CNN’s Anderson Cooper has a regular feature on AC360 called Keeping Them Honest, with topics ranging from Syrian refugee camps to JPMorgan’s $2 billion loss to last night’s segment on campaign money from private equity.
For which Cooper needs to be held accountable.
The basic premise of last night’s segment was fine:
Is President Obama trying to have it both ways? He’s attacking Mitt Romney for working at Bain Capital while accepting money raised by the head of another private equity firm.
Joining me now is CNN political contributor Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary for George — President George W. Bush, and Democratic strategist, Cornell Belcher, who’s a pollster and strategist for the Obama 2012 campaign.
So, Cornell, the fact the campaign releases this video slamming Romney for his time at Bain the same the president is at this fundraiser hosted by a private equity giant, isn’t that kind of hypocritical?
CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first, a couple of things. One is, you know, you refer to a vampire and all this sort of language. Vampire and vulture capitalist is not something that comes out of our mouth. That’s quite frankly comes from Republican — from the Republican primary.
Look — so, yes, and the president and the campaign —
COOPER: Wait. But you have somebody in that ad saying vampire and that’s the Obama campaign made that ad and they had that person say vampire whether or not the person —
BELCHER: Well —
COOPER: — came up with it on their own. But they put it in the ad.
BELCHER: You’ve never heard anyone from the Obama campaign say — call a vampire or a vulture capitalism. Look — but it — look, but bottom line is this. If Mitt Romney is going to make the predicate of his run that he’s going to fix the economy, that he’s going to create jobs and the primary — you know, his time was spent, you know, as a head of Bain, we have a right to examine that. We have a right to look at what he did at Bain Capital to make — to make all his money and sort of — and unfold that for the American people.
And when you — and when you —
COOPER: I totally agree with that. But I’m not arguing that. And I don’t think anyone is arguing that. It just — on the same day that he’s attacking Bain Capital for being a private equity firm and doing what they do.
BELCHER: Well, Anderson, this is — this is —
COOPER: He’s entertaining other private equity.
BELCHER: Well, this is where I disagree. It’s not — he’s not attacking equity firms. What his pointing — what we’re pointing out is this is what Mitt Romney has done. You know, this is the central predicate of him running for office. And what he’s done at Bain Capital is make an awful lot of money for himself while putting an awful lot of people out of work. His job there wasn’t making jobs. His job there was in fact making money for himself. And if you’re going to be the president of the United States, the American people have the right to ask, you know, do we want these values and this culture — these Wall Street values and this culture at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?
So that’s what we’re pointing out. We’re not attacking the private equity firms. But what we are doing is examining his record at Bain Capital.
COOPER: But on the same time, too, on the very same day, be reaching out a hand and asking for money from people who do the exact same thing that Mitt Romney does and in fact has worked with Bain Capital, even just the timing of it, did someone not realize that?
BELCHER: Well, look. Again, I think we’re not — you know, no one’s attacking private equity firms. Heck. I wish I owned a private equity firm. However, what we want to convey to the American people is this is what he did for a living. Given what he did for a living — putting people out of work, making millions of dollars for himself — should we then put him in the White House?
That’s — it’s as simple as that. I mean it’s not about attacking private equity firms. It is pointing out what this man has done for a living.
COOPER: Ari, in your opinion is it about attacking private equity? Is it hypocritical?
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. That was one absurd sentence after another. You know even the president’s former top economic adviser, Steve Rattner, who came from the auto industry to help bail out the auto industry called this ad unfair.
And it really is. It’s unfair but it’s worse than that because it’s really an indication of the president’s world eye view. When — you wonder why private sector in America, the business community, is not generating jobs and jobs are being suppressed in the Obama economy, it’s because they’re sitting on their cash because they don’t trust President Obama because he’s so anti-business. And you’re not going to see a surge in job creation in this country so long as President Obama sits in the White House.
He in this ad is expressing what he thinks about private equity, about the private sector at large. That’s the problem with it. He’ll raise money. If you’re for President Obama, he’ll give you a pass. If you’re against President Obama and you’re the private sector, he attacks you.
The fact of the matter is everybody in the private sector has created some jobs and they’ve lost some jobs. Some days people get laid off from work. Other days you hire more people. This is the dynamic that’s made America great. Barack Obama will only attack anybody if they had ever let somebody go from their job. If they had ever laid somebody off of their job.
COOPER: Ari, let —
FLEISCHER: It’s fundamentally anti-capitalist.
COOPER: Let me push back. All right, a pushback — and Cornell, let me push back on you. Isn’t it fair game if Mitt Romney is portraying himself as a job creator and that’s what he keeps portraying his time at Bain Capital. In the perspective for private equity firms, I’ve read them. They don’t talk about creating jobs or — for the average American. They talk about making money for investors. And – you know, there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing illegal about that.
