Paging, Ben Labolt: The Obama surrogates are flying off message again. On Thursday night, former President Bill Clinton joined the expanding club of liberals defending Bain Capital, the private equity firm and former Mitt Romney employer, the Obama campaign has been trying to define as a soul-crushing, dream-shattering vampire of capitalism. "The man ... had a sterling business career" Clinton told Harvey Weinstein, who was filling in last night for Piers Morgan on CNN. When asked about the nature of private equity, Clinton gave a nuanced assessment of the industry but ultimately characterized Romney as one of the good guys:
I don't think that we ought to get into the position where we say this is bad work ... I think he had a good business career. There is a lot of controversy about that. But if you go in and you try to save a failing company, and you and I have friends here who invest in companies, you can invest in a company, run up the debt, loot it, sell all the assets, and force all the people to lose their retirement and fire them. Or you can go into a company, have cutbacks, try to make it more productive with the purpose of saving it. And when you try, like anything else you try, you don't always succeed.
That puts the former president in the club of Democrats including Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, and former congressman Harold Ford Jr. who've crossed the picket lines, so to speak, to defend the private equity firm. A development the Romney campaign has gleefully exploited, pulling out ads of each "off-message" compliment. (Expect to see a new one with Bubba soon?).
Why is it so hard to keep Democrats in line on this issue? A quick look at the Sunlight Foundation's donation database gives a pretty simple answer: The firm is a major player in political donations and it gives overwhelmingly to Democrats:
Clearly, money talks, even when Obama for America would like it to shut up.