Mayor Cory Booker Blew His “Changing Politics as Usual” Opportunity

If you were watching Sunday’s Meet the Press on NBC yesterday, you were probably pleased to see Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker’s response to a video attack campaign ad series on Mitt Romney and Bain Capital put out by President Obama’s reelection campaign team. 

Mayor Booker, whom said he is a surrogate for the Obama campaign, spoke from his heart and brain.  He expressed what a lot of Americans feel about negative campaigning with half-truth ads from both major political parties, “It’s either going to be a small campaign about this crap, or it’s going to be a big campaign, in my opinion, that the American public cares about.”

The Romney videos Mayor Booker was referring to are ads that began running Monday in five of the all important key swing states.  They present former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, whom they expect to face as the Republican presidential candidate in the November 2012 election, as a wealthy, greedy capitalist executive at the private equity firm Bain Capital (BC) whom does not care about the working class or job and has not learned from his business experience.

The attack ad touts the closing of a steel plant that in fact closed two years after Romney was no longer an executive at BC.  They also ignore the companies BC was able to restructure and save including another steel plant.

The videos tout what has become the standard class warfare strategy of the Obama reelection campaign.  

Mayor Booker did not support the president’s record distortion noting BC’s actual record, “I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity.  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.”  He also pointed out that “pension funds, unions, and other people invest in companies like Bain Capital.”   

He explained the Romney BC ads, as well as the GOP looking to resurrect Reverend Jeremiah Wright as an Obama reelection issue, were “a distraction from the real issues.”  The majority of Americans would agree with that observation.

Mayor Booker was talking specifically about these political attacks, but he was actually describing what was wrong with Congress and Washington D.C.’s “politics as usual” in general in a bigger picture when he said, “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, because it what it does is if undermines to me what this country should be focused on.”

He came off as honestly expressing his personal feelings regarding political nonsense and partisanship.   He reflected true integrity in politics.

Less than 24 hours later, Mayor Booker put up a video on YouTube titled “Mayor Booker Expands on His Support for President Obama.”   In the video he defends Obama’s attack on Romney’s business experience and details his support for President Obama’s reelection.

What happened in the hours, or perhaps minutes, after Mayor Booker’s Meet the Press appearance?   It does not take much to imagine the conversation in the Obama campaign phone call he obviously received to get him back on message – and back into the hyper- partisan “politics-as-usual” camp.  

It is a shame.  Mayor Booker stood out as an honest politician on Sunday that wanted to move the country forward to meaningful solutions by concentrating on important topics that should warrant focus.   On Sunday he rejected the “politics as usual” typical campaign tactic of distraction and diverting the public attention away from real issues.  He put the United States, the state of New Jersey, the city of Newark, and ultimately the American people ahead of partisan politics. 

On Monday, he did not.  Mayor Booker blew his “changing politics as usual” opportunity.  The saddest thing of all is he is better than this.  He has led by nonpartisan example in New Jersey side-by-side with Republican Governor Chris Christie to tackle tough problems.   

Let’s hope Mayor Booker, and other good politicians like him in cities, states, and Congress, will use what happened on Sunday, and Monday, as a very real teachable moment.  Americans will.  Voters will.        

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