Obama defends campaign's attacks on Romney's record at Bain
Updated: 6:25 p.m. ET
(CBS News) President Obama said today that the ongoing discussion over Mitt Romney's record at the private equity firm Bain Capital is "not a distraction" from the serious issues that should be debated in the presidential campaign.
"This is what this campaign is going to be about," the president said at the close of the NATO summit in Chicago.
Mr. Obama's re-election team on Monday rolled out its second video attacking Romney's tenure at Bain, focusing this time on Ampad, an Indiana office supply factory that filed for bankruptcy in 2000 after Bain made $100 million dollars in profit off of it. As the Obama campaign has released its attack ads, it has insisted it's not attacking the private equity industry. That message has been complicated, however, as Democrats like Newark Mayor Cory Booker criticize the new attack ads. Booker said Sunday on NBC'S "Meet the Press" that it was unfair to "indict private equity" and that the campaigns should focus on more substantive issues.
When asked about Booker's comments during today's press conference, Mr. Obama argued the case his campaign has made in recent days, saying that the attacks are legitimate since Romney's business experience is at the heart of his campaign pitch.
"His main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience," the president said of his Republican challenger. He noted that Romney touts his business experience, rather than his experience as governor of Massachusetts, as his main qualification for the presidency.
"When you're president... your job is not simply to maximize profits," Mr. Obama said. "Your job is to make sure everyone has a fair shot."
"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," he continued. "My job is to take into account everybody, not just some."
Asked whether Romney was responsible for the factories Bain closed and the jobs lost, Mr. Obama said, "Mr. Romney is responsible for the proposals that he's putting forward for how he says he's going to fix the economy, 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 upsides and the downsides are worth examining."
The president said he views the private equity industry, which is set up to maximize profits, "a healthy part of the free market."
"I think there are folks who do good work in that area, and there are times when they identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs," he said. "But understand that their priority is to maximize profits, and that's not always going to be good for communities or businesses or workers."
In a statement released after Mr. Obama's comments, the Romney campaign accused the president of attacking free enterprise in America, invoking Booker's name in its critique.
"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. "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."
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