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. Woman In California

    November can't come fast enough so I can show this Mormon man-child what I REALLY think about him – as a vote AGAINST him will say it much LOUDER than words.

    June 1, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  2. Fair & Balanced

    Did Romney/Bain have some successes; yes...were there also failures; yes there as well, as in most businesses and investments...they aren't all winners, no matter how good a businessman you may be. But while Obama has certainly had a high-profile failure (Solyandra, anyone?), it's hard to make a fair/non-biased argument that the auto bailout hasn't panned out as planned.

    June 1, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  3. Blue

    Of course, Bain matters, Mitt ruined thousnads of lives. Bill Clinton should stay off of the stage if this is the best that he can do.

    June 1, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. NickAnast

    >>It's funny how you people are SO upset about a company using PRIVATE funds, makes a bad investment and loses money and jobs. BUT. If the GOVERNMENT takes YOUR money (that's taxes for all you bleary-eyed people out there), makes a bad investment (Solyndra and others) and loses money and jobs, well, "Hey! No problem there!"<<

    Oops: Turns out Mitt Rmoney did the EXACT SAME THING when he was governor of Massachusetts. Ever hear of Acusphere and/or Spherics, Inc.? You will. Rmoney gave $4.5 million to these two companies, both of which were led by big donors to his campaign. Both companies took the taxpayers' dollars and then went belly up. So it is pure hypocrisy for Rmoney or any of his supporters to bring up Solyndra.

    June 1, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  5. me

    We've had many successful business men as Presidents. President Bush was the last one and how were people feeling during his Presidency?

    President Obama has a good plan to strengthen the economy, but the Republicans don't want to work with him.

    Unfortunately Government spending is off the table which is ashame since the borrowing rate is at its lowest, and the only one hiring could be the Government.

    Corporate America is showing its true colors by holding onto its investments and not re-investing in themselves by hiring people, or are the waiting for the Presidential elections and their objective is to push President Obama out of office?

    Obama 2012. He deserves four more years. Romney can say whatever his wishes about this months job report, but Obama brought us out of the Great Recession.

    Does more need to be done? Of course, but Obama can't do it by himself. The Republicans have to do some of the heavy lifting too, and they aren't. They are reading to point fingers and say if they would have listen to my advice the economy would have been stronger. That is rubbish because they don't have any new ideas; otherwise, We The People should have seen them unless they are holding We The People hostage until the next election.

    June 1, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  6. Pam from Iowa

    "Business experience" does not qualify Romney for anything!
    This is a COUNTRY, not a business.
    We are CITIZENS, not employees!
    Running a business and running a country are not the same thing – not even remotely!!!!

    June 1, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. Ty


    1) Romney took investor money and created success after success (a few failures along the way come with the territory). 2) Obama took OUR tax dollars and created failure after failure (a few successes along the way come with the territory). As for me, I'll take #1 any day.

    Romney all the way!!

    June 1, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
    What are you talking about ? Give us FACTS. Obama did not take taxs monies and failed. Are you a Lower Thinker. Please do your Research ........ YEA you take #1 but ROMEY is not for YOU unless you are SUPER money Bags........but if not you better re-think this. It's about Unfit Mitt wants to take the country he wants to take it back to WARS, no education no regulation no health care and etc......So when you make a comment like this, know your FACTS and ask yourself the real reason you have so much hate for our President. Ask yourself WHATS IN IT FOR ME ?

    June 1, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  8. Woman In California

    Ron, I agree with everything you said but the Clinton's better beware because they are entering slippery territory. One day Chelsea might decide to run or Hillary and without the "black vote" it is hopeless as we won't be there for them if they don't get their act together.

    June 1, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  9. Dave

    Romney's record is self evident: 80% of businesses that were failing ultimately succeeded. Only 5% of businesses declared bankruptcy. Contrast that with the President's record of the failed stimulus, deficits, debt, Solyndra, GM bankruptcy, unemployment, etc. Obama has never had a budget approved – even by his own democratically controlled Congress. Obama care will cost double the projections. Time for America to look at the real facts!

