The Cory Booker Contretemps
By Emily Theroux
So I go out of town for one blissful three-day weekend with my baby granddaughter and return home to discover that all hell has broken loose on the Sunday morning bobblehead front.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker apparently sold out President Obama on Meet the Press while I was out of cable TV and RSS-feed range, and I had little occasion (between shape-sorting brightly colored blocks, spooning mashed zucchini into Dulcinea’s Kewpie-doll mouth, and taking roughly a gazillion photos) to surf my cell phone. By the time I returned to electronic “civilization,” Booker had already backtracked twice – once after the Obama campaign had very likely chewed him out for his shocking transgression (in a YouTube clarification that MSNBC’s Morning Joe dubbed “the hostage video”), and then more vehemently the following day, after the RNC put up an online petition asking voters to step up to the plate and pledge, in raging capitals, “I STAND WITH CORY.”
“Don’t Let The Obama Campaign Silence Support For Job Creation,” the petition lead-in began.
“Yesterday New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker, a surrogate spokesman for the Obama campaign called the president’s attacks on the free market ‘ridiculous’. That’s right Mr. President, we aren’t going to let you destroy free enterprise. Stand up for America. Stand up for job creators.” (That’s verbatim; no courtesy corrections, not even for making Booker mayor of a state. I don’t think they deserve any.)
First of all, what a crock of crap! Can somber scenes of laid-off steelworkers recounting what Romney’s private-equity firm did to them really be viewed as “nauseating”? The ad shone a floodlight on how aptly Bain Capital’s notorious 1980s “money shot” (a spoof photo of Mitt and his colleagues brandishing $10 and $20 bills) depicted what the firm was doing when it shifted its focus from venture-capital investments in promising start-ups to leveraged private-equity buyouts of mature companies, which were designed to maximize Bain’s profits, not to either create or save jobs.
Secondly, what gives with Cory Booker and Harold Ford, Jr. (who said he wouldn’t have backed away from Booker’s original position)? Has Booker secretly signed on as a right-wing tool? Did RNC chair Reince Priebus co-opt Ford? Are both of them in the back pockets of Wall Street campaign donors with a big ax to grind against Obama for “scapegoating” Wall Street bankers over the recession and “demonizing” capitalism?
As it turns out, the award-winning blog ThinkProgress reported in 2002 that Booker and his slate of candidates received a total of $565,000 in donations from venture capitalists, investors, and Wall Street bankers during his first mayoral race – including $36,000 from Bain Capital. Ford, a former Tennessee congressman, worked for Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley after leaving public office. Other Democrats who rushed to Bain’s defense after Booker spoke out on Meet the Press included former Obama economic adviser and “car czar” Steve Rattner, who spent his career working at Lehman Brothers and other Wall Street firms, and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, a wealthy and successful venture capitalist before serving in public office. The Romney campaign has since turned the criticisms of Obama’s ad by Booker, Ford, and Rattner into a campaign ad.)
From all the cable TV chatter, you would think that this enormous gift to Mitt Romney from Cory Booker, et. al., was bought and paid for by the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove, or any number of GOP Super PACs. It appears, however, that Booker – described in The Washington Post as “more crazy like a fox” than merely crazy – may have done something that made progressives “livid” in order to please financial-sector donors and put some political distance between himself and Obama, to whom he is constantly compared.
But the truth about this huge brouhaha over campaign tactics may end up being that nothing really substantive has changed in the presidential race since last week, when Mitt responded to a reporter’s question about a nasty remark he had made weeks earlier to Sean Hannity on the topic of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright: “I’m not familiar precisely with exactly what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was.” Them’s not fightin’ words; them’s weasel words – classic Romney equivocation, deliberate ambiguity. Dancing on the head of a pin so no one can pin him down.
Pretending to “stand by” positions or “stand with” fellow politicians definitely has its downside for the Romney campaign, whose staffers have their hands full trying to stifle any off-the-cuff remarks and make sure he’s routinely “teleprompted.” The ludicrous “I STAND WITH CORY” contretemps is merely a smokescreen for the likelihood that Romney himself lacks an effective means of disputing what the Obama ad campaign reveals about him and the “business expertise” he touts as evidence that he’s a “job creator” – at least no means other than crying “character assassination” or taking advantage of Democratic gaffes.
Nevertheless, the bobbleheads persist in believing that this lapse in party unity spells doom for the president; it helps ward off any possible insinuation that they harbor the dreaded “liberal media bias” of which they are so often accused by the right wing. “The last time I saw the mainstream media this unified in their certainty that Obama had made a political blunder was the beginning of the ‘war on women’,” read a comment posted on a progressive blog. While the Democrats worry about damage to the president’s campaign, Mitt is floundering about trying to defend himself against both the ongoing Obama campaign to hold him accountable for his business practices and a new Priorities USA ad that consists of a running critique of Romney’s “vulture capitalism” by his former Republican rivals, who pulled no punches while each of them, in turn, tried like hell to overtake Mitt’s fairly steady 25 percent share of the primary vote.
“If Mitt Romney wants to talk about what a few Democrats have said about Bain, fine. We are going to talk about what prominent Republicans and ultraconservative superstars have said about Mitt Romney and Bain Capital,” proclaimed the progressive blog The People’s View. “Did the Republicans really think that exactly this wouldn’t be the response to their singing and dancing around Booker’s comments?” wrote the anonymous blogger. “This is the big leagues, Mr. Romney. This ain’t your Republican primary.”
Has public opinion changed since Cory Booker’s temporary defection gave Republicans a big fat bull’s-eye to pin to Obama’s back? It’s too early to tell, but The Star-Ledger’s NJ.com website slyly predicts that “Cory Booker’s defense of Wall Street may hurt his status with liberals, but it won’t hurt his bank account.” And why does the paper think Booker may have stepped so far out on a limb in defiance of Obama in the first place? “The Newark mayor has taken at least $491,000 in political contributions from the financial services industry in the last nine months … according to campaign filings with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission and the Federal Election Commission.” For that matter, says a Princeton political history professor, Obama’s campaign coffers are also brimming with financial-sector loot – unless it’s true that, as the pundits claim, the president has recently been coming home from Wall Street fundraising forays with empty pockets.
From the lunatic fringe, Glenn Beck’s website The Blaze posed a fascinating query: “But is the pubic [sic] behind the Obama team taking the campaign in this direction?”
Sorry, answer inscrutable. (You have to subscribe to “GBTV,” Beck’s live video network, if you want to actually watch his worthless video. I would sooner ingest the extruded pink sludge that an online “10-most-disgusting” list said chicken nuggets and hot dogs are made from than give a single dime to that revolting rodeo clown.) Warning: Whatever you do, don’t Google “really disgusting substances” – unless you’d like to experiment with bulimia.
There are worse things, of course, and Glenn Beck is one of them.