Let’s face it. Being mayor of Newark is not normally what one would consider a ticket to regular national media exposure, such as the heavy hitters in D.C. routinely enjoy. So the cynical take on Cory Booker’s confoundingly unflattering remarks about the Obama campaign on “Meet the Press” recently well might be that the guy just felt he had to make the most of a network TV opportunity to get his name and profile into the national conversation. So, okay, that defies any and every possible hint of logic. But what then explains this pretty much unprovoked bout of stupefying behavior from the mayor?
Booker has not shown himself, in his political career to date, to be less than the intelligent, level-headed player presented to the public when he first entered the arena. Four years ago he was proudly in the Obama camp quite early, and he still considers himself, apparently, an Obama ally. None of which squares with Booker characterizing as “nauseating” ads from the president’s reelection campaign committee that target Mitt Romney’s tenure as head of the private equity firm, Bain Capital. Certainly, if he had some misgivings about the content of particular campaign advertising, one would hope Booker had means of access, if not to the president, at least to folks in the president’s campaign organization, to make his views known. And even if he didn’t, even if he tried and failed to get himself heard, to what do we attribute a decision to publicly vent his disgust?
Could politician Booker possibly claim innocence of how much his high-octane comment would be aiding and abetting the other side? And since we can just about dispense with that as a possibility in anyone who wasn’t an absolute sicko, there seem to be precious few good options for explaining the mayor’s meltdown. That he undertook, in wake of the immediate firestorm, to do some back-pedaling, only made the episode more bizarre.
Giving that kind of unsolicited bonanza to a Republican operation known to go to any dissembling lengths in the hoodwink process, of course made for a dividend-paying euphoria that the Romney camp will assuredly ride for a long time. Booker, overnight, became a GOP darling. If he didn’t think he would amounts to behavioral puzzlement that would stump Freud. Fact is, though, that Democrats have every reason to keep right on pounding away at Romney and the rationale he offers the American people for voting him president. As large a hole as possible needs to be blown through this tower Romney thinks he, by right, occupies, from where he lords it over the likes of “a nice guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing.” That would be the current president of the United States, in Romney’s patronizing conclusion.
The Romney brain trust has thought to keep the electorate’s focus on his stint at Bain and away from the one elective office he held as Massachusetts governor primarily for two reasons, one suspects: because his job-creation record in Massachusetts was anything but stellar and because drawing attention to his gubernatorial stint will again encourage comparisons with the healthcare reform he instituted and from which he so strenuously tried to distance himself during the Republican primaries. Positioning him as a Bain job creator looked to be the path of least resistance.
But there’s big-time sham at work here. Romney’s outer crust is indeed quite porous. And the president’s attacks on him as looking out for investors with scant regard for those on the lower rungs economically, are spot on. As we’ve pointed out before, his indifference, in the guise of so-called sound economic practice, with respect to the foundering auto industry, was indicative of where we can confidently place Romney and the modern-day Republican philosophical thrust. Of greater concern, though, is the Romney core.
That crowded calendar of Republican primaries may have been a bruising time for the laundry list of candidates who participated, but it caused a light to be beamed on the man who was always the presumptive nominee, that had to be instructive for the electorate. As he and the others slugged it out, Romney’s gyrations to curry favor with the largely conservative primary voter base was at times pathetic to watch. He was “severely conservative” he proclaimed at one point. And one knew that Romney’s stiff, buttoned-down appearance as someone who didn’t belong among “regular” folk was an accurate depiction of where Romney was in fact coming from…that it was no accidental slip when he said he didn’t care about the poor.
So the Booker goof notwithstanding, the Republicans, all things being equal, should have no easy time of it defending a standard bearer whose absence of soul is, oddly, his most glaring characteristic. Newark’s mayor may have unwittingly (or so we hope) given Romney and the Republicans something to cheer about. But it’s not the kind of performance so good that it keeps on giving. The Booker fallout will have run its course in short order. Republicans will have to take their best shot with a guy who, try as they might, could well be the poster boy for makeover defiance.
Someone said Romney believes the presidency is his own personal entitlement. He sure acts like it.