Private Equity Can Do Good, Says Clinton on Romney's Bain Career

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Bill ClintonPresident Obama has evidently decided to make assailing Bain Capital the centerpiece of his campaign against Mitt Romney, the private equity firm's former chief executive. Now the president just has to find some way of ensuring that his surrogates will toe the line.

Thursday evening, on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight, the ultimate Democratic grandee became the latest left-leaning politician to express discomfort with the White House's line of attack against Bain -- which seeks to portray Romney and his colleagues as a pack of heartless corporate raiders. Bill Clinton was somewhat subtler than Newark Mayor Corey Booker, who said flatly on NBC's Meet the Press that Democrats needed to "stop attacking private equity," and asserted that such criticism was "nauseating to me." But Clinton was clear enough: "I don't think that we ought to get into the position where we say, 'This is bad work,'" the former president said of private equity, speaking with guest host Harvey Weinstein. "This is good work."

Clinton went on to say that Romney's time in the private sector was of secondary importance: "I think the real issue ought to be, what has Gov. Romney advocated in the campaign that he will do as president? What has President Obama done and what does he propose to do? How do these things stack up against each other?" Still, he provided what could be a ready-made soundbite for the Romney campaign when he told Weinstein, "The man who has been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold."




Clinton and Booker aren't the only prominent Democrats to come to Bain's defense. Former Democratic National Committee chairman and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell called the president's anti-Bain ads "very disappointing," while ex-Obama auto czar Steve Rattner said, "I don't think there's anything Bain Capital did that they need to be embarrassed about." And in an interview with MSNBC, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner took issue with the notion that Bain behaved somehow immorally: "I think Bain Capital was a very successful business. I think they got a good return for their investors. That is what they were supposed to do." Warner, however, expressed doubt about the relevance of private equity work to the task of governing the country, saying that the presidency requires a "different skill set."

Time
noted the close connections of all of the above politicians to the finance industry: Rendell advises two investment firms, Greenhill & Co. and Element Partners; Rattner is co-founder of the private equity group Quadrangle; and Warner founded a venture firm called Columbia Capital. Booker, meanwhile, is a northern New Jersey politician with statewide ambitions (at least): The fortunes of Wall Street can never be far from his mind.

Clinton, too, is tied to the world of finance through high-ranking former officials in his administration, such as Robert Rubin, the co-chairman of Goldman Sachs (GS) who became Treasury secretary in 1995 and took a top post at Citigroup (C) after leaving government. (In April 2010, Clinton said that Rubin and his successor at Treasury, Lawrence Summers, "were wrong in the advice they gave him about regulating derivatives when he was in office," according to Bloomberg Businessweek.)

Clinton adopted a tone of personal familiarity with the private equity industry during his discussion with Weinstein. "There is a lot of controversy about that," he admitted. "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" -- precisely the methodology that the Obama campaign wants to associate with Romney in the minds of voters. "Or ," Clinton continued, "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."

Such a charitable assessment of the work done by Bain is bound to cause headaches at Obama campaign headquarters. It may even be a sign that the anti-Bain approach is fatally flawed -- that the American elite is too enmeshed with companies like Bain for the Democratic party to effectively executive such a strategy. Already there are signs of a pivot by the Obama campaign, which this week began shifting its focus to Romney's gubernatorial record, noting "Massachusetts was ranked 47th out of 50 states in terms of job creation during Romney's tenure as governor."


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34 Comments

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ha6ai

Bill said Romney's Bain career was "STERLING".

So much for Obama's libelous LIES.

June 08 2012 at 4:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
buckcable7

Clinton is siding with his big money friends rather than the people who have been, ripped off by the investment bankers. Clinton is just a politician. His just a pawn in this rigged financial system.

