If the folks at Obama 2012 aren’t just a tad irritated with Newark Mayor Cory Booker that would be quite surprising. If Romney 2012 fails to create a campaign ad from Booker’s Sunday Meet the Press appearance that would also be a surprise.
If you’re a surrogate for a major political campaign shouldn’t you be “all in” or not in at all? Shouldn’t you accept your role as supporter of the campaign and support the main themes? And, if you’re unable to support the main themes, shouldn’t you refrain from taking on a role as a surrogate? And, just maybe, shouldn’t you find a way to refrain from attacking the campaign you’re a surrogate for? For a Black Democrat running a city full of residents dealing with issues Mitt Romney never refers to, this should be easy.
Who didn’t know that Romney’s work at Bain Capital would be an issue in the 2012 race? Surely Republicans did. Back in January, a Newt Gingrich Super PAC produced a scathing documentary, When Mitt Romney Came to Town, on Romney’s time at Bain Capital. Eighteen years before that, Senator Ted Kennedy attacked Romney on the same issues during a Senate race.
“Romney’s known as a job destroyer not a creator. I think this will stick. I think Bain sticks… they fire a lot of people and that’s how they get prosperity for the rich,” said former Goldman Sachs trader and hedge fund manager Jim Cramer, the host of Mad Money, as he sat across from Booker on Meet the Press. Maybe the Obama campaign should fire Booker and hire Cramer as a surrogate.
What did Booker say referring to an Obama/Biden 2012 ad featuring workers laid off via Bain Capital?
“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 … to me, it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America. Especially when I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people invest 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,” said Booker referring to the Obama 2012 ad. Who knew leverage buyout investment managing was such a sensitive topic for the Mayor of Newark? The average salary in Newark is $35,659 and 25% of residents live in poverty.
“I talk to the White House quite often. I’m a surrogate of the Obama campaign. The messages they are sending me out to do are nothing about this,” Booker added. But the messages the Obama campaign are sending on Bain Capital have been consistent. Today Obama 2012 released another video about Bain Capital closing an office supply plant in 1994 and firing 350 people in Indiana in 1994. Romney was CEO at the time.
Then, remembering again that he’s a surrogate for the Obama campaign, Booker talked about the President’s achievements on taxes and jobs only to turn on Obama 2012 again seconds later regarding attack ads “on both sides.”
“This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright. This stuff has got to stop. Cause what it does is it undermines to me what this country should be focused on. It’s a distraction from the real issues. It’s ether going to be a small campaign about this crap or it’s going to be a big campaign about the issues the American public cares about,” Booker said.
And with that, the only Obama 2012 campaign surrogate at the table tossed a key theme under the bus. Booker, in an attempt to take the high political road — a kind of political magical thinking only Democrats seem to have — called a central theme of the Obama campaign “crap.” He later posted a video explaining the comments but retracted nothing.
Everyone understands Booker’s underlying point: That this Presidential campaign is likely to devolve into silly issues and anecdotal trifling nonsense at times. But the reality is that what it takes to win the presidency is completely separate from what it takes to govern. The other reality is: Sometimes, as uncomfortable though it may be, you have to fight fire with fire. President Obama does not govern in normal political times. He governs in an era of hyper partisanship. The current GOP opposes him 100% of the time on every single issue. Does Booker believe the President can run a high-minded scholarly campaign while the GOP uses a zero sum strategy?
More importantly: Was Booker correct on the substance? Is Jeremiah Wright the same as Bain Capital? The laid off workers in the Obama 2012 Bain ad lost their jobs when Bain owned their company for a reason. Romney has yet to explain his work at Bain Capital but has said he “created 100,000 jobs” while at Bain. Romney is running on his skills in business. Isn’t it basic logic to ask what his work at Bain was and whether it created or eliminated jobs?
But what Booker said — this is what Democrats do. Has anyone heard Republicans Eric Cantor or Mitch McConnell or Reince Priebus say what Booker expressed?
In October 2010, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” That’s what Obama 2012 is up against. One wonders if the campaign surrogate from New Jersey knows it. There’s the world the way we’d wish it was. Then there is reality.
LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Chief Congressional Correspondent, publishes the blog Crewof42 on the Congressional Black Caucus. She is heard every Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET on WMCS 1290 in Milwaukee on Earl Ingram’s show The Evening Rush as well as on WPFW every Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Washington DC. You can e-mail her at LBurke007@gmail.com follow her on twitter at @crewof42.