In a matter of minutes Newark mayor Cory Booker went from progressive super hero to pariah after he criticized President Obama’s campaign attacks on Bain Capital during an interview on “Meet the Press.”
Booker called the attacks “crap” and “nauseating” and equated them with attacks launched against President Barack Obama for his association with former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The Romney campaign seized on the comments and took this as an opportunity to try and wedge the progressive wing of the Democratic party from its centrist at a time when the attacks on women’s health and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts had largely brought the party together.
Predictably, it worked. Booker backtracked his comments and has been left both explaining his criticism and insisting his recanting was of his own free will.
It’s hard for me to square how attacking Romney’s leadership at his private equity firm is the same as race-baiting socially conservative white voters, and Booker is no political rookie, so he had to know that of all the venues to criticize the administration Meet the Press would be the one most visible to Republicans. So why did he do it? Is it because he was the beneficiary of a political donation from Bain? Because he wants to run for Governor of New Jersey and can’t do so without the banks behind him?
Does it matter? Booker is allowed to criticize the president and, in turn, the administration is allowed to say they disagree with the Mayor of Newark without it becoming a whipped-up political scandal. Booker is a professional politician and while he’s backed some good progressive initiatives, he’s also made compromises and pursued policies that would never pass a progressive purity test.
For what it’s worth, the statement provided President Obama an opportunity to solidify and re-package the attack on Romney and Bain — which he did so skillfully on Monday in drawing attention to the fundamental differences between being tasked with turning profits and being tasked with creating opportunity.
That is not a conversation Mitt Romney wants to have.
The election in November matters too much to start the circular-firing already. Let’s not lose our focus, folks. Romney and his record at Bain are our targets here, not Cory Booker.
Photo from veni markovski via flickr.