Cory Booker's Craven Democrat Syndrome

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I have never understood the instinct on the part of some Democrats to sound high-minded at the expense of the home team. Cory Booker's appearance on "Meet the Press" this weekend is a classic case of a Democrat responding to a moderator's question by falling into a false equivalency trap that always works to the Republicans' advantage.

When asked what he thought about President Barack Obama raising Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital as a campaign issue, Mr. Booker, the high-profile and highly educated mayor of Newark, N.J., was eager to prove he was a new kind of Democrat. "As far as that stuff, I have to just say from a very personal level I'm not about to sit here and indict private equity," said Mr. Booker, a Rhodes Scholar and Stanford/Yale man, following the lead of other "responsible" Democrats from the "Morning Joe" orbit like former Obama car czar Steve Rattner, who made a much more nuanced critique of Mr. Obama's swipe at Mr. Romney and Bain.

"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," Mr. Booker said. "If you look at the totality of Bain Capital's record, they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And [the attacks] to me, I'm very uncomfortable with."

Recently, Mr. Booker rescued a neighbor from a burning apartment. The lingering effects of smoke inhalation can't be ruled out as the reason for what he said next: "But the last point I'll make is this kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides," he said. "It's nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough.

"Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright. This stuff has got to stop, because what it does is it undermines, to me, what this country should be focused on," Mr. Booker said. "It's a distraction from the real issues. It's either going to be a small campaign about this [stuff] or it's going to be a big campaign, in my opinion, about the issues that the American public cares about."

Mr. Booker's passionate sputtering will soon appear in a pro-Romney commercial characterizing the presumptive Republican nominee's time at Bain Capital as something that was good for the economy.

Meanwhile, the use of the term "nauseating" to describe the Obama ad managed to nauseate a lot of Democrats who took to Twitter and Facebook to denounce the mayor. Within hours, Mr. Booker had a video up on YouTube "clarifying" his comments and expressing undying fealty to the Obama administration and its use of Mr. Romney's record as a campaign issue.

"Let me be clear. Mitt Romney has made his business record a centerpiece of his campaign," Mr. Booker said. "He's talked about himself as a job creator. And therefore it is reasonable -- and, in fact, I encourage it -- for the Obama campaign to examine that record and discuss it. I have no problem with that."

Never mind that a few hours earlier, Mr. Booker had expressed discomfort to the point of nausea with criticism of Mr. Romney's stint at Bain Capital. The Democrat that the establishment smart money picks as the Garden State pol with the best chance of spoiling Gov. Chris Christie's re-election bid was in full retreat once he saw his populist credentials taking a beating on social media.

There is nothing quite as craven as the sight of a Democrat shooting himself in the foot and limping away as fast as his wobbly legs can carry him.

The undignified nature of the episode was a sobering reminder that when it comes to benefiting from the corporate largesse of Bain and other Wall Street players, the Democrats have fared as well, if not better than, the Republicans in recent years.

Over at Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald reminded readers of the startling fact that Democrats have been the recipients of more political donations from Bain Capital than Republicans in previous election cycles, thus "complicating the left's plan to attack Mitt Romney for his record at the private equity firm."

Although Mr. Romney obviously leads Mr. Obama in Bain contributions this time around, the firm continues to contribute to Democrats and Republicans, insuring the kind of knee-jerk defense it got from Mr. Booker before the Twitterverse exploded.

It may be unfair to describe Mr. Booker's original defense of Bain as craven. He's simply being a more honest Democrat when it comes to acknowledging the obvious.

tonynorman

Tony Norman: tnorman@post-gazette.com; 412-263-1631; www.twitter.com/TonyNormanPG First Published May 22, 2012 12:00 AM


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