    June 1, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  10. Dave

    Ok, Pam. So, does community organizing qualify someone to be President? Based on Obama's record, I think not.

    June 1, 2012 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  11. Fair is Fair

    Woman In California

    November can't come fast enough so I can show this Mormon man-child what I REALLY think about him – as a vote AGAINST him will say it much LOUDER than words.
    And I can't wait until November when MY vote cancels out yours and effectively silences it. Sucks, huh?

    Romney 2012 – The Alternative Can't Cut It

    June 1, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  12. Strange Murphy

    I see all the Commies hang at CNN. Sweet!

    June 1, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  13. Veritas

    Funny, this time 8 years ago didn't all the polls say Kerry would defeat Bush by 5 or 6 points? I still remember how in shock everyone was after the elections in November of '04. My liberal friends were especially horrified, as they were so sure Bush was going to be a one-termer. It was hilarious to see the look in their eyes!!

    Elections aren't "in the bag" until the votes are counted.

    June 1, 2012 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  14. Woman In California

    Sniffit wrote:

    "Romney took investor money and created success after success."

    Mittens also took federal money for those businesses. Dynamic Steel and the Olympics both received MILLIONS in federal money, subsidies, tax breaks, etc. So did alot of the other businesses Mitttens likes to cite for his claim of "private" success. Moreover, after Mittens was done raiding businesses like Ampad and GTS Steel and sent them into bankruptcy while siphoning off millions of dollars in "management consulting fees," their pensions were nearly destroyed, forcing the federal government's pension guarantee agency to spend millions and millions of dollars trying to fill in the gaps. Don't ever call what Mittens did "private." ALL OF IT, was made entirely possible by the federal government, our tax money and the federal government picking up the broken pieces (and lives) left behind.

    Bravo Sniffit!
    I think this is probably the BEST post you have ever written. Thank you for telling the TRUTH regarding Willard's "sterling" record.

    June 1, 2012 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  15. jim

    We tried "trickle-down" economics twice – under Reagan and Bush – it failed twice. The rich get richer and the rest of us get nothing. We can watch the fine results which austerity has achieved in Europe – Euro-Zone is at 11% unemployment and climbing. It is clear that the Republicans care more about saving their own jobs than creating jobs for good solid Americans. It is even more clear that Republicans would rather pander hate than sit down in good faith negotiations to address our flagging economy.

    June 1, 2012 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. Reasonable

    The only thing this election is about is do you believe creating private sector jobs to increase the tax base is way to go or do you think staying status quo and having the government allocate resources is way to go. I give you Social Security and Medicare if you think it is the governemtn. I give you Apple, Cisco, Ford, ExxonMobil and hundreds of others if you think it is private industry. Companies have to make money and they will not invest in this country until it has a business friendly environment. People are leaving France for Britian as we speak. Money is flying out of Spain.

    June 1, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  17. Woman In California

    Fair is Fair

    Woman In California

    November can't come fast enough so I can show this Mormon man-child what I REALLY think about him – as a vote AGAINST him will say it much LOUDER than words.
    And I can't wait until November when MY vote cancels out yours and effectively silences it. Sucks, huh?

    Your candidate will be TOAST in the debates (and deep inside you know it). As for silencing a vote – you sound like a republican thug. Grow up.

    June 1, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  18. Wake up people

    Sometimes I feel like the media along with the rethugs just feel like President Obama should just slink into a corner with his tail between his legs and just give up. The media constantly bashes the POTUS while giving the treasonous Congress and lying Mittens a free pass. I know a lot of people don't feel like President Obama belongs in the White House. And most will not admit their real reason why. But who in their right mind would want a guy that even his own party didn't want? A man that destroyed jobs and shipped them to China. A man that hides money in off shore accounts and last but not least, a man who is determined to put us in another war. Our children will be fighting on the front lines while his 5 sons live in luxury. Is this really what you want people? Why not give President Obama a chance and this time with a congress that is willing to work with him? I will be so glad when this election is over. I just hope people really know what they are doing. Why doesn't MSM point out the fact that Mittens NEVER interviews with anyone other than Fox? They would if President Obama only interviewed with BET. That would be trending everyday. Please people stop voting for skin color.

