When Bill Clinton undercut Barack Obama’s argument on Bain last week, he was hardly alone; it appeared that more of Obama’s campaign surrogates rejected that argument against private equity than spoke for it. The entire attack strategy has flopped despite Obama himself saying that this was what the election would be about. Politico columnist Roger Simon reserves his ire for Clinton, however, in undercutting Obama, calling him “out of control”:
Bill Clinton has to be the smartest guy in the room even when he’s not in the room.
Clinton is not on Barack Obama’s campaign staff, is not a trusted adviser, does not set Obama’s strategy.
But Bill Clinton is pretty good at sabotaging Obama’s strategy.
He did so last week when he went on television and said Mitt Romney had a “sterling” record while running Bain Capital.
Simon says that “Obama does not need Clinton undercutting him,” but seems to be unaware that Clinton was hardly alone. Cory Booker called the ad (which Simon “liked”) “nauseating,” at least until the Obama campaign leaned on him hard enough to get a recantation. Harold Ford then said Booker had no need to apologize and blasted the ad himself, as did Ed Rendell and other prominent Democrats; Rendell did so again yesterday. The attack flopped badly enough that by late last week the Obama campaign had to ask Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed to carry its water on the Bain attack — only to be challenged on his own hiring of two Bain executives and his former praise for the private-equity firm:
“I agree that Bain is fair game, but if it’s fair game, it’s fair game for the mayor, too, and he has some explaining to do,” Cardinale told 11Alive News on Monday.
Cardinale criticized Reed for saying it’s OK to criticize Romney’s Bain experience while he’s benefited from it himself.
“He had all these glowing things to say about the same company just two years ago on his own Facebook page,” he said.
Mayor Reed did praise Bain and Company, a related firm, when he hired one of its employees, Peter Aman, as his first Chief Operating Officer.
He has since hired another Bain consultant, Hans Utz as Deputy Chief Operating Officer.
That’s been the problem with the Bain attacks all along. While Obama attacked Romney for normal private-equity management, he’s been trying to raise money hand over fist from the same industry. In fact, a Bain executive, Jonathan Lavine, is one of Obama’s major bundlers and was with the company (and Romney was not) when GS Industries shut down the steel plant, a decision used to slam Romney in an Obama campaign ad.
Instead of acknowledging these contradictions and hypocrisies, Simon chooses to cast Clinton’s supposed heresy as a singular event, and assumes that it’s motivated by personal animus towards Obama over Hillary’s loss in 2008. That could be true, and a few people have speculated that Clinton might want to see Obama lose to make Hillary more attractive as a Democratic nominee in 2016. However, it’s also just as true that Clinton waited for quite a while to defend Romney’s business record, and his advice in this case — to find another line of attack — is probably a lot smarter than Simon’s advice to keep beating a very dead horse.