Yesterday, Newark, New Jersey, mayor, volunteer firefighter, and Democrat Cory Booker went on NBC’s Meet the Press to voice his support for President Obama in this year’s election. But, when Booker was asked directly about the Obama campaign’s attacks on Bain Capital, he said they were “nauseating” and said they were comparable to the use of Jeremiah Wright to attack Obama.
Afterwards, Republicans like John McCain got excited over a Democrat dissing Obama’s campaign, while the GOP launched an "I Stand With Cory" initiative. The liberal reaction was mixed. Many called it a gaffe; some said Booker’s comments were driven by his political affiliations with the financial industry; others said he is in the wrong party. Booker later provided more context for his comments (some say he “backtracked”) than an hour-long Sunday morning news show allows.
Moderate liberals like Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias rightly argued that Booker’s comments were basically correct — he was being too honest for the president’s good — but his clarification that Romney’s record at Bain Capital is fair game so long as Democrats don’t vilify private equity altogether.
As a moderate/progressive person, I’m glad Booker spoke out against this strategy. For one, it’s silly in this day and age for Democrats to be viewed as anti-business. Private equity is a legitimate way to make money in America, and there aren’t any good reasons to begrudge the model. Some firms simply need to be restructured to return to profitability, or disappear altogether. But videos like this reinforce the image the Romney campaign is trying to paint.
The attacks on Cory Booker from the left are also misguided. Booker is a rising star in the Democratic Party and disowning him for playing the “honest, centrist, above politics” role is a really poor political strategy. Democrats aren’t going to accomplish their goals by adopting the GOP’s small tent, Spanish Inquisition strategy — rejecting everyone who doesn’t toe the party line.
By the way, this also bodes well for Booker’s political future. The American public loves the straight talking, transcendent figure à la John McCain circa 2000, or Barack Obama circa 2004-08.
The best strategy for the Obama campaign is to play defense. If Romney wants to pretend that his experience at Bain Capital somehow qualifies him to be president, by all means, attack that argument and Romney’s antiquated foreign policy views are evidence that he really isn’t qualified to be commander-in-chief.
But demonizing private equity is what Obama used to call the “politics of fear.”