Two of Mitt Romney’s fiercest former rivals, Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, defended him Sunday against the Obama campaign’s attacks on his business record. But the Republicans’ earlier - and lingering - criticisms of the presumptive GOP nominee gave the president and his surrogates more ammunition in an ongoing battle over Romney’s economic credentials.
Giuliani, the former mayor of New York who ran against Romney in the 2008 Republican primaries, called Romney “the perfect choice for a period of time in which we have to revive the economy’’ during an interview on CNN.
But reminded of his own economy-based jabs at Romney, Giuliani attributed the blows to “personal ego’’ - then proceeded to deliver some of them again.
“I had massive reductions in unemployment,’’ Giuliani said. “He had a reduction in unemployment of about 8, 10 - I think it was 15 percent. I had a reduction of unemployment of 50 percent. He had a growth of jobs of about 40,000. We had a growth of jobs of about 500,000. So, I was comparing what I thought was my far superior record to his otherwise decent record.’’
The Obama campaign quickly began circulating the comments, pointing to a Politico story that called Giuliani’s interview a “Cory Booker performance.’’ Booker, the Democratic mayor of Newark, was accused of friendly fire last Sunday, when he criticized the president for ads that vilify Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney led for 15 years.
Later Sunday morning, Gingrich lauded Romney’s business acumen, even predicting that it will propel him to a comfortable victory in November.
“I think given this economy, this level of unemployment, this level of deficits, it’s very likely he will win, and I think you’ll see him pull away in September and October,’’ said Gingrich, who exited this year’s presidential race May 2.
But Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland, appearing alongside Gingrich on NBC’s “Meet the Press,’’ used the former House speaker’s previous criticisms of Romney to make a counterpoint.
“I agree with Speaker Gingrich during his campaign when he had to address that claim that Mitt Romney initially made that he created hundreds of thousands of jobs, a claim he eventually backed off of under the speaker’s questioning and pressing,’’ said O’Malley, a Democrat.
Gingrich acknowledged that he “went straight at [Romney] on the Bain issue’’ but tried to draw a distinction between his attacks and Obama’s. “I was very careful,’’ Gingrich said. “I didn’t go after private equity. . . . He’s going after all private equity.’’
The Obama campaign insists it is not attacking all private equity but merely arguing that private equity experience does not qualify Romney to be president.
Panetta warns Congress against defense cuts
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged a divided Congress on Sunday to unite and avoid scheduled budget slashing that would bring total defense cuts to almost $1 trillion in the coming decade.
The Department of Defense must trim $487 billion under the Budget Control Act, the debt ceiling compromise reached last summer. Panetta said his department is prepared to handle those reductions with a plan that “meets not only the goal of savings but also, more importantly, protects a strong national defense for this country.’’
But deeper cuts are coming if Congress does not find an alternative.
The Budget Control Act called for $2.1 trillion in total deficit reductions between 2012 and 2021. Most of those cuts, $1.2 trillion, were unspecified, and a 12-member congressional “supercommittee’’ was charged with determining where the money would come from.
To promote bipartisan compromise, lawmakers included in the Budget Control Act a list of default cuts, known as sequesters, to be implemented if the supercommittee failed to reach an agreement.
The supercommittee did fail, and the default cuts include another $500 billion from Defense.
“So now you have this automatic meat ax that will suddenly take place sometime in January,’’ Panetta said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.’’ “I think what both Republicans and Democrats need to do, and the leaders on both sides, is to recognize that if sequester takes place, it would be disastrous for our national defense and, very frankly, for a lot of very important domestic programs.’’
Panetta was responding to comments made last week by Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who indicated Democrats would rather allow the defense sequester to happen than give in to Republican demands for more domestic spending reductions.
Despite Reid’s hard-line statement, Panetta said he is confident Reid and members of both parties understand the potential damage of further defense cuts and will cooperate to avoid them.
In the ABC interview, the former CIA director sidestepped questions about President Obama’s use of the Osama bin Laden raid in campaign ads. “I would hope that both Republicans and Democrats would be justly proud of what was accomplished,’’ he said.