Take the unholy trio of Cory Booker, Harold Ford Jr., and Ed Rendell. All three appear often on television. In various jobs, all three have been spokesmen for the Democratic Party. All three allegedly support President Obama. And yet all three stabbed him in the back over Bain Capital.
It started with Mayor Booker, appearing as an Obama campaign surrogate on “Meet the Press,” who told David Gregory he found President Obama’s criticism of Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital “nauseating.” The next day, former Congressman Harold Ford agreed with Booker. Then former Democratic National Chairman Ed Rendell whined that he didn’t like the tone of the attacks on Bain.
Oh, shut up! First, let’s acknowledge that all three have ties to Wall Street. As reported by Think Progress, for example, Booker received more than $565,000 in contributions from financial industry sources in his first run for mayor, back in 2002 — and at least $36,000 of that came from executives of Bain Capital. So, he and others are not exactly without a conflict of interest on this issue.
But they’re also dead wrong. On two counts. Read the president’s statements. In talking about Romney’s experience at Bain Capital, President Obama has not condemned the financial industry, private equity firms or making a profit. He has simply pointed out, correctly, that success in wealth creation for a few fat cats is not necessarily the best qualification for president of the United States. “If your main argument for how to grow the economy is ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you’re missing what this job is about,” Obama told reporters this week in Chicago. “And when you’re president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot.”
Remember also: It’s not Obama who raised the issue of Bain Capital in the first place. It’s Mitt Romney, who’s made it the corner stone of his entire campaign. It’s all he talks about: The economy’s broken. I know how to fix it. I’m a businessman. He brags about having created more than 100,000 jobs at Bain and promises, based on that experience, to lower the unemployment rate to 6 percent. In his words: “I happen to believe that having been in the private sector for 25 years gives me a perspective on how jobs are created — that someone who’s never spent a day in the private sector, like President Obama, simply doesn’t understand.”
And that’s what Booker, Ford and Rendell just don’t get. If it’s OK for Romney to brag about how many jobs he created at Bain Capital, then surely it’s OK for Obama to talk about how many jobs Romney destroyed. Romney’s record at Bain Capital is fair game — as is Obama’s record in the White House. You can bet that while Obama brags about saving the auto industry and bagging Osama bin Laden, Romney will complain about Solyndra and high unemployment.
Bain Capital’s fair game in the general election, just like it was in the Republican primary, when Rick Perry called it “vulture capitalism.” Perry explained: “They sit there and they wait until they see a distressed company, and then they swoop in and pick the carcass clean and then fly away.”
Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum made the same argument, albeit less colorfully. And Sarah Palin defended them all: “Governor Romney has claimed to have created 100,000 jobs at Bain and people are wanting to know: Is there proof of that claim and was it U.S. jobs created for United States citizens? ... And that’s fair. That’s not negative campaigning.” Sarah Palin: please call Cory Booker!
The fact is, Bain Capital’s goal was to create wealth for its investors, period. And they did that job well. In many cases, like GST Steel, companies were shut down and jobs were lost.
In some cases, like Staples, companies thrived and jobs were added. But any job creation was accidental to the company’s main mission. Romney cannot claim to be a job creator.
Bill Press is host of a nationally-syndicated radio show.