The Free Beacon has all 11 minutes of Booker’s lecture to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen this afternoon (“your silence and your amnesia is complicity!”) but the short clip below is as much as I could take. It’s not his argument that grates. At base he’s making a simple point, that Trump may wish he was president of 1950s America or white America or the “forgotten men and women of America” or “blue-collar guys having beers after work America,” but he isn’t. He’s president of the United States and many an American either came from a “sh*thole” country themselves or has family who still lives in one. They have ethnic pride like anyone else does, no matter how impoverished their nation of birth was. When you say “sh*thole countries” it’ll be heard as “sh*thole people.” Booker’s right to have a problem with it.
But he’s a terrible actor. Simply horrendous, and bad acting takes you out of the moment whether it’s onstage or at a Senate hearing. Before he was elected to the Senate his embarrassing theatrics were limited to goofy feelgood stump stories about fictional characters he supposedly encountered while mayor of Newark, like the infamous “T-Bone.” That’s Booker to a, er, “T”: He has a politician’s instinct for connecting with his audience but his pandering is so heavy-handed that he can’t help coming off as phony. The same thing happened with his cringeworthy performance at Jeff Sessions’s confirmation hearing for Attorney General last year. He’s forever being compared to Obama because they were both young black male senators with Ivy League pedigrees but Obama’s hallmark was his Spock-like coolness. Booker’s the opposite. He can’t resist the temptation to emote even when it’s obvious, as it is here, that an Obama-esque delivery of the same points would have been more effective. I mean, really:
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) January 16, 2018
You know why, too. He’s a mortal lock to run for president in 2020 but he’s facing a crowded field in the primary with a lot of big names. So did Obama in 2008, but Obama had trailblazing appeal that Booker no longer has thanks to O himself. What’s more, he won’t be the only black candidate running: Kamala Harris is sure to run as well. Democrats watched the black vote shrink for Hillary in 2016 to devastating effect and will weigh carefully the possibility that a black nominee may be able to reassemble the “Obama coalition” in a way that few if any white candidates could, which gives Booker a strong claim to the nomination. But what’s his edge over Harris? What’s his edge over Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren for that matter, given how popular they are with far-leftists who might otherwise stay home if one of them’s not nominated?
Booker seems to have decided that the way to land on Democrats’ radar is to emote his way onto it at big moments when the liberal id really wants to see Trump and his team challenged on moral grounds. He broke with Senate tradition to oppose Sessions’s confirmation despite the fact that they were Senate colleagues who’d worked together. Now he’s here in front of Nielsen, his eyes bugging out sporadically in flashes of anger, lamenting the real tears he supposedly shed when Dick Durbin shared with him the most predictable Trump anecdote ever, the “sh*thole” episode.
The man needs acting lessons, plain and simple. You can’t win a primary running on authenticity when you come off as inauthentic as this in practice. Harris is going to smoke him if he doesn’t get it together. Or at least, let’s hope: Having Booker and Gillibrand, another painfully embarrassing panderer, as the final two in the 2020 Democratic primary would feel like a TV-movie-quality remake of the 2008 primary. Bad script, bad actors. America can do better.
"When Dick Durbin called me, I had tears of rage," Booker says. "And for you not to feel that hurt and that pain and to dismiss the questions of my colleagues … with tens of millions Americans hurting right now because they're worried about what happened in the White House." pic.twitter.com/0MS9t8WWM0
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 16, 2018