Not a Distraction

The president shot back late today at the Romney campaign’s claims that his criticism of Mitt’s record at Bain Capital is a “distraction” from discussion of his own economic record as president, reports TPM’s Benjy Sarlin:

President Obama defended his campaign’s attacks on layoffs at Bain Capital under Mitt Romney’s ownership, telling reporters at a NATO summit that Romney’s business experience is critical to evaluating his qualifications as president.

Obama declined to criticize Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a supporter who on Sunday called attacks on Bain “nauseating.” Booker is an “outstanding mayor,” Obama said. But the president made clear that he thought Bain was not only fair game, but essential to the process of determining the next president.

“It is important to recognize this issue is not a distraction,” he said. “This is part of the debate we will be adding in this campaign about how do we create an economy where everybody from top to bottom, folks on Wall Street and Main Street, have a shot at success.”

“If your main argument for how to grow in the economy is, ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors’, then you are missing what this job is about,” he said.

That’s all true, but Obama needs to connect a crucial dot here: Romney is not simply claiming that his ability to “make a lot of money for investors” is a personal credential for his competence or his understanding of how the economy works. It’s his belief that “making a lot of money for investors” is all that’s involved in making the economy work, or in giving the rest of us an opportunity to succeed, that’s the real problem. Making money for your rich peers and paymasters at Bain Capital is one thing. Believing that’s exactly the same job you’d take on at the White House is another altogether, but best as we can tell, that’s how Mitt would perceive his responsibility. And that’s even if you like or trust him!

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.