Boy, oh boy. It’s a heck of a ride when a politician tosses out the script, speaks from the heart and speaks the truth. It’s so rare these days that when something like happens, media outlets, political pundits and the general public take notice.
That’s what happened recently when Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, N.J., a rising star in the Democratic Party, appeared on “Meet The Press” and tried to tone down the heated campaign rhetoric that comes from both sides of the aisle on the topic of Mitt Romney’s record as the head of a private equity firm and the resurfacing of attacks on the president’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright.
“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 (Obama’s former pastor) Jeremiah Wright. This stuff has got to stop, because what it does is, it undermines … what this country should be focused on. It’s a distraction from the real issues.”
I couldn’t agree more. Americans are not interested in having a conversation about the president’s former pastor, or about the fundamentals of private equity. They’re more interested in having a substantive conversation about the issues that concern them: health care, the economy and building a better foundation and future for their kids and grandkids.
Democrats went ballistic when Booker uttered these comments and asked him to clarify his remarks, as some on the left have said it’s fair game to talk about Mitt Romney’s record with Bain Capital. Again, I couldn’t agree more. But to be completely fair, isn’t it also responsible to talk about the entire record? Here’s what President Obama said about Mitt Romney and his Bain record: “If the main basis for him suggesting he can do a better job is his track record as the head of a private equity firm, then both the upsides and the downsides are worth examining.” Again, I agree, but it’s worth stressing one point in what the president said, for the sake of fairness: Both the upsides and the downsides are worth examining, and herein lies the problem. No one on the left is discussing the upsides of the Bain record, and I think that’s the essence of Mayor Booker’s comments that are getting lost in the conversation.
Booker is a part of the Democratic Party that hopes the estrangement from Wall Street is not permanent. He’s also part of a party that is sick and tired of the partisan petty fights and has positioned himself as being more interested in a comprehensive conversation about the very different governing philosophies of the left and the right.
I’m saddened that Booker had to walk back his comments, and even more saddened that he’s been dragged to the woodshed over it. Booker is smart, substantive, and a patriot first and a partisan second who got his hand slapped because he spoke from his heart. He shouldn’t be chastised for it by some people in his party; all Americans, regardless of whether you’re an Independent, Republican or Democrat, should applaud him for it.