Obama: Bain Debate Not a 'Distraction' But What the Campaign is All About
President Barack Obama addressed the debate over Mitt Romney’s experience at Bain Capital and escalated by Newark Mayor Cory Booker was not a “distraction” but “what this campaign is going to be about.” Reuters

President Barack Obama addressed the debate over Mitt Romney's experience at Bain Capital at a NATO news conference Monday, noting that Newark Mayor Cory Booker's comments on Obama's anti-Bain advertisement were not a distraction but what this campaign is going to be about.

Directly commenting on his own campaign's ads attacking Romney's private equity experience, Obama reiterated the message that he doesn't believe his Republican rival's tenure at Bain Capital makes him qualified to be president of the United States and indicated he wouldn't be backing down on the attacks any time soon.

When you're president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, your job isn't just to maximize profits, Obama said at the NATO Summit in Chicago in response to a reporter's question. Your job is to make sure how everyone has a fair shot ... your job as president is to find out how eveyone can pay their fair share.

Obama's comments come one week after his re-election campaign first released an ad and a website attacking Romney's record at Bain, interviewing former workers of GST Steel that were laid off after Bain Capital bought the company in the 1990s. Another similar ad, this time focusing on the company American Pad and Paper (Ampad), was released Monday morning. Both questioned Romney's character and described him as a jobs destroyer that puts profit over the well being of the middle class.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker escalated the debate when he called the ad nauseating on NBC's Meet the Press talk show Sunday morning and called for less negative campaigning on both sides. Booker, a Democrat and Obama supporter, spent the day in damage control mode, as Republicans jumped at the opportunity to use his own words against the president.

Obama said he thought Booker was an outstanding mayor, and, without any sign of irritation about going off topic, spent several minutes explaining why the issue was so important.

My view of private equity is that it is set up to maximize profits. And that's a healthy part of the free market ... but understand that the priority is to maximize profit and that's not always going to be good for the government.

That means I have to think about those workers in that video just as much as I've been thinking about folks who have been much more successful, Obama added.


UPDATE: The Republican National Committee released the following statement: President Obama confirmed today that he will continue his attacks on the free enterprise system, which Mayor Booker and other leading Democrats have spoken out against. What this election is about is the 23 million Americans who are still struggling to find work and the millions who have lost their homes and have fallen into poverty. President Obama refuses to accept moral responsibility for his failed policies. My campaign is offering a positive agenda to help America get back to work.