(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.’
“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.
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.”
LOL. The Romney camp needs to create an updated video that includes Clinton’s remarks as well as Booker’s, Harold Ford, Jr’s, and former Obama administration economic adviser Steven Rattner. Clinton’s comments are especially interesting because, as the CNN article pointed out, he is the highest profile of Obama’s supporters/surrogates to date who has come out and not played by the Obama campaign’s anti-Bain Capital script.
Not only that, but do you ever get the impression that Bill Clinton is only going through the motions in supporting Obama? Everytime I hear Clinton speak about Obama, it is always tinged with exactly the type of tone used in his interview on Piers Morgan – a tone that suggests Clinton is not enthused about the prospect of having to stump for O, almost like it’s an obligatory thing he’s done for payback for Obama picking Hillary Clinton to be SOS. You really can’t blame Bill Clinton for being a tepid supporter of Obama’s, considering the way the Clintons were treated by him during the 2008 presidential primaries, but at the same time Clinton is the consummate politico, able to hide his true feelings on any given issue or person in the blink of an eye. But he just can’t seem to get that down pat when it comes to President Obama.
In fact, it’s so bad that if I were an Obama adviser, I would advise against having Clinton speak on his behalf – at least when Obama is not with him (like on the campaign trail at speeches, fundraisers, etc). Then again, I’m a poljunkie and see things others may not. Clinton’s lukewarm “praise” of Obama and lack of attack dog slams of Obama’s opponents may not come across to people who don’t follow politics to the nth degree like some of us do. Not only that, but President Obama needs the gravitas of having a former President of Clinton’s stature and vast experience out front and center supporting him, because his own record of the last 3+ years is a stark reminder that the arguments anti-Obama people were making in 2007/8 about his lack of experience being a big issue were right on target in retrospect.
Hope WH spox Jay Carney is asked about Clintons’s remarks at today’s WH press briefing.
Update/Related – 12:12 PM: Per Jake Tapper, there will be no WH briefing today.