June 04 2012 at 6:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
croone22

Clinton is a slick, without conscience, politician. And, In the venue of sophisticated professional financial analyists of financial paradigms and why some work while others don't... don't ask an unqualified moron for an opinion,because zero +zero=zero. And it's people like Bill Clinton, and many other unqualified morons like him ,that have milked a corrupt and flawed political system dry. Truly a very sad saga of the blind leading the blind. But,after all, the U.S. is now ranked 44th in literacy,and it is shocking to see the nations who are ahead of us. Wake up America,you've been had.

June 04 2012 at 1:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kay Van Houten

This from the guy who repealed the Glass Stegal Act--the Act that kept the Banks and Financial Institutions from doing what they did that caused the second Republican Depression in 2008-09. This couldn't have happened without the help of Clinton. BUT then money is the most important thing isn't it Bill ? Due to technical difficulities--Why Lie---you don't like the comment!

June 04 2012 at 12:10 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
mrwarmth51

labman57.....Clinton, the democratic icon has spoken...obama is screwed.

June 02 2012 at 3:57 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mrwarmth51's comment
rgkarasiewicz

I would wager that Romney is as popular with the Republican electorate as Obama is with the Democratic electorate. None of the two are worth a crap.

June 02 2012 at 6:49 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
labman57

Romney's record at Bain was indeed "sterling" and "superb" ... if one regards profit gained by investors as the sole measure of success.

Romney judges a person's qualifications to lead based on the depth of one's wallet rather than the depth of one's wisdom. He evaluates a person's net worth based on the value of one's portfolio rather than one's value to their community.

As is the case for many ultra-wealthy conservatives, Mitt's financial success was attained at the expense of the middle class worker and -- in an expression of his patriotic loyalty to the United States -- by hiding his corporate earnings in offshore accounts.

Mitt "Greed is Good" Romney and Bain Capital had a penchant for buying companies, laying off a significant part of the workforce, rewarding themselves with huge bonuses taken from the acquired company's coffers, and then often selling the company for a hefty profit.

Mitt regards the middle class worker as expendable chattel. He only evaluates businesses with respect to ways to maximize profit margins for the benefit of upper management and the major investors. Behavior which most people would regard as unethical is quickly dismissed by Romney and other corporate bullies as being shrewd.

Legal? Probably, but just because you have the right to do a thing does not necessarily make it the right thing to do.

Reason #64 why Mitt is completely out of touch with 95% of the American public.

June 02 2012 at 1:01 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to labman57's comment
mccglf

Bain bought largely distressed companies that were going out of business. They never bought huge successful going concerns. So instead of the place going under and EVERYONE becoming unemployed, a percentage lost their jobs. It sucks but beats the alternative. Bashing capitalism is fashionable but more a reflection of the ignorance of people than of the facts. Show me the socialist Utopian paradise you long for, because it does not exist.

June 04 2012 at 11:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
politickwoman1

I couldn't have said it better. As far as Clinton's statement of Romney's "sterling career," he still is grieving over his wife's lose to Obama. He needs to refrain from speaking nonsense and find more ways to be credible. I thought he did a good job as President, but I am totally disenchanted with his role playing as the leadership of the Democrats. At least, he seems to think that is his role. His statements are damaging the democratic party. He needs to spend more time playing golf with the joker and clown Trump and just zipper his lip. Actually, in retrospect, I don't think the democrats pay too much attention to what he has to say. It is more annoying. He is losing any credibility he earned as President, and now that he is one of the 1%, his ethics have diminished.

June 20 2012 at 4:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rgkarasiewicz

More often than not, these private equity outfits like Bain Capital seem more to exploit the labor force than anything else.

June 02 2012 at 12:49 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
cpo1514

Give Bill a case of Oval Office cigars.... he got one right!!!!!!!

June 02 2012 at 8:31 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Robert & Lisa

Obama and his rich, corrupt friends are moving us forward into a nanny state government, and want us to be subservient to it instead of being independent and free, as our founders blessed us to be. Maybe Bill is finally realizing that.

June 02 2012 at 7:00 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Gumby

Too many people are too smart for America's own good!

June 02 2012 at 1:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply