Outside of the state of New Jersey, you will find few bigger fans of Cory Booker than myself. I have quoted him, celebrated his many accomplishments, and I even own both seasons of ‘Brick City,’ the Sundance Channel’s terrific documentary series built around Newark and Booker himself.
So, it is with no pleasure whatsoever that I tell you that Cory Booker just may have blown it.
Since being elected Mayor of Newark in 2006, Booker has been thought of as a rising star in the democratic ranks. He is smart, handsome, self-effacing, and can certainly deliver a speech. He has reduced crime and brought in new business to a city with a long history of high murder rates and low expectations. During the blizzard of 2010, he personally shoveled out members of his community while Governor Christie was enjoying Disney World in Florida. Hell, just last month he was rightly hailed for running into a burning building and rescuing a neighbor. Booker has carefully and credibly cultivated an image as a “man of the people,” who not only says the right things, but also does them.
Yesterday, in a stunningly out of nowhere diatribe on Meet The Press, Booker not only defended Bain Capital and “vulture capitalism,” but implied that the Obama Campaign (whom he considers himself a surrogate for) was behaving in a “nauseating” fashion in regards to attacking Mitt Romney’s signature achievement in the world of finance.
“To me it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America, especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people are investing in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this to me, I’m very uncomfortable with.”
“But the last point I’ll make is this kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides,” Booker said. “It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough.”
Here is the video:
To this I say really, Cory Booker? Considering that the former Governor of Massachusetts doesn’t want to talk about his record as governor (that pesky universal health care thingy), his religion (fine by me), or his Richard Gere in Pretty Woman-like history of breaking up companies, killing jobs, and walking away with so much cash that it’s falling out of his pockets with each step, what does that leave? Yes, Romney wants to be able to claim success in the business world without anyone exploring what that means. So why in the hell would Cory Booker want to help him?
I suppose there are three possibilities:
1) He lost his mind/didn’t know what he was saying: This is both the most charitable explanation and the least likely. Booker seemed perfectly lucid while making his comments and has never struck anyone as a nutter.
2) He actually meant it: Perhaps, but seemingly out of character for a politician who has a reputation for putting people first.
3) He was only thinking about Cory Booker: Depressingly, this seems the most likely. Everyone knows that Booker has ambitions well beyond Newark and quite possibly the state of New Jersey. However, if Booker does indeed aspire to the highest office in the land one day then he will probably have to become Governor or Senator Booker first. New Jersey is a popular landing spot for deep pocketed venture capital firms and my guess is that the Mayor would like some of that cash for future campaigns. In fact, Think Progress is reporting today that during Booker’s first mayoral run, the financial sector contributed over $500, 000 to his efforts, with some of that money coming directly from Bain executives. Still, wouldn’t a more moderately toned defense of that industry been preferable for a self-professed Obama supporter? Could he not have said that venture capitalism is not always a bad thing, but the record of Romney and Bain Capital is fair game considering that’s what R-Money is running on in the first place?
Well, after a significant bit of heat on cable news, the progressive blogosphere and what I’m sure was more than a couple calls from Obama supporters as well–quite likely–the campaign itself, Mayor Booker did indeed seem to reverse his course with a self-produced video message earlier today where he expresses his belief that examining Romney’s business record is fair game after all.
Unfortunately, this video will be seen by thousands, while his Meet The Press debacle was viewed by roughly 11 million. Booker doesn’t just need to “walk it back,” he needs to rent a time machine and go back and fall on his sword. Which of course, is impossible.
Clearly, what Booker did yesterday is damaging to the Obama campaign, although I doubt it is fatal. As popular as Booker may be in New Jersey, he isn’t terribly well-known nationally…yet. You can however, bet your bottom Romney, er, I mean dollar, that Mitt’s campaign will do their level best to rectify that. I have no doubt that his campaign will stretch this out as far as they can and for as long as they can. In fact, according to Chris Matthews and Hardball, the ads are up already.
But here’s the thing, as bad a day as this may be for the President, I believe it is far worse for Cory Booker. He has proven himself to be an unworthy surrogate while becoming a Romney talking point. A 2 for 1 deal that I’m quite sure he has no use for. Perhaps this is repairable for Booker–the attention span of the public is gnat-like–but I’m not so sure. Yesterday, we learned that Cory Booker is as capable as anyone of being a typical politician, and maybe we should not have been so naive to think otherwise. The bigger question may not be who Cory Booker is, but who he might have been. The answer to that query appears to be a sad one.