leaving the workers high and dry.

    As President Obama said, there is more to being president. Romney being able to nominate supreme court justices; saber rattling with the Middle East, with China, driving up the defense budget on the backs of the middle class; these things matter as well. Even with the not-so-good job numbers this month, I'm sticking with President Obama. I just think he has a more balanced approach to what ails us. Get out and vote folks!!


    June 1, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  23. Joi Gibson


    We need to put as much emphasis on who we elect into Congress as we do the office of the President. They ultimately control all of the things that Presidents like to propose and take credit for. We should be asking of the President to be the best manager, the best diplomat, and the best leader. We should be asking our Congress to be the best legislators, the best representatives of the electorate. Often times we ask the President to do all of these things, when we really need to be focusing on who is writing legislation and how they are doing it.
    June 1, 2012 09:06 am at 9:06 am |

    Well said!

    June 1, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  24. Walter

    Uh oh, Clinton spoke his mind again instead of the required DNC talking points. Time to push this story off the front page with another Romney is a unicorn story.

    June 1, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  25. John Q

    My thoughts are if the people of this country cast off the rhetoric by Obama that this is the "new normal," that nobody else could do better than him, and vote the economy, than Romney wins. But, if the people can't bring themselves to swallow the "emotional investment" they made in 2008, and stick to just liking him, than Obama is back. In my mind, Obama has had his shot and time to give another a chance with fresh eyes and perspective on the economy, as well as get out of this back-to-back two term President habit we seem to have. I agree with Clinton, that Romney is certainly capable of that, and especially along economic lines. Nothing in life is guaranteed, but I know what we have now, what we can expect more of from Obama, and frankly it isn't good enough to be reelected. Free "stuff" and subsidized electric cars isn't putting any food on my table, that's for sure.

    June 1, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
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