On CNN last night, former President Bill Clinton was asked by fill-in host Harvey Weinstein about the Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s tenure as head of private equity firm Bain Capital.
“Governor Romney keeps talking about his experience at Bain Capital as a producer of jobs and that he had 25 years in the private sector,” Weinstein said. “It seems to play with a certain group, but do you think that really will affect people and think that he can produce jobs that the president can’t?”
“I think it will affect some people who relate well to businessmen,” Clinton said, “and I think he had a good business career. There is a lot of controversy about that. 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. 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. Not every movie you made was a smash hit.”
“That’s for sure,” said Weinstein.
“So I don’t think that we ought to get into the position where we say ‘This is bad work, this is good work,’” Clinton continued. “I think, however, the real issue ought to be, what has Governor 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?
“That’s the most relevant thing. There’s no question that in terms of getting up and going to the office and, you know, basically performing the essential functions of the office, the man who has been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold,” the former president concluded. “But they have dramatically different proposals. And it’s my opinion, anyway, that the Obama proposals and the Obama record will be far better for the American economy and most Americans than those that Governor Romney has laid out. And that’s what the election ought to be about.”
The Romney folks have seized upon Clinton’s description of the former CEO’s “sterling business career,” as well as his argument that “I don’t think that we ought to get into the position where we say ‘This is bad work, this is good work,’” as evidence that Clinton pushed back against the Bain attacks.
Asked about the interview today, White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said, “I did not see the entire interview, but I saw some of the reports. And I also understand that there’s one other thing that President Clinton said in that interview that has not been as widely reported, which is that he said that this was a company, when he was characterizing the business activities at Bain, that they would ‘invest in a company, run up the debt, and force people to lose their retirement and fire them.’ So it’s not apparent to me that President Clinton made news in this interview.”
Earnest said, “It seems that he was drawing the same kinds of conclusions and making the same arguments the president’s re-election campaign has been making, which is, which is related to what kinds of values and experience do we want in the Oval Office? There’s one candidate who is citing his business experience that President, that I just read to you, that President Clinton characterized. Saying that he’ll take those kinds of values and that kind of experience into the Oval Office.”
Earnest is, of course, mistaken. Bill Clinton did make news, and he certainly was not making the same argument the Obama campaign has been making relating to what kind of values and experiences are desired in a president.