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Obama rejects Cory Booker critique, calls Bain attack fair game

May 21, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • President Obama speaks at a news conference during the NATO summit in Chicago.
President Obama speaks at a news conference during the NATO summit in Chicago. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty…)

President Obama said Monday that using Bain Capital to question Mitt Romney’s economic credentials is not only fair game, but part of his core argument against his Republican foe in the coming general election campaign.

In a news conference from Chicago at the end of the NATO summit, the president was pressed about concerns of fellow Democrats like Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who said Sunday that the campaign’s Bain attack was “nauseating” and “a distraction from the real issues.”

Prefacing in his answer that Booker was “an outstanding mayor,” Obama said the issue “is not a, quote, distraction. This is part of the debate that we’re going to be having in this election campaign.”

“My opponent, Gov. 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. “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, who as recently as last week was raising money for his campaign at the home of a New York private equity firm executive, said there were people “who do good work in that area,” and can help identify opportunities for new jobs and industries.

“But understand that their priority is to maximize profits. And that’s not always going to be good for communities or businesses or workers,” he said.

Last week, Obama's reelection campaign launched a television ad campaign highlighting the bankruptcy of a Kansas City steel plant that Bain Capital, the firm Romney led for 15 years, had acquired. Vice President Joe Biden used the story as the centerpiece of his attack on Romney as out of touch with working-class concerns in battleground Ohio later in the week.

Monday, the campaign launched a new, nearly six-minute video about another Bain-owned company, Ampad, which shut down an Indiana plant and laid off 250 workers. 

"To me, Mitt Romney takes from the poor and middle-class, and gives to the rich. It's just the opposite of Robin Hood," one worker says in the video.

“Mr. Romney is responsible for the proposals he is putting forward for how he says he is going to fix the economy,” Obama said this afternoon. “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.”

Republicans continue to exploit Booker’s comments, which he had attempted to walk back within hours of his appearance on “Meet The Press” on Sunday.

The Republican National Committee launched a “Stand With Cory” petition drive, and purchased ads on the social media site Twitter to amplify the message. The Romney campaign circulated an email with dozens of press accounts of Booker’s comments and the Obama campaign’s attempt to rebut them.

"President Obama confirmed today that he will continue his attacks on the free enterprise system, which Mayor Booker and other leading Democrats have spoken out against," Romney said in a statement emailed to reporters by his campaign. "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. 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." 

Original source: Obama rejects Cory Booker critique, calls Bain attack fair game

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