Newark Mayor Cory Booker's appearance on Meet the Press in which he condemned attacks on Mitt Romney's career at Bain Capital as "nauseating" and urging Democrats to "Stop attacking private equity" went great -- for Cory Booker. He's already backtracked with a four-minute clarification on YouTube that didn't really back off the "nauseating" part.
But Politico's Dylan Byers notes the Obama campaign tweeted a link to a 35-second version of the clip, making it seem like Booker completely reversed himself. That version leads with Booker saying this:
"Mitt Romney has made his business record a centerpiece of his campaign. He's talked about himself as a job creator and therefore it is reasonable, and I encourage it, for the Obama campaign to examine that record and to discuss it. I have no problem with that."
To understand why Booker said what he said -- and why he needed to backtrack -- it helps to look at the complains of one of the show's guests a week earlier. "I would call myself a barely Democrat, at this point," JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon said a week ago. "I've gotten disturbed at the-- some of the Democrats behave-- you know, anti-business behavior, the sentiment, the-- the attacks on work ethic and-- successful people." Sure, the Wall Street executive said, he wants the things Democrats want -- not just "a more equitable society" but "higher taxes," too! But the way Democrats have gone about campaigning for the latter issue has hurt a lot of feelings on Wall Street. So here comes Booker to the rescue, not only condemning something everyone hates -- negative ads -- but soothing the feelings of an industry that made up a quarter of his campaign donations in his 2002 mayoral race as well as to his CoryPAC this year. His main quote on Meet the Press was:
"This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It's nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright. This stuff has got to stop, because what it does is it undermines, to me, what this country should be focused on."
The appearance has put pundits in scandal mode, but no one really seems to be going after Booker for what he said. "In Washington, there’s an old cliche: A gaffe is when a politician is accidentally honest," The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake write in, though this is one of those rare moments when "honest" and "pandering" have a bit of overlap. Salon's Steve Kornacki argues that Booker is way too smooth to have said that on accident. "Booker’s independence from Democrats should come as little surprise," his hometown paper says. "Speak too much truth — like Booker on negative campaigning — and watch an unwanted firestorm (is there any other kind?) erupt," the Washington Post says. "Newark Mayor Cory Booker… not only does he save people from burning buildings, not only does he shovel sidewalks, not only does he do hilarious videos with Chris Christie… he even calls them as he sees them, even if it really, really complicates life for the president of his party," the National Review's Jim Geraghty writes, even though he adds in a parenthetical that he disagrees with Booker on the merits. In the end, Booker gets to have it both ways. The honest, brave keeper of his own ideals; the friend of Wall Street that feels shunned by the Democratic Party. It's win-win.