    OBAMA 2012!

    June 1, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  19. Valentina

    You Obama supporters are so angry that you are beside yourselves with that nasty talk of yours, but you know, I would be too if I knew my man was going down to tubes, and Obama will lose big in November, watch and see.

    Romney 2012!

    June 1, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  20. Sue

    Bill Clinton has to say that he thinks Obama will win, he's a high-ranking Democrat. But, Obama and the Democrats are definitely shaking in their boots. Romney just officially won the nomination on Tuesday, and he is already tied, leading, or closing in based on all state/national polls. And, the dismal/terrible jobs report just released today will not help Obama. Plus, look at what all polls are saying--which is voters trust Romney with the economy more then Obama. When voters are "unsure" about the current politician in office, the majority will vote for the new politician on election day!! And, for this election, Obama will definitely be exposed/vetted so that voters know the "real" Obama before election day!! If I were going to place a bet, I would be that Romney wins in November!!

    June 1, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  21. Lucy

    Even the Democrats are starting to come around! Socialism has not worked for other countries and it will not work in America.

    June 1, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    "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."

    That's a lot of disinfo, lizzie. The Pontiac shtudown was being considered before the crash (Saturn, too). The city of Pontiac was in bad shape long before the crash. GM has returned to profitability. The "payback" is when the US chooses to sell the stock it owns, not anything GM is doing. So why are you here lying about these easily available facts? And why should it surprise you that more people are on government assistance after the GOBP cult nearly sent America into a new depression?

    June 1, 2012 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    As we learn more about Mitt Romney's business record, I have noticed that his biggest business successes have come with those projects that recieved the most tax dollars....with the Olympics at the top of the list. Those Olympics were supposed to have been privately funded.

    The Salt Lake Games used around $1.2 billion in tax dollars, which makes it the most expensive US Olympic event in history....and it was supposed to be privately funded. The investors returned a nice profit on their investments, too, courtesy of the US taxpayer. Where was "let them go bankrupt" back then?

    June 1, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    "Romney's record is self evident: 80% of businesses that were failing ultimately succeeded. Only 5% of businesses declared bankruptcy. Contrast that with the President's record of the failed stimulus, deficits, debt, Solyndra, GM bankruptcy, unemployment, etc. Obama has never had a budget approved – even by his own democratically controlled Congress. Obama care will cost double the projections. Time for America to look at the real facts!"

    Where are you getting Rmoney's Bain numbers? Until they are released to the public, I'm not buying what they're selling. However, for the sake of argument lets assume an 80% success rate. The question is 80% of WHAT? Total business value retained? Total of jobs retained? Total of investments that turned a profit? I'm willing to bet you don't even know, and you're simply spouting GOBP/Fakes News talking points.. While you figure that out, everyone else should consider this: on a dollars invested basis, the US green energy portfolio has a less than 20% failure rate (which is better than projected) which sure makes this administration look like better businessmen that Rmoney and his Bain vulture capitalists.

    June 1, 2012 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  25. Larry L

    Three things will win the election for President Obama.
    1. Senior citizens will discover the Republicans intend to hand Social Security and Medicare over to Wall Street – they're not planning to fix it by making the wealthy pay a larger share. They will trash both programs.
    2. Women and minorities know that Republicans do not consider their issues significant – except before an election.
    3. Americans know the Republicans caused the economic problems yet obstructed progress for political gain. Americans will not forgive them for this selfish behavior.

    June 1, 2012 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
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