stuck in the mittle

Bill Clinton Pulls a Cory Booker, Calls Romney’s Bain Career ‘Sterling’

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 21: U.S. President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton attend the Clinton Global Initiative at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers September 21, 2011 in New York City. The three-day forum brings together world leaders and other dignitaries to discuss worldwide problems and potential solutions. (Photo by Aaron Showalter-Pool/Getty Images)
Photo: Pool/2011 Getty Images

In a Piers Morgan Tonight interview on Thursday, Bill Clinton became the most prominent Democrat to go off message and disavow President Obama’s strategy of attacking Mitt Romney’s work at Bain Capital. “I don’t think we ought to get into the position where we say, ‘this is bad work,’” said Clinton. “This is good work.’”

While Cory Booker took heat for merely saying that he was “uncomfortable” with the attacks on Bain, Clinton told guest host Harvey Weinstein that Romney “had a sterling business career,” and gave a lengthy defense of his work at the firm:

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.

The key line here is “you and I have friends here who invest in companies.” Chelsea Clinton and her husband Mark Mezvinsky have worked at private equity firms. Longtime Clinton aide Douglas Band is co-founder of both Teneo Capital and the Clinton Global Initiative. Clinton also dabbled in private equity himself. Until February, he was on Teneo’s paid advisory board, and he served as an adviser to Yucaipa before his breakup with former BFF Ron Burkle.

Several Democrats have distanced themselves from Obama’s attacks on Romney’s business record, and not because negative ads offend their delicate sensibilities. Like Clinton, they have friends and donors who work in private equity and aren’t thrilled about how it’s been characterized in the campaign.

Earlier in the day, Democratic leaders were praising Clinton for pitching in to help in the Wisconsin recall election by stumping for Tom Barrett on Friday. Wading into the Bain debate probably only confirmed the belief that Clinton is a loose cannon, though he did try to put in a good word for the incumbent. “I still think the president will win by five or six points,” said Clinton. “I’ve always thought so.” Maybe that’s why Clinton isn’t too concerned about undermining Obama’s election strategy.

Clinton Calls Romney’s Bain Career ‘Sterling’