In Washington, there’s an old cliche: A gaffe is when a politician is accidentally honest.
That’s what happened to Newark (N.J.) Mayor Cory Booker during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Booker, who is widely regarded as a fast riser in Democratic politics, veered badly off message when he defended Bain Capital — the longtime employer of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney — and described the negative tone of the campaign as “nauseating”.
You can watch Booker’s performance for yourself here:
Not surprisingly, Republicans immediately seized on Booker’s comments as a way to push back on the attacks launched by President Obama’s campaign on Romney’s record in the private sector. The Republican National Committee quickly distributed the Booker comment to reporters via e-mail, Twitter and even Tumblr.
Meanwhile, Democrats scrambled to contain the damage.
Booker, one of the most tech- and social media-savvy politicians in the country — he has more than a million Twitter followers — posted a video on You Tube that attempted to re-frame his comments as broadly supportive of the president and said he “encouraged” Obama to make an issue out of Romney’s record at Bain.
Booker did, however, re-iterate his belief that the tone of the campaign was “nauseating” and “calls to our lowest common denominators.”
What Booker tweeted out Sunday afternoon was a nearly four-minute long video. But, as Politico’s Dylan Byers pointed out Sunday night, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt later tweeted out an edited, 35-second version that included only Booker’s comments on Romney. And, on Monday, the RNC launched an “I stand with Cory” online petition drive designed to keep the mayor’s comments in the news.
Given all of that, it’s pretty clear what happened here. The Obama team saw Booker equating attacks on Bain Capital with attacks on Rev. Jeremiah Wright — he said almost exactly those words — and knew they had a political mess to clean up.
You better believe it, which is why the so-called “hostage” video of Booker “clarifying” his remarks came out later …
In case you didn’t or don’t want to watch the video of Booker’s original remarks, here’s a brief transcript:
Earlier Sunday, on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ Booker strongly criticized an Obama campaign ad that attacked presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s tenure at private-equity firm Bain Capital.
“This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides,” Booker said.
“It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright,” he added, also referring to a proposal floated and quickly rejected by a pro-GOP super-PAC to attack Obama over his connection to his controversial former pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
On ‘Meet the Press,’ Booker went further, saying he would not “indict private equity.”
“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. 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.”
LOL! Preach it, Mayor Booker. The RNC and the Romney camp need to run Booker’s original comments in ads from now until November. Milk them for all they are worth. Here’s the ad the Romney campaign put up not long after Booker’s remarks. Heh.
As noted earlier, Booker is one of the higher profile Democrats to come out against the Obama campaign’s anti-capitalism strategy, but he’s not the only Democrat who has done so recently. Via ABC News:
Booker is not the only Democrat to question the aggressive, negative portrayal of Romney’s work in private equity. Former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. said today he agreed with “the substance” of Booker’s comments and “would not have backed out.”
“I agree with him, private equity is not a bad thing. Matter of fact, private equity is a good thing in many, many instances,” the Democrat said in a separate appearance on MSNBC earlier in the day.
Former Obama administration economic adviser Steven Rattner made similar comments last week, calling a new Obama campaign TV ad attacking Romney’s role in the bankruptcy of a Bain-owned steel company “unfair.”
“Bain Capital’s responsibility was not to create 100,000 jobs or some other number. It was to create profits for its investors,” Rattner said. ”‘It did it superbly well, acting within the rules, acting very responsibly. … This is part of capitalism, this is part of life. I don’t think there’s anything Bain Capital did that they need to be embarrassed about.”
It’s very clear going into the 2012 general election campaign season that the Obama campaign is directly targeting what is considered Romney’s chief strength over our celebrity President: His business experience in the private sector. It’s both a bold and risky attack strategy, considering President Obama’s staggeringly awful record on the economy, but the administration is betting on an American electorate being too distracted with persistent day to day kitchen table issues to understand the dishonest, dangerous nature of such attacks on the free enterprise system. RomneyCo. needs to hammer this point home every single bleeping chance they get, because the attacks on Romney’s business record are going to be relentless (case in point).
And lastly, Ed Morrissey notes an interesting bit of hypocrisy regarding Team Obama’s attacks on Bain (bolded emphasis added by me):
Actually, I agree that Mitt Romney’s record at Bain is fair game in the presidential election — as long as we’re talking about Romney’s record. The first Bain attack ad talked about something that took place two years after Romney had already left, but during the tenure of a current Obama bundler who worked at Bain later. The same day that Team Obama launched the Bain attack, Obama held a fundraiser hosted by Tony James of Blackstone, another private-equity firm that occasionally partnered with Bain on projects.
The problem with these attacks is both accuracy and hypocrisy. Obama has no trouble raising money from private-equity firms (or perhaps he does have trouble doing so), but then demonizes and demagogues the private-equity industry. That’s what Booker found “nauseating” during his brief moment of candor, and what bothers Ford and everyone else.
Democrats. You can always depend on them to talk out of both sides of their mouths. Toldjah so. Again and again and again …
Update – 8:40 PM: And without fail, one of the more popular liberal blogs has a hit piece out with Booker’s ties to Bain. Like clockwork! Also – via Newsbusters: Furious Chris Matthews Explodes: Cory Booker ‘Betrayed’ and ‘Sabotaged’ Obama.