Bain report: Bill Clinton keeps digging!


Joan Walsh is appalled by dressage: We’ve always liked Bill Clinton here, except for that time when we had to follow him (as a comedian).

But good grief! When it comes to his remarks about Bain, President Clinton keeps digging!

Last night, he spoke with Judy Woodruff on The NewsHour. Before long, Judy popped the question. We give you the start of Bill’s answer:
WOODRUFF (6/6/12): So before I ask you about CGI: Is the Obama campaign wrong to continue to criticize Romney's record at Bain Capital?

CLINTON: Not necessarily. It depends on the facts of the case. That's what I tried to say in the CNN interview. The equity business can be good if you—

I've got a friend who buys failing companies, and he tries to turn them around. And he's turned a bunch of them around, but not all of them. So sometimes he tried and failed. The effort was honorable. That's a good thing.

There are lots of examples over the last 20 years where people used equity to take control of companies, got the companies in greater debt, looted the assets, caused more people to be fired and, in some cases, compromised the pensions. That's a bad thing. That's where you're just—you're buying something and looting it because you can.
Everything there makes sense. Sometimes, people buy companies and behave in ways which are honorable. On the other hand, sometimes people buy companies and proceed to loot the company’s assets, causing people to get fired and compromising their pensions!

They buy a company, then they “loot it.” “That’s a bad thing,” Clinton said.

So far, so good! But then, good lord, he said this:
CLINTON (continuing directly): I didn't have any idea, when I was giving that answer [on CNN], that I was wading into some controversy in the campaign, because I haven't seen the ads, and I'm not following it, and I'm not really part of it. But you'd have to know about a specific case to know whether it was a good or a bad thing. But there are a lot of good people in that business doing good things. That's the point I was making.
As he continued, Clinton said “it's much more relevant to look at what [Romney] did as governor and what he proposes to do as president.” We would tend to agree with that. (The problem being: Our current gang of "liberal leaders" don't know how to talk about policy. All they have is their R-bombs.)

Romney's proposals may well be more relevant. But does anyone believe that President Clinton didn’t know that his remarks in support of Bain might have him “wading into some controversy?” Because he hadn’t “seen the ads?”

People, please! Clinton made his comments on CNN on Thursday, May 31. It had been eleven days since Cory Booker appeared on Meet the Press, touching off a major flap. (It had been ten days since Rachel Maddow treated her viewers like fools, trying to cover for Booker. She did this two straight nights.) Whatever Clinton’s views about Bain might be, was he really clueless about the politics involved in this matter?

Please note: Clinton’s discussion still begs the question about Romney’s conduct at Bain. Was Romney the kind of guy who took over a company and made a real effort? Or was he perhaps the kind of guy who went in and just looted a company?

In all his comments on this topic, Clinton keeps raising the specter of looting, then fails to say if Romney looted. Hacks like Woodruff know they mustn’t ask this question, of course.

By way of contrast, consider a second Arkansan, this one by way of New Jersey. At The National Memo, Gene Lyons describes the way Romney did business. Was Romney one of the “honorable” players? Or was he perhaps a looter?
LYONS (6/6/12): Compare what happened when the Obama campaign ran two tough ads regarding Mitt Romney’s career at Bain Capital, the private equity firm that earned him roughly $250 million. The ads showcased embittered workers at a Kansas City steel manufacturer and an Indiana office supply company—both acquired by Bain and driven into bankruptcy, leaving longtime employees to the tender mercies of the Pension Benefits Guarantee Corporation, a federal agency.

In the case of Ampad, Bain managers fired every single worker at a Marion, Indiana plant the first day of the takeover. They were allowed to reapply for their old jobs at lower wages. Ultimately, Bain realized $107 million profit on its $5 million investment—a good deal for its investors, not so hot for Ampad workers, since the newly indebted company soon ceased to exist.

“To me,” said one embittered worker, “Mitt Romney takes from the poor, the middle class, and gives to the rich. It is the opposite of Robin Hood.”
Please note: The New York Times and the Washington Post have worked quite hard to avoid reporting Romney’s conduct at Bain. Our “liberal leaders” support the Times’ front-page report on dressage—and they keep their pretty traps shut about this dereliction of duty.

Welcome to the “liberal world.” As President Clinton just keeps digging, Joan Walsh is appalled by dressage!

