Cory Booker wants back on the bus

If you live on the periphery of the news, as many of us do, you probably noticed the name Cory Booker coming up a lot. The problem is, not all the stories told the same tale. What’s going on?

So let’s recap. Who is Cory Booker?

If you look at the Matrix (and not behind it), Cory Booker is a candidate for the Next Barack Obama — charismatic, black, handsome, “progressive,” electable — Mayor of Newark, an inverse Chris Christie — a “left-leaning” star on the rise.

Cory Booker has lately been seen stumping for Obama, playing “Obama surrogate” on TV. A man on the move. Well-branded. Well-managed. Well-placed.

Now the news. By all accounts, Cory Booker angered (some say greatly angered) the Obama administration — sorry, the “Obama re-election team” — by these remarks on a recent Meet The Press (h/t Buzzfeed):

He also said:

“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.”

Easy to see that this would be a problem. But what kind of problem?

How is this being seen?

Again there’s a kaleidoscope of ways to view this. He touched a lot of bases.

■ Let’s start with the excellent Ilyse Hogue at The Nation (all emphasis and some reparagraphing mine):

On Sunday’s Meet The Press, Booker disavowed the new ad campaign attacking Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, and in doing so, compared the Obama team’s decision to air the ads to the right-wing invocation of Reverend Wright to take down the president.

Booker released a retraction video hours later, but the incident indicates just how advanced the sickness of false equivalence is in our national dialogue.

He did hit the “false equivalency” base with that one. But why? Was it just automatic, as Ms. Hogue says later in her article, another instance of our national political “epidemic”? Hogue is right; this is an instance of an epidemic.

But is it more in this case? What got Obama’s bunch all bunched up? What got Booker thrown off the bus?

■ As a surrogate, Booker “stepped on Obama’s message” as Rachel Maddow put it. As an article at Crooks And Liars entitled “Booker Sandbags Obama Campaign” says:

Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital is one of the few quantifiable ways voters can see how he intends to approach employment issues and corporations, and the Obama campaign has done a terrific job of pointing out the “vulture capitalist” Romney so desperately tries to hide.

In fact, they launched a new website this week highlighting the swath of devastation Romney left behind. … So this morning on Meet the Press Mayor Cory Booker just managed to undo all of that work with a few measured sentences.

Yep. That too.

You could stop right here and get the Matrix version of this kaleidoscopic tale.

The left is on him about false equivalence; fair enough. The Obama’s are on him about defending Bain; also fair. (Maybe also about joining the racist attack on Wright. No one in Obamadom can come out for Wright, but I can imagine many are quietly sympathetic. I sure am.)

Cory Booker is now off the bus (some think permanently). He wants back on, and if you watched his recent Maddow appearance, you saw his pitch.

End of story?

A look behind the curtain tells a different tale

Who is Cory Booker? Behind the curtain, beneath the branding, he’s this guy.

Booker is Wall Street’s man in Newark. Zaid Jilani at the amazing Republic Report:

Cory Booker’s Political Career Guided By Top Wall St Donors To Romney’s Super PAC

Booker said his defense of private equity firms comes from a “very personal level.” … [But] Wall Street has been a huge backer of Booker’s campaigns. In 2006, “Lee Ainslie, the founder of hedge fund Maverick Capital Management LLC and a former protégé of Tiger Management LLC’s [Julian] Robertson; and D. Ian McKinnon, the managing partner of Ziff Brothers Investments,” maxed out in their donations to Booker’s campaign.

… Bloomberg chronicled in 2010 how Booker worked to raise as much as $240 million from Wall Street and other American financial services hubs to invest in urban renewal in the city of Newark. …

[Julian] Robertson, the prominent Booker campaign supporter [see above] who helped finance a Newark Charter program on behalf of Booker, is a close ally to Mitt Romney. … Robertson’s $1.8 million in contributions to Restore Our Future [Romney's SuperPAC] make him the second biggest contributor[.]

Of course there’s more; this is the Republic Report.

