Obama: Romney's Bain career fair game

May 22, 2012 at 4:00 AM
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CHICAGO, May 22 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said using Bain Capital to discuss Mitt Romney's credentials is not only fair game but key to his argument against his GOP rival.

"My opponent, Governor Romney -- his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He's not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He's saying: 'I'm a business guy. I know how to fix it.' And this is his business," Obama said in a news conference Monday at the end of the NATO summit in Chicago.

"When you're president, as opposed to the head of a private-equity firm, your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot," Obama said.

His comments came after three prominent Obama supporters questioned the Obama re-election campaign's stepped-up criticisms of Romney's private-equity career and defended such firms.

The Romney campaign sought to make hay of the Democratic dissent Monday.

It posted a Web video stringing together comments from former Obama economic adviser Steve Rattner, who once ran a private-equity firm; former Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn., who joined the financial services firm Merrill Lynch as a policy adviser after leaving Congress; and Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, who told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday he felt "very uncomfortable" with attacks on Romney's Bain work.

"Have you had enough of President Obama's attacks on free enterprise?" the video asks. "His own key supporters have."

Booker's remarks Sunday were part of larger comments he made to the program saying he found attack ads by both sides "nauseating" and "a distraction from the real issues."

Romney's campaign has repeatedly characterized Obama as a slow-learning Oval Office neophyte who "doesn't get it" and broke promises he made to the American people.

Obama said Monday Booker was "an outstanding mayor," but spotlighting Romney's Bain work was "not a, quote, distraction. This is part of the debate that we're going to be having in this election campaign."

"It doesn't mean you weren't good at private equity. But that's not what my job is as president," Obama said. "My job is to take into account everybody, not just some."

The Obama campaign started a TV ad campaign last week highlighting the 2001 bankruptcy and layoff of 750 employees from a 113-year-old Kansas City, Mo., steel plant Bain acquired.

On Monday the campaign released a video spotlighting a Bain investment in American Pad & Paper, or Ampad, which shut down a Marion, Ind., plant and laid off 250 workers.

Bain's $5 million investment in Ampad resulted in more than $100 million in profits.

Bain, which Romney led from 1984-1999, said Monday Ampad's overall business grew and jobs were added during the four years Bain controlled it.

It said the Marion plant was "a challenging situation in a business that was performing well overall," and noted Bain's control of the company ended in 1996, four years before Ampad declared bankruptcy, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"Mr. Romney is responsible for the proposals he is putting forward for how he says he is going to fix the economy," Obama said Monday. "And 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 up-sides and the downsides are worth examining."

The Romney campaign e-mailed a Romney statement to reporters Monday saying Obama confirmed "he will continue his attacks on the free enterprise system, which Mayor Booker and other leading Democrats have spoken out against.

"What 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," Romney's statement said.

"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."

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