Clinton and Walsh both make out great. Progressive interests get screwed.


  1. So after years of idolizing the Clinton Administration, we're now arriving at the position that the Democratic party, including the hallowed Bill Clinton -- the guy who, along with Al, sold the party to Wall Street -- has been corrupted by the same interests ruling the Repubs?

    What next? Will we come here one day only to to be informed that MSNBC, NYT and Joan Walsh are irrelevant to the outcome of American elections, because the fate of those elections, and the politicians allowed to run in them, are determined almost entirely by the money which pours into these races from predominately corporate and billionaire sources?

    Will wonders never cease?

    1. Indeed. Maybe, just maybe, we'll once and for all be spared Bob uttering Clinton and "progressive interests" in the same sentence again.

      Never to late to achieve enlightenment, Bob. Some of us got there 15-20 years ago. Which is also why some people "slept in the woods" rather than leap to "Clinton, then Gore's" defense.

    2. OHHHH!

      So that explains EJ Dionne's silence!

      He was too ENLIGHTENED to say anything.

      Thanks for clearing that up.


  2. Gene Lyons complains that Bain's efforts with Ampad weren't good for the then current Ampad employees. Earth to Lyons: Bain's efforts were supposed to be good for the company. Indeed they were. Wikipedia points out:

    In 1992, the newly formed holding company American Pad & Paper and Bain Capital purchased the subsidiary from Mead. Upon its formation, American Pad & Paper consolidated its 13 manufacturing and distribution facilities into six ...

    The company continued to enjoy 53 percent compound annual growth in net sales, which increased from $8.8 million in 1992 to $200.5 million in 1996, when the company became publicly traded (emphasis added)

    So Ampad did spectacularly well after Bain got involved. BTW they must have added a huge number of employees when growing their sales from $8.8 million to $200.5 million. They did much less well after they became publicly traded. Presumably, that's when Bain's influence ended.

    1. As usual with trollboy, you have to check the facts. Ampad's earnings grew because they bought other companies; they didn't grow organically through good management. They bought the other companies with debt, of course, and filed bankruptcy because the companies they bought weren't worth the debt that they piled up in aquiring them -- but Bain took its millions and ran, leaving shareholders and workers holding the bag. But trollboy doesn't care about that stuff, is too ignorant to even understand what it means. He just wants to get his troll on.

      The more I look at Romney's record, the sleazier it becomes. Unlike trollboy, I have some knowledge of this stuff, and am not, a priori, hostile to the whole idea of private equity. But Bain's record doesn't look good under Romney. Oh, he made lots of money, and Bain's shareholders made lots of money, but the companies they got involved with seldom came out well. The idea that Romney is some kind of turnaround mastermind simply doesn't look as good to me as it did before I had a chance to look it over. It ought to be discussed, and thoroughly, as it's such a key part of his resume, but that discussion isn't happening.

    2. Clearly Romney should have considered and applied his own personal moral and ethical and religious codes before considering what would be good for the shareholders. That would be the "right thing to do."

    3. I have some knowledge of this stuff, and am not, a priori, hostile to the whole idea of private equity. But Bain's record doesn't look good under Romney. Oh, he made lots of money, and Bain's shareholders made lots of money

      You just affirmed Romney made money for Romney and Bain shareholders, then concluded Bain's record is poor.

      Preposterous conclusion, no?

    4. @AnonymousJune 7, 2012 2:57 PM

      What rock did you crawl out from under? Bain's record is poor at TURNING AROUND COMPANIES, which is contrary to a central claim made on his resume. Bain makes money, jobs get destroyed, shareholders get screwed. You're either stupid or another troll, or, most probably, both.

  3. Companies and executives running them have an ethical obligation to their shareholders and it is unethical for executives to deliberately undermine the company's profits.

    The only ethical obligation is operating within the limits of the law. If you have a problem with the law, take it up with politicians.

  4. I still don't see Bill Clinton ever having said word one "in support of Bain," Bob. (Notice, by the way, that Clinton's explanation of his remarks is exactly what I said he meant, and was obvious to figure out.) He spoke in support of private equity when used in ways other than "looting." I don't know why you are so locked into misrepresentations like this. It is unbecoming of the mission of this blog.

