The Barack Obama campaign’s conference call this morning was supposed to be a way for it to introduce the story of Ampad, the paper company that went bankrupt in 1999 after six years of control by Mitt Romney’s private-equity firm, Bain Capital. Instead, it spent most of the time spinning the damage control of the Cory Booker-gate fallout. Sunday on “Meet the Press,” the self-described “Obama surrogate” Booker called the campaign’s attacks on private equity “nauseating” as part of a larger diatribe lamenting the effects of negative campaigning.
The Obama campaign immediately went into damage-control mode — spinning Booker’s nearly four-minute “clarification” video into a 35-second one in which he now encouraged the campaign to investigate Romney’s record at Bain Capital.
Today, much of the question-and-answer session of the conference call was centered on Booker’s comments. The first two questions were directed at Randy Johnson, one of the laid-off workers from Ampad. But then the questions started coming about Booker.
Ben LaBolt, Obama for America’s press secretary, said in response to a Booker question that he had “expanded upon his comments yesterday. He pointed out in a similar fashion as we have today that Romney has based his candidacy on his tenure as a corporate buyout specialist.” He deflected the Booker inquires into a discussion about Romney’s record.
“Mitt Romney assumes that any discussion of his record is negative campaigning, which says something about his record,” LaBolt said.
LaBolt clarified that the Obama campaign is not trying to raise questions about the practice of private equity. He pushed that it is trying to examine Romney’s record leading a private-equity company.
“We’re not questioning the purpose of the private-equity business as a whole, or Romney’s capacity to run a business as he saw fit,” LaBolt said. “We’re questioning what the values and lessons are from that experience, and whether the economic philosophy that he demonstrated while he was a corporate buyout specialist is one that Americans would like to see while in the Oval Office.”
Meanwhile, conservatives are coming out in force to defend Booker. Reince Priebus, the chair of the Republican National Committee, tweeted that Obama’s silencing of Booker “shows that Democrats are no longer allowed to defend free market.” Conservatives have launched a “#FreeCoryBooker” hashtag on Twitter.
Booker himself tweeted this ominous Albert Camus quote to start his morning:
Watch this video to see what the Booker incident means for the Obama campaign:
Produced by Daniel Goodman
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