Part 1—What the first Booker said: Does Cory Booker know what he’s talking about? The first Cory Booker, that is?
Yesterday morning, on Meet the Press, the first Cory Booker sounded off good. It’s time to drop all this “crap” about Bain, the Newark mayor said:
BOOKER (5/20/12): Well, two points I want to make real quick. First of all, I think it's a race for President Obama to remind the American public the kind of things he's been doing and stop letting the other side steal his narrative. He's a guy that's cut taxes on small business, the lowest discretionary spending we've had in decades in the United States. Start telling the truth about the Obama record to let people know that not only is he doing the kind of things, cutting taxes on the majority of Americans, but he's also doing things to stimulate the economy, the economy's getting better.Later in the day, a second Booker appeared on YouTube. He said he wanted to make his earlier statements clear.
As far as that stuff, I have to just say, from a very personal level, I'm not about to sit here and indict private equity. It's to me, 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, it ain't—they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses, And this, to me, I'm very uncomfortable with.
I talk to the White House quite often. I'm a surrogate for the Obama campaign. The messages that they're sending me out to do, out to talk about, is nothing about this.
They're talking about very clearly, the average American, middle-class Americans. In fact, over 90 percent of Americans have seen tax cuts under this president. Small businesses, like the ones that are in my city, have benefited tremendously from incentives for investment, rewards for creating jobs, rewards for hiring, hiring veterans. So on the issues that matter in the communities, I see the Obama administration having stepped up and just needing to get their voice out more. Even Obama, Obamacare, as people talk about, when people start—when you poll Obamacare, it doesn't do well. But when you start polling the aspects of it, people in this country support that legislation.
But the last point I'll make is 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. It's either going to be a small campaign about this crap or it's going to be a big campaign, in my opinion, about the issues that the American public cares about.
“Let me be clear,” this new Booker said, creating massive confusion. “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.”
In fairness, it’s hard to argue with that—and this second Booker said more. “I believe that Mitt Romney in many ways is not being completely honest with his role and his record, even while a businessperson, and is shaping it to serve his political interest, not necessarily including all the facts of his time there,” the new Booker said. To watch his full statement, click here.
Booker seemed to be of two minds about Bain as a campaign issue. For ourselves, we wondered about his statement on Meet the Press, especially the part in which he alleged voter nauseation.
For the record, Booker’s statement on Meet the Press didn’t quite make sense. “I'm not about to sit here and indict private equity,” he said. “...Stop attacking private equity.” But people! An indictment of Romney’s conduct at Bain isn’t necessarily an indictment of private equity as a whole. It’s an indictment of Romney’s behavior and values, not those of anyone else.
It’s also worth noting that Booker advanced a rather “austerian” view of Obama’s achievements. According to Booker, Obama has been cutting taxes, and he has produced “the lowest discretionary spending we've had in decades.” This sounds like the defense of a Republican president’s record.
That said, is it possible that Booker I was right in his overall message? Should the Obama campaign focus more on a positive message, less on attacks against Romney?
We don’t have a firm view about that; political strategy isn’t our focus. But we think it’s worth asking if Booker could be right in his diagnosis of the nausea he sees sweeping the land.
Years ago, Sartre wrote La Nausee (“The Nausea”), a novel about a dejected historian who becomes convinced that inanimate objects and situations encroach on his ability to define himself. French writer Simone de Beauvoir claimed that "The Nausea" grants consciousness a remarkable independence and gives reality the full weight of its sense.
And no, we really aren’t making that up. Though Wikipedia may be—click here.
Sartre described the nausea of the late 1930s in his famously thoughtful novel. Presumably, this isn’t the type of nauseation Booker I had in mind.
But as we watch an uncomfortably close race shape up between Obama and Romney, we often wonder if liberals and Dems understand the public’s perspective on an array of issues. With that in mind, is it possible that Booker I was right to some extent? Is it possible that voters are “nauseated,” or at least unmoved, by the unfolding attacks on Romney’s conduct at Bain?
For ourselves, we think the liberal world has done a very poor job explaining the problem with Romney’s conduct at Bain. But then, if it weren’t for bungled reactions to issues, would we liberals ever react to any issues at all?
All week long, we’ll look at liberal reaction to current issues and pseudo-issues. Question: Do we liberals understand the rubes at whom we often direct our derision?
Unwashed as they are, these yokels do vote! Do we understand the ways these hayseeds see the world?
Back in the day, Sartre nailed it, explaining the way inanimate objects were getting under historians’ skin. But do we liberals understand the shape of modern nauseation? Would Beauvoir say that we are giving current reality “the full weight of its sense?”
How clearly do we understand our political world? Do inquiring minds want to know?
Tomorrow: Explaining Bain