In Washington, there’s an old cliche: A gaffe is when a politician is accidentally honest.
That’s what happened to Newark (N.J.) Mayor Cory Booker during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Booker, who is widely regarded as a fast riser in Democratic politics, veered badly off message when he defended Bain Capital — the longtime employer of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney — and described the negative tone of the campaign as “nauseating”…
Watch Booker’s video; it’s obvious he doesn’t like the negativity of the campaign — on both sides — and despite what we can only assume was heavy pressure by the Obama team to fix the glitch, he isn’t willing to entirely walk back his comments.
Gingrich said Booker “described what I think is a big reality for him as the mayor of Newark, that that free enterprise system has been creating jobs, paying taxes, improving his city.”
Romney’s work at Bain is open for inspection as part of his record, Gingrich said, but Democrats would be wise to stay away from it, lest they be seen as critical of the free market…
“One thing we discovered we could never make clear an attack on a particular case, and Romney’s ability to say no this is about free enterprise” he said. “And the average American looked up and said, ‘it’s about free enterprise.’ And it turned out that particular argument simply doesn’t work.”
One prominent business official, who asked not to be identified, put it this way: “It’s demonization of capitalism. And that makes a lot of Democrats uncomfortable and Cory Booker’s one of them. … I think that anybody with half a brain knows that the story is far more complicated and in fact Bain and private equity generally have made some positive contributions.”
“You know, they’re known as a very good company,” one Democratic operative said of Bain. “[They] help a lot of businesses around the country. Smart Dems don’t want to be anti-business.”…
The Obama campaign, meanwhile, continued dominating the latest in its string of mini-news cycles with the comments from Booker and then his YouTube walk back of his indictment of the Bain critiques on “Meet the Press.”
One Democratic operative wondered aloud whether “he was sending signals using finger-taps or blinks” as Booker delivered a message he appeared to have been pressured into. Obama insiders denied pushing Booker to apologize.
“See it’s not a surprise to me because, if people don’t understand it now by paying attention to Cory traveling throughout the country, the people he meets with, people he supports and all the stuff happening in Newark with hedge funds and investors, if they don’t understand he’s completely beholden to them, there’s something wrong with them,” Rice said today. “It should not come as a shock to Obama, who understands [Booker] has these relationships and is going to play both ends to the middle as he always does.”
Referring to the video statement Booker posted for his “social media followers” after the “Meet the Press” appearance in which he reiterated his support for Obama, Rice said, “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t clean up something you truly believe in.”
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 capitalists, 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.
Baldwin pressed LaBolt. “Hang on, I know Cory Booker is a rising star, he’s a superstar on Twitter. You’re telling me no one within the Obama 2012 campaign in any way reached out to Cory Booker to fix this?”
“He released that video of his own volition,” LaBolt responded. “We did not ask him to do so. We did not, no.”
The president, speaking to reporters in Chicago at the conclusion of a NATO summit there, said that it’s perfectly fair to pore through Romney’s record at Bain Capital, the private equity firm he had cofounded, since the former Massachusetts governor had made his private sector experience a cornerstone of his campaign.
“This is not a distraction. This is what this campaign is going to be about,” Obama said.
“I’m very upset I’m being used by the GOP this way.”