Romney's record at Bain Capital is fair game, Obama says (+video)
President Obama's comments come a day after Newark Mayor Cory Booker, usually an Obama ally, criticized the Obama campaign's attacks on Mitt Romney's work in private equity.
President Obama defended his campaign attacks on Mitt Romneyâ€™s record in private equity, arguing that since Mr. Romney is using his business experience as his top argument for becoming president, his record deserves scrutiny.
Mr. Obamaâ€™s statement, made at a press conference Monday in Chicago at the end of the 2012 NATO summit, came a day after Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker â€“ usually an Obama ally â€“ called the attacks on Romney and his former firm, Bain Capital, â€śnauseating.â€ť
The Romney campaign and the Republican Party have been having a field day trying to exploit the Democratic schism with videos, Twitter ads, and a petition to â€śstand with Cory Bookerâ€ť and â€śstand up for job creators.â€ť
â€śWhat I would say is, Mr. Romney is responsible for the proposals heâ€™s putting forward for how he says heâ€™s going to fix the economy,â€ť Obama said. â€śAnd if the main basis for him suggesting he can do a better job is his track record as the head of a private-equity firm, then both the upsides and the downsides are worth examining.â€ť
Obama also offered up a tutorial on the difference between being president and running a private-equity firm. When youâ€™re president, he said, your job is not just to maximize profits.
â€śYour job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot,â€ť the president said. â€śYour job is to think about those workers who get laid off, and how are we paying for their retraining. Your job is to think about how those communities can start creating new clusters so that they can attract new businesses.â€ť
Obama continued, â€śYour job as president is to think about, how do we set up an equitable tax system, so that everybodyâ€™s paying their fair share, that allows us to invest in science and technology and infrastructure, all of which will help us grow.â€ť
Mayor Bookerâ€™s defense of private equity Sunday on NBCâ€™s â€śMeet the Pressâ€ť rocketed into the political stratosphere, as he explained that he lives â€śin a state where pension funds, unions, and other people invest in companies like Bain Capital.â€ť
â€śIf you look at the totality of Bain Capital's record, they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses,â€ť Booker said.
Other Democrats, including former Rep. Harold Ford of Tennessee and Steve Rattner, Obamaâ€™s former â€ścar czar,â€ť have also come to the defense of the private-equity world as a source of capital to grow businesses and jobs.
The Obama campaign has focused attacks on the companies that ended up failing under Bain â€“ even as Bain itself profited.
On Monday, Obama also defended Booker as â€śan outstanding mayorâ€ť who is â€śdoing great work in Newarkâ€ť to turn the city around. But he took issue with Bookerâ€™s characterization that the campaign attacks are a â€śdistraction.â€ť Booker had criticized both the Obama campaignâ€™s attacks on Bain Capital and a proposal (not by the Romney campaign) to use Obamaâ€™s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, to attack the president.
Romney reacted to Obamaâ€™s press conference by accusing the president of refusing to take moral responsibility for his â€śfailed policies.â€ť
â€śPresident Obama confirmed today that he will continue his attacks on the free enterprise system, which Mayor Booker and other leading Democrats have spoken out against,â€ť the former governor of Massachusetts said in a statement. â€śWhat this election is about is the 23 million Americans who are still struggling to find work and the millions who have lost their homes and have fallen into poverty. 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.â€ť