COOPER: But isn’t this then fair game if Romney’s saying well, I was all about job creation when in fact he was about money creation for himself, his partners, and his investors?
FLEISCHER: Well, the fact of the matter in a capitalist country if you do good, and if you make money, you’re going to employ people. That’s how profits get created and through profits you have to hire people.
But I’ve heard Romney on the stump, Anderson, you’ve had, too, where he regularly says some of our investments worked out and we were able to create jobs. Sports Authority, and other investments did not work out. In the case of this steel mill, of course, they went in 1993 and invested in it and it was going under back then. Half the steel mills in this country were going under in the ’80s and ’90s.
And they actually got an eight extra years of life to 2001 as a result of Bain hopefully helping the company. I think they would have gone under way earlier had it not been for what Bain and private equity were able to do.
That’s the dynamic of our economy. And what’s so troubling is when President Obama just focuses only on the minus sign and says, as you pointed out, he puts somebody on the air to call them vultures. If they’re a vulture, the private sector is a vulture. That’s the problem I have with President Obama at large. That’s why the private economy is so hurting in this — under the Obama years and the only group that’s doing well is the public sector.
BELCHER: Well, quite frankly —
COOPER: Cornell, let me —
COOPER: Go ahead.
BELCHER: Quite frankly, the private — the private sector is actually doing pretty doggone good, 26 months of job growth under this president. But it still doesn’t — FLEISCHER: Twenty-three million unemployed, 8.1 percent unemployment is pretty good?
BELCHER: Well, how many — how many were —
FLEISCHER: That’s a problem.
BELCHER: How many were unemployed when he put his hand on that bible and took that oath after your guy destroyed the economy, after Bill Clinton built it back?
FLEISCHER: The average unemployment rate in the eight years of George Bush was 5.8 percent.
BELCHER: So there’s that. We’re not talking about the average.
FLEISCHER: President Obama spent a trillion —
BELCHER: Ari, we’re not talking about — we’re talking about the economic collapse —
COOPER: One at a time. One at a time.
BELCHER: We’re talking about the economic collapse —
COOPER: Guys — guys, one at a time. Cornell —
BELCHER: — that happened under your guy — under your guy’s watch.
COOPER: Ari, do you want to respond?
FLEISCHER: And we’ve had the recovery in the nation’s history because the president’s policies are suppressing job creation. Under the stimulus, the president promised us the unemployment rate would be 5.6 percent right now. It’s at 8.1 percent. He said GDP would be growing at 6.0 percent.
BELCHER: Well, you know what, what you — what you cannot — what you can’t escape is — the fact that —
FLEISCHER: Right now in 2012, we’re talking about 2012.
BELCHER: The fact is —
FLEISCHER: I know you want to change the subject.
COOPER: Guys, guys, you —
BELCHER: What you can’t escape is the fact that when the president came in — COOPER: Guys, no one can hear you when you’re both talking.
BELCHER: We were losing a couple of hundred thousands of jobs, you know, when — a month when he came in. Now we’re gaining jobs each and every month. That was because of what President Obama did. From moving away from the failed policies of what your — which your guys did. That’s his — that’s his record. And quite frankly for us to sort of point out what — what he did at Bain, destroying jobs, cutting benefits, lie his own profits, and make billions for himself, that is absolutely that’s fair game.
FLEISCHER: Lie in his own profits.
BELCHER: Absolutely that’s fair game.
FLEISCHER: I think what you’re seeing is the president’s re-election —
COOPER: Guys — Ari, we got to finish —
FLEISCHER: — was blame and complain.
COOPER: Final thought.
FLEISCHER: I think what you’re hearing is in 2012 the president will run on blame and complain and not solve. That’s a formula to be a one-term president.
COOPER: We got to leave it there, Ari Fleischer —
BELCHER: Blame and complain, well, he’s — he solved a lot of — he solved a lot of problems quite frankly. And what we’re not —
COOPER: Cornell Belcher —
BELCHER: What we don’t want to see is a return to the policies that got us to into this mess.
COOPER: Guys, thank you very much.
Let us know what you think. We’re on Facebook, Google Plus, follow us on Twitter right now. Let’s have a conversation about this right. What do you think?
What does the hardworking staff think?
We think it’s total crap and a monumental waste of time. Cornell Belcher is a partisan hack who works for Obama – why would anybody in their right mind listen to him? And even if they did, Belcher makes no sense at all. It’s like he’s in some conversational parallel universe.
It’s true that Ari Fleischer is also a partisan hack, but at least he’s not working for Romney. If you’re going to have Belcher on, at least pair him with Kevin Madden or some other hired gun for the Romney campaign.
Sure, sure – this kind of on-air gasbaggery happens all the time. But when it occurs on a segment called “Keeping Them Honest,” well, someone’s got to keep them honest.