Guest Opinion: Cory Booker Was Right the First Time . . . It’s ‘Nauseating!’

Let's not confuse meaningful debate, discussion, or analysis with character assassination

Cory Booker was right . . . the first time. Anyone who follows the political game knows that Cory Booker is embroiled in a national soap opera involving presidential politics.

Last Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who last made national headlines when he rescued his neighbor from a burning building, compared President Barack Obama’s attacks on private equity to the attacks of the Republicans tying Jeremiah Wright to President Obama. Said Booker, with his usual passion and flair; “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.”

When I first saw Booker on “Meet the Press,” I thought, “That’s good stuff, Cory.” I was impressed that Booker would have the guts to tell it like it is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that Bain Capital or private equity should be off the table as an issue in this presidential campaign. Far from it. In fact, I believe there should be a vigorous debate, discussion, and analysis about the role of private equity and Mitt Romney’s track record in “job creation,” because Romney has made it a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. But that’s not what was “nauseating” to Booker, and is also nauseating to me and many Americans, about how the Democrats and the Obama campaign machine are attacking Romney and Bain. What they are doing in their campaign spots and online video messaging has nothing to do with a meaningful debate, discussion, or analysis of private equity or the track record of Bain Capital or Romney. Rather, it is a full-blown character assassination of Romney in an effort to destroy his reputation.

Consider video that the Obama campaign recently released on its website of an Indiana office supply company whose workers were let go when the company was purchased by a Bain-related organization. Said one of the people who lost his job, “You can tell by the way he [Romney] acts, the way he talk . . . he doesn’t care about the middle class or the lower-class people.” I don’t know about you, but that is “nauseating” to me. Of course, someone who lost his job when a company was taken over is going to say something negative about Mitt Romney because of his connection to the company that took over his company, resulting in that employee losing his job. Who could blame the guy? But for Obama and the Democrats to use that guy’s pain to try to destroy Romney’s character and reputation and turn middle- and working-class people against him is sickening. It’s beneath President Obama, or at least I thought it was. Obama knows that the economy and the reasons why people lose a job are complex and multifaceted. But the hell with it — just blame Bain and Mitt Romney for the guy losing his job. It’s a lot easier.

So Cory Booker was absolutely right on “Meet the Press” to challenge the Obama campaign on the way they were handling the Romney/Bain Capital issue. Of course, within hours, according to Booker, he had a meaningful discussion with Obama campaign operatives and by that evening Booker had put out a new video clarifying his comments.

By Monday night, Booker was on national television criticizing the Republicans for taking his comments out of context and he was reasserting his support for President Obama, saying Bain Capital was a legitimate campaign issue. One can only imagine what those conversations between Booker and Obama insiders were really like.

The Jeremiah Wright issue is a little more complicated. I was nauseated by Reverend Wright’s racist and anti-American rhetoric that we all saw on video in 2008. I was just as sickened by then-candidate Obama’s initial unwillingness to call it racist and un-American until we was forced into ultimately distancing himself from the reverend who had been his spiritual leader for well over a decade.

However, it would be nauseating if the Republicans once again tried to use the Reverend Wright connection to continue the charade of questioning President Obama’s commitment to this country and his patriotism. It is sickening to see people who disagree with Obama’s politics, challenge his legitimacy as an American citizen and the legitimacy of his presidency because of the Reverend Wright connection. If we want to have a meaningful debate or discussion about Obama’s views on race, that’s fine. If we want to discuss the role of religion in one’s political views? That makes sense. Or even a vigorous debate over the Reverend Wrights of the world and how dangerous they are to our country seems fair to me. But, to use these Jeremiah Wrights to try to destroy Obama’s character in a 30-second attack ad from the Romney folks or their big-moneyed PAC friends is, again, nauseating. Our country can’t afford it. People without jobs definitely can’t afford it.

This election is too important and that’s why Newark Mayor Booker on “Meet the Press” was right . . . the first time, when he said what he said. I only wish that he hadn’t backed down an inch no matter what private conversation he may have had with anyone in the Obama campaign. But then again, do you really need me to tell you that the tone of political discourse both in New Jersey and in the nation is in fact “nauseating?” I didn’t think so.

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