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Obama's Ex-Car Czar Defends Romney, Bain From GOP Attacks

Steven Rattner.
Carlos Osorio
Steven Rattner.

Steven Rattner, the Wall Street financier who oversaw the Obama Administration's successful rescues of General Motors and Chrysler, now comes to the aid of some other beleaguered members of corporate America — Mitt Romney in his former role as a private-equity CEO, and Bain Capital, the company the Republican presidential candidate once ran.

In a Politico opinion piece, former "car czar" Rattner defends Romney and Bain which he says was among the better angels in the world of private-equity firms.

In a defense from which Romney will definitely need to selectively quote since the New York financier aims a few darts at him, Rattner writes:

"I'm all in favor of piling on Mitt Romney for any number of reasons: his come lately embrace of hard right conservatism, his periodic malapropisms ("I like being able to fire people") and above all, the nonchalance with which he displays a dazzling shortage of principles by incessantly flip-flopping on issues, sometimes the same day.

"But these latest salvos being fired at his service as the founder and head of Bain Capital go too far. Having spent nearly three decades on Wall Street, when it comes to Bain Capital, I feel equipped — some might say too equipped — to parse fact from fiction. (Full disclosure: In the post-Romney era, I worked with Bain Capital on several projects...)

"...I have no idea whether Bain Capital created 100,000 net new jobs, and I think Romney was silly to even engage in that debate. What we know for certain is that Bain Capital more than fulfilled its responsibility to a gaggle of investors, who were mostly foundations, endowments, pension funds and the like."

Rattner's defense of Romney and Bain is noteworthy because after the Republican front-runner's GOP rivals are done with attacking his Bain years, Democrats are waiting in line to do the same.

But Rattner is a Democrat whose wife, Maureen White, is not only a past finance chair of the Democratic National Committee, and finance co-chair for Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign but an advisor to the State Department on humanitarian affairs. So he has some fairly potent Democratic bona fides.

Rattner demonstrates that not only are Republicans divided when it comes to how capitalism operates; Democrats are too.

Thus, any effort by Democratic operatives to demonize Bain by lumping it into the corporate-predator category is likely to inflame some of the party's richest contributors who have either worked for or with Bain or, like Rattner, see it as one of the Wall Street's better corporate citizens.

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Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.