President Obama on Bain-themed attacks against Mitt Romney: ‘This is not a distraction; this is what this campaign is going to be about’

In a pointed defense of his campaign’s scrutinizing Mitt Romney’s business record, President Obama on Monday said the principles of private equity do not apply to the presidency.

“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 said. “That doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity, but that’s not what my job is, as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some.’’

The president was speaking at a press conference in Chicago at the conclusion of a NATO summit. His prepared remarks focused on foreign relations, but he took a lengthy detour to answer a reporter’s question about business-themed attacks on Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee.


The Obama campaign, Democratic surrogates, and independent groups have portrayed Romney, who ran the Boston-based private equity firm Bain Capital from 1984 to 1999, as a corporate raider.

But the aggressive strategy has drawn criticism, even within the president’s own party. Last week, a former Obama economic adviser, Steven Rattner, called a Bain-themed TV ad “unfair.’’ On Sunday, the Democratic mayor of Newark, N.J., Cory Booker, said he was “uncomfortable’’ with the line of attack because “if you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses — to grow businesses.’’

A day later, Obama called Booker “an outstanding mayor’’ and said private equity is a “healthy part of the free market.’’ Then the president delivered his rebuttal.

“There are folks who do good work in that area, and there are times where they identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries,’’ Obama 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.

“And the reason this is relevant to the campaign is because my opponent, Governor 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, and I know how to fix it.’ ’’

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