    1. Thank you. In fact, what I see Clinton doing is a smart stealth version of the too bombastic message in Obama's ad. I think Obama's ad may be turning off voters because it's obvious to them he's done absolutely nothing for them. Clinton is subtly saying check the records yourself and see what Bain did. Bill doesn't talk down to any potential voter for the Democrats, he assumes everyone is smart enough to figure things out. Nor does he go around like Obama and the fauxgressives calling any potential Democratic voter stupid, prejudiced, too female, too old, too rural, too religious like Obama and his supporters did in 2007-8 and are starting to spew again in 2012. Maddow has stayed out of this nastiness so far this go round but Schultz, ODonnell, and Chris Hayes on Up on Saturday. Disgusting behavior. This and Obama's Republican lite record as president is why I've said the heck with the Dem party, I'm Green party- I made that choice in 2008 and am sticking to it. The Green Party made a great choice for their Presidential candidate, by the way...

      I still like Bill Clinton most the time (too pro business, but not as much as Obama) and Hillary 99% of the time (she's always been more liberal than Bill, and light years more liberal than most of the current lot of Democrats- she's a pretty solid FDR style Democrat- which is why the DLC hates her. The DLC is totally Republican in all but name.) But that kind of Democrat will be blocked from taking office- just like Hillary was in 2008. I changed to the Green party because it supports a true liberal worldview. The media will ignore it though, including the fauxgressives because their corporate masters tell them to.


  5. The point Somerby seems to be making is that Clinton and the usual cast of media hacks are being awfully coy when it come to the question of whether Bain engaged in "looting." We get it: there's good and bad private equity. Which side was Bain on?

    1. That's Bob's valid point. To make it, he slogs through more and more invalid points, such as the notion that Clinton said anything "in support of Bain." He didn't.

    2. cacambo, that is certainly black/white thinking. Bain has either got to be 100 percent on one side, or 100 percent on the other.

      Is it at least possible that in some deals, Bain was on the "good side" and on others they were on the "bad side"?

    3. Point taken. I should have specified the GS Industries episode.

  6. Joan Walsh, Salon, May 15, 2012

    "Rattner’s reaction to Obama’s tough Bain ad shows why Democrats have had a hard time capitalizing on anti-Wall Street sentiment among worried, screwed-over American voters: because for the last 20 years, at least, they’ve too often done Wall Street’s bidding almost as reliably as the GOP.

    But Obama is to be praised for his aggressive rollout of, which features the new ads. The president is going to have a problem with voters who are not seeing signs of the economic recovery, particularly working-class whites who didn’t go to college. He probably can’t win a majority, but he has to defend his margin in 2008, when he did better with that group than John Kerry or Al Gore before him. He may not be able to do much before the election to make those voters feel less economic pain, but he can make clear that Romney would only make their pain worse. Because that’s what he’s done his whole career.

    Obama’s new ad released Monday, which will run in the swing states of Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Colorado, features laid-off workers from GST Steel in Kansas City describing how Romney’s Bain Capital acquired their employer and gutted it. GST went into bankruptcy in 2001, throwing 750 employees out of work with no health benefits and reduced pensions. Ultimately the federal government had to spend $44 million to bail out its pension fund. But Bain made $12 million on its original $8 million investment, along with another $4.5 million in 'consulting fees.' This wasn’t an unusual situation for Bain: 22 percent of the company’s investments ultimately wound up in bankruptcy, but the company made healthy profits and consulting fees nonetheless.

    'Bain Capital walked away with a lot of money that they made off this plant,' steel worker John Wiseman says. 'We view Mitt Romney as a job destroyer.'"

    Like Maddow, Walsh is one of the many liberals whom the Howler seems to despise personally. He seems to be more than willing to misrepresent the record of their commentary as a whole, and this is destroying the credibility of someone who has done yeoman work in key areas. Yes, I recognize that Walsh is unwilling to insult Chris Matthews because he gives her a regular platform on MSNBC, but that bit of hypocrisy, if you will, is not everything about her. Neither is Maddow's giving her college buddy Booker the chance to wriggle off the hook he dangled himself from. Judging their work as a whole, both present a broad gamut of progressive insights and occasionally are given the opportunity to expound on them at the parent network. I would prefer that situation to one where they meet every test of integrity the Howler would apply but are never heard at all.

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