Published May 21, 2012
“To me, it’s just 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, they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses.”
-- Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J. on “Meet the Press,” equating President Obama’s attacks on Bain with Republican attacks on Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, calling both “nauseating.”
Newark Mayor Cory Booker had a pretty lousy Sunday.
He struck a high-minded tone on “Meet the Press” denouncing and equating the campaign tactics that would vilify either Mitt Romney’s former employer or President Obama’s former pastor.
This is McCain-style “maverick” talk, in which one seeks moral authority by lamenting a flaw in his or her own party. This kind of talk is a staple of Sunday show regulars. But Booker forgot why he was there. Booker was on the show as a surrogate for the Obama campaign and should not be talking about being nauseated by ads by the president of his party.
It was particularly bad because Booker was talking about an aggressive, expensive ongoing campaign strategy by the Obama campaign to undermine former Bain CEO Romney’s reputation as a business whiz. Booker equated that very deliberate effort with a proposal to a Republican booster to run ads reminding voters of the rhetoric of former Obama pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
Equating a central pillar of the Obama campaign to a stillborn proposal to a billionaire political activist outside of Romney’s circle, especially when that proposal has been widely decried by the right, was a big mistake.
The left, especially those supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement, went berserk. The left side of the Internet filled quickly with the kind of invective against Booker that it usually reserved for conservatives and former members of the Bush administration.
By the afternoon, Booker had posted a video online “expanding” on his comments and clarifying his support for Obama. Booker explained that he thought it acceptable to examine Romney’s business credentials but didn’t like the whole idea of private equity being demonized. The Obama campaign took that 4 minute video and chopped it down to a 35-second attack on Romney.
Booker, the top contender to take on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie next year, has lots of reasons not to stomp on the toes of the financial sector. He’s going to need their money and support.
Obama is in a similar situation. One of his top bundlers is in fact a managing director at Bain who was an executive at the firm in 2001 at the time that GST Steel went bust. GST Steel is the firm at the center of Obama’s attacks on Romney, whom the campaign has dubbed a “vampire.” Romney had left the firm two years before, so whom is Obama calling a bloodsucker?
Obama, whose campaign is spending money at a staggering rate, is very dependent on the financial sector for its ongoing support. This creates a problem because Obama’s most powerful weapon against Romney is the effort to paint him as greedy and cruel.
The idea is Obama wants Wall Street to give him money so he can depict Romney as a wicked, wanton capitalist. But since Romney and Bain are well respected in the business for their success, even pro-Obama moneymen have reason to wonder if this swing-state populist pitch won’t end up stoking resentments against the entire financial sector.
Booker, whose career is just beginning, doesn’t have the luxury that Obama does to bite the hand that feeds him. Christie is a popular governor and business-types love his cost-cutting approach. Booker can’t afford to be seen denouncing one of the most important businesses in his state.
But Booker’s equivalization of Obama’s Bain ads to attacks on Rev. Wright comes at a difficult time for the president’s campaign. Obama needs to get Romney on the defensive on the economy and is spending big bucks to turn him into Gordon Gecko.
The president is certainly helped the more the discussion stays on Romney’s record. The Republican is mounting a spirited defense, but that’s still better for Obama than Romney staying on offense. Even so, Obama doesn’t want to be identified with the kind of heavy-handed attacks that even his supporters say are unfair.
The question is whether the damage he’s doing to Romney is worth the damage Obama is doing to his donor base and his brand.
The Day in Quotes
“Look, I don’t dispute that the deficit has increased… We just decided collectively that the economy needed that.”
-- Austan Goolsbee, former head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, on “FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”
“It's hard to keep 218 frogs in wheelbarrow long enough to get a bill passed.”
-- House Speaker John Boehner on “This Week.”
“The people selected for this article are registered lobbyists, but this article excludes the thousands of people who visit the White House every week for meetings and events who are not.”
-- White House spokesman Eric Schultz talking to the Washington Post about the paper’s analysis of administration visitor logs that found lobbyists have been a regular presence despite President Obama’s pledges to curtail influence peddling.
“[NATO leaders in Chicago are] painting a vision post-2014 in which we have ended our combat role, the Afghan war as we understand it is over, but our commitment to friendship and partnership with Afghanistan continues.”
-- President Obama in remarks following a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"I'm in total support of stopping NATO and stopping the slaughter of innocent civilians. If we took the money we spent on bombs and put it into green energy, we wouldn't need to keep the sea lanes open [for transporting oil.]”
-- Ron McSheffery, one of nearly 3,000 who on Sunday protested the ongoing NATO summit in Chicago, talking to the Associated Press. Police arrested 45 protesters. Four officers were injured.
“Wall Street crashed our economy and the regular citizens of the United States are tired of being marginalized.”
-- Bobby Tolbert of National People’s Action, an Occupy Wall Street-affiliated group, talking to the Wall Street Journal after leading hundreds of protesters to the home of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to demand investigations of investment trading practices.
"This is just propaganda to create a climate of fear and to create this public perception that protesters are violent.”
-- Michael Deutsch, a lawyer for the Chicago protesters, talking to the Associated Press denouncing the weekend arrests of five anarchists on domestic terrorism charges for two separate bomb plots tied to the NATO gathering.
The Big Numbers
-- Mitt Romney’s campaign fundraising haul in April, down almost $1 million from March.
-- President Obama’s campaign fundraising haul in April, down almost $10 million from March. Obama’s campaign has spent more than $105 million so far.
-- April fundraising for the pro-Obama political action committee, Priorities USA Action. More than half of the April funds came from government worker unions.
-- April fundraising for the pro-Romney political action committee, Restore our Future.
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com.