From the linked Bloomberg article:

Booker, 41, a Rhodes Scholar and son of International Business Machines Corp. executives, has raised $240 million for parks, schools and police since taking office in 2006 by convincing some of the wealthiest business people in the U.S. that Newark can be a model for urban renewal.

With the support of New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie, Booker, a Democrat, obtained a $100 million pledge last month from Facebook Inc. founder Mark Zuckerberg and a $25 million promise from Ackman.

Of course, Chris Christie, friend of the poor — and Democrats. Well, one Democrat.

Booker looks like Bain’s man in Newark as well. ThinkProgress:

Bain and Financial Industry Gave Over $565,000 To Newark Mayor Cory Booker For 2002 Campaign

A ThinkProgress examination of New Jersey campaign finance records for Booker’s first run for Mayor — back in 2002 — suggests a possible reason for his unease with attacks on Bain Capital and venture capital. They were among his earliest and most generous backers.

Contributions to his 2002 campaign from venture capit
alists, investors, and big Wall Street bankers brought him more than $115,000 for his 2002 campaign. Among those contributing to his campaign were John Connaughton ($2,000), Steve Pagliuca ($2,200), Jonathan Lavine ($1,000) — all of Bain Capital. While the forms are not totally clear, it appears the campaign raised less than $800,000 total, making this a significant percentage.

As usual with these depressing stories, there’s predictably more. Do click.

No wonder he doesn’t like jumping down Bain Capital’s throat. Whatever Bain coughs up, Booker feeds on.

But wait? Where’s the quid pro quo? Here’s one of several.

Booker, in return, likes his Michelle Rhee–style education “reform”:

Sacramento, California, New Brunswick, NJ (August 9, 2011) StudentsFirst and Better Education for Kids, Inc. (B4K) announced today that the two non-profit organizations would enter into an exclusive partnership to reform New Jersey’s public school system.

B4K and StudentsFirst share the same vision – bipartisan, common sense education reform that puts students first, empowers parents and rewards great teachers and principals. … Launched in early December by Michelle Rhee, former Washington, DC Public Schools chancellor, StudentsFirst has signed up more than 500,000 members and released a comprehensive policy agenda that transcends party lines.

I’ll decode this for you:

  • Student First = Teachers last
  • Non-profit = Tax-exempt political organization
  • Bipartisan = Republican dominated
  • Empowers parents = Sets up trap-like parent triggers
  • Rewards great teachers = Kills union-protected seniority and firing rules
  • Michelle Rhee = Friend of for-profit education

[Update: Excellent piece on Michelle Rhee here. Add Booker to the list of governors, all Republicans, in the article.]

You don’t need the nose of a pro sommelier to smell the payback. The whole New Jersey public school system? Bold, sir; very bold.

■ All of which make him the model of a Clintonian DLC golden boy. Just for good measure, this — the corp-friendly folks who brought you the Futures Modernization Act, brought you Booker as well.

He’s DLC to the core (h/t Twitter friend FogBelter):

DLC | New Dem Of The Week | February 18, 2009
New Dem of the Week: Cory Booker
Mayor, Newark, NJ

As the leader of New Jersey’s largest city, Newark Mayor Cory Booker has worked to improve not only the city, but the lives of its citizens. An advocate for government reform and community engagement, Booker’s innovative ideas continue to revitalize Newark. Even in these tough economic times, Booker reinforced his commitment to mutual responsibility …

Et cetera.

Bottom line

Cory Booker is not your friend, but he played one on TV.

At the level of the Matrix, this is a story about “Booker wants back on the bus” after accidentally stepping on Obama’s PR-offensive against Romney. It’s hard not to watch his Maddow interview without seeing the begging. He wants back his place at the trough.

Behind the Matrix though, it’s yet another tale of a faux-progressive, bought-and-paid Dem with good looks, successful branding, a great story, and a future he’s desperate to salvage. He’s not just begging Obama; he’s begging you as well.

He wants back his branding, his faux-liberal costume. Will you give it to him?

You can read this story either way and get your money’s worth. But only the second has a cherry at the center — a view of the actual world, should you choose to accept it.

GP

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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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