Cory Booker: ‘I wanted to scream out’ during the first debate

posted at 2:41 pm on October 11, 2012 by Mary Katharine Ham

Who, me? Cory Booker? Dashing mayor by day and occasional superhero by night? You’d like me to comment on the president’s dismal performance in his debate last week? Why, no, I just don’t think I could. I really shouldn’t. Do you have a permit for arm-twisting, buddy? Ha, just a little mayor humor. Well, all right, if you insist:

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a top President Obama surrogate, said Thursday he wanted to “scream” during last week’s debate when Obama did not pounce on Mitt Romney’s joke about needing to “get a new accountant.”

“I wanted to scream out, Obama, say, ‘keep your accountant, they’re allowing you to pay only 13 percent in taxes,’” Booker said. “The rest of us should have accountants like that.”

Surely sensing Stef Cutter with zip ties at the ready behind him, the famous hostage video star turned the corner, saying the president made the right decision not to attack:

But, Booker conceded, the “right advice” for Obama was to “stay presidential.”

“That’s like a shot I don’t want to hear from my president,” Booker said. “So he’s got a fine line to walk. The reality is, I would have liked to see some hard punches to the gut when Romney would say something factually inaccurate, like President Obama was raiding … from Medicare, which is factually inaccurate.”

Actually, that’s exactly the shot Obama should have delivered. Painting Romney as a heartless tax evader has been the strategy of his entire campaign, and there’s nearly nothing unpresidential enough for Obama to avoid in service of that strategy. Please see Big Bird and the Murderer Mitt ad. A well-timed debate zinger would have been a high-water mark. I had the mirror reaction at that moment— “If we all keep our mouths closed, maybe Obama won’t notice he left that on the table.” I watched in amazement as the line improbably worked in Romney’s favor and the president said nothing.

Booker wanted to scream because the retort was aggravatingly obvious and should have been deployed, not because the president was doing the right thing. It’s like yelling the correct answer at your TV as a losing Jeopardy contestant stands mouth agape and later claiming the contestant’s -600 finish was dignified.

Are we still talking about the worst parts of President Obama’s bad debate performance on CNN more than a week after it happened? Why, yes we are. Thanks, Cory Booker! Let that be a lesson to you, Team Obama.

Nobody puts Booker in a corner.

Who else has a measured, reasonable reaction to the president’s debate performance that won’t at all encourage reporters to continue asking about it and people like me to continue posting about it? Robert Gibbs?

“Five minutes in, I thought, ‘Oh s**t.’” Gibbs promised a very different Obama in rounds II and III.

Update: Left a link out for The Hill, and it’s now been added.


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