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Obama Campaign Goes After Romney's 'Vampire' Capitalism; Cory Booker Cries Foul

 
 
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There's a an earnestness to Newark Mayor Cory Booker that is, by turns, pleasing and annoying. When he pitches in to help shovel out a street deluged by a snow storm, or rushes into a burning building to save its occupants -- that's mighty pleasing. But when he turns his superpowers to the defense of leveraged buyout firms, he's kind of annoying. This weekend, on NBC's Meet the Press, Booker gave "private equity" its Britney Spears moment, when he described as "nauseating" an Obama campaign video that attacked apparent Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for his record as CEO at Bain Capital.

To be fair to Booker, one must also note that he also applied the term "nauseating" to a video proposed to a Romney-allied superPAC that would have dredged up Rev. Jeremiah Wright, President Barack Obama's former pastor, as a race-card bogeyman  But, in a way, that only made matters worse, because Booker essentially equated a race-baiting script with one that took on a presidential candidate for the bankrupting of a steel company that put regular people out of work while enriching the candidate (Romney) and his company's investors at Bain Capital. Booker made those remarks after calling himself a "surrogate" for the Obama campaign.

After MTP host David Gregory played a clip from the Obama campaign's anti-Romney video, he asked participants in the show's roundtable to respond. "[T]his 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. 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."

He also defended Bain, saying, "they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses." (Transcript below.)

It's not far-fetched to speculate that the Obama campaign, which is quite invested in painting Romney as a feed-the-rich guy, based on his record at Bain, was none too pleased with its Boy-Scoutish surrogate. For on the very same day, Booker issued a video [included at the bottom of this post] of his own, attempting to explain his comments, which he didn't exactly walk back. Instead, he reiterated his support for President Obama, and said he was simply seeking to elevate the political discourse to issues that "really matter." As for Romney, Booker said in his video that because the GOP candidate has made his record as a businessman "the centerpiece of his campaign, " it was "reasonable" for the Obama campaign "to examine that record, and to discuss it." He added: "I have no problem with that."

In the meantime, the Obama campaign is about to convene a press conference to unveil its "examination" of Romney's record at Bain Capital.

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Partial transcript from Booker's appearance on yesterday's edition of Meet the Press:

MAYOR BOOKER: 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. 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. To me, it's just this--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.

MR. GREGORY: You know, I know you're not--I know you defend the president, but I have to tell you, this--when I talk to business leaders, Jim, this is the difference in a lot of cases between Washington figures and local officials like yourself, who are out there trying to grow the economy, who say hey, wait a minute, let's not indict all of private equity, and yet you have a campaign that's making him out to be Gordon Gekko. They, they want the voters to think that Mitt Romney is Gordon Gekko and Wall Street greed and a throwback.

MAYOR BOOKER: Well, again, 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.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MAYOR BOOKER: 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 pull Obamacare, it doesn't do well. But when you start polling the aspects of it, people in this country support that legislation.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MAYOR BOOKER: 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.

This video was issued by Booker yesterday evening, after his Meet the Press appearance:

 

AlterNet / By Adele M. Stan

Posted at May 21, 2012, 4:46am