The Big Booker Brouhaha over Bain

Democrats have been seething ever since Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark NJ, and a rising star in the party, went so far off the reservation on Sunday he might as well have gone to Jupiter.

The issue was Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by likely GOP candidate Mitt Romney and run by him for 15 years.

President Obama’s re-election campaign has made Romney’s tenure at Bain a central part of its message, running extended ads and a slick new website, www.romneyeconomics.com.

It’s focusing on several Bain-backed companies, whose failures caused hundreds of workers to lose jobs and benefits while Bain and its investors made huge profits.

This is where Mayor Booker went rogue.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

 

In an extraordinary segment on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, he said the following:

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 this — we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America…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. .

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 what it does is it undermines, to me, what this country should be focused on. It’s a distraction from the real issues….

This is jaw-dropping stuff, and Democratic commentators like Chris Matthews reacted with fury.  Booker partially walked back his comments in a YouTube video on Sunday:

… Mitt Romney has made his business record a centerpiece of his campaign. He’s talked about himself as a job creator. And therefore it is reasonable, and in fact I encourage it, for the Obama campaign to examine that record and to discuss it. I have no problem with that.

Then he sat down with liberal host Rachel Maddow Monday night and blasted Republicans for “plucking sound bites out of that interview, to manipulate them in a cynical manner to use them for their own purposes,” which indeed they did.

The RNC and Romney campaign already are running attack ads using sound bites from Booker’s Meet the Press appearance and have launched a very clever website, “I Stand with Cory” to exploit the situation.

Booker  went on to say:

I think I conflated the attacks that the Republicans were making with Jeremiah Wright with some of the attacks on the left and those can’t even be equated….

So, all is forgiven? Not quite.

This is bound to hurt the president, because an eloquent Democrat—in fact, it must be said, one of the nation’s most prominent elected African Americans—is questioning the premises at the heart of his re-election campaign.

But it also reveals fault lines in the party between the populist, pro-union wing, which the president has embraced, and the pro-Wall Street wing to which Booker, former Rep. Harold Ford Jr., and former investment banker Steven Rattner belong.

Republicans have their factions, too, but now that the primaries are over, they’re getting in line behind their chosen, very flawed candidate, who has swung far to the right to placate them. Uniting Democrats is like herding cats, as the president and his campaign team learned the hard way this weekend.

 

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