Newark's Democrat mayor criticizes Obama's War On Private Equity


Newark mayor Cory Booker appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday to talk about the “veepstakes” for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.  Although a Democrat, and a supporter of President Obama, Booker gets along very well with New Jersey’s star Republican governor, Chris Christie, and spoke as highly as partisan politics would allow on his behalf.

Booker and Christie also have lively senses of humor, as evidenced by a video they made together that pokes fun at the vice-presidential selection process, along with Booker’s swashbuckling history of diving headlong into disasters to save his constituents from mortal peril.  NBC ran this video at the beginning of the Booker segment, which set a lighthearted tone for the interview.  It didn’t last.

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The topic shifted to economics, and the horrors awaiting the Eurozone, before circling back around to the much-ballyhooed but somewhat disappointing Facebook IPO.  Then Booker shook the very foundations of the Left by offering a defense of Mitt Romney’s work at Bain Capital, and said he found the Obama’ campaigns attacks on private equity “nauseating.”

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“As far as that stuff, I have to say from a very personal level, I’m not going to sit here and indict private equity,” said the Mayor.  “It’s just that, to me, we’re getting to a very ridiculous point here in America… especially that I know, I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people 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 that grow businesses, and this, to me, I’m very uncomfortable with.”

Booker went on to describe himself as a “surrogate” for the Obama campaign, but stressed they have not asked him to get involved in their War On Private Equity.  He went on to shovel out some Obama campaign boilerplate, including a laughable attempt to defend the unmitigated disaster known as ObamaCare, but the damage was done.  (Just poll ObamaCare in pieces and people will like it better, Mayor Booker?  Really?  Because we can’t have it in pieces.  We don’t get to say “no” to the parts we dislike.  We don’t have any choices at all.  The whole point of ObamaCare was to take our freedom away.)

There was also an attempt by Booker to broaden his critique to include all negative campaigning from both sides.  The problem, of course, is that while Obama’s team has been belching out nothing but fear-mongering and toxic assaults, the Romney campaign has made a very public point of refusing to do so.  They’ve criticized Obama’s record, but that’s the sort of thing Booker considers fair game. 

“Stop criticizing Bain Capital,” he implored.  “Stop criticizing Jeremiah Wright.”  The Romney campaign was extremely public and unequivocal about refusing to criticize Jeremiah Wright.  Short of grabbing a baseball bat and re-enacting the iconic scene from Walking Tall down at Super PAC headquarters, Romney couldn’t have been more firm on the matter.

Liberals went berserk on Twitter – hurling vile insults, declaring Mayor Booker’s promising career in Democrat politics over, and accusing him of being a paid shill for Wall Street (and, yes, those resilient boogeymen lurking in so many empty mental closets, the Koch Brothers.)  The slightest, most reasonable concession to the Romney campaign was declared intolerable.  As any student of Leftist fulmination knows, they talk about “tolerance” a lot, but they’re very good at intolerance.

Booker felt enough of this heat to rush out a four-minute video “clarifying” his position.  He doesn’t really say anything different from his remarks on “Meet the Press.”  He just makes it more clear that he’s a true-blue Obama supporter, but dislikes sloppy broad-based attacks on private equity firms, and negative campaigning in general:

Of course, the Obama campaign promptly clipped out 35 seconds of this ad and tried using it to imply Booker was “flip-flopping” on his defense of private equity, as reported by Politico.  Nice friends you got there, Mr. Mayor.

There were some calmer, less vicious attempts to take exception with Booker’s defense of Bain Capital, as related by the Newark Star-Ledger:

The chaiman of the state Democratic Party, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), said he did not believe Booker was being disloyal to the party. But he did say that Booker’s criticism “misses the point.”

“It’s not about whether private equity is good or bad, it’s how Mitt Romney, at Bain Captal, utilized his position at a private equity firm to choose to create wealth as opposed to jobs,” said Wisniewski. “And it is a real issue, when you have the Romney campaign talking about job creation.”

Both Booker and Wisneiwski are wrong about the real issue here, which is the total politicization of American society.  The Obama campaign sublimates all aspects of American life and business, as well as reason and common sense, to political imperatives.  There’s really nothing complicated about Obama’s stance on private equity: he believes it should be directed by the State.  The political loyalty of private equity managers and firms is more important than what they’re actually doing with their money.  That’s why Mitt Romney is castigated for job losses that occurred after he left Bain Capital, while the top Obama donor who was still running operations at the firm is beyond criticism.

Booker’s less excitable critics are correct when they say Obama’s not launching a broad attack upon all private equity firms and executives.  He’s perfectly comfortable with those who donate to his campaign, and provide support for his political initiatives.  That is the sole criteria by which he judges them.  You will go mad if you abandon that simple observation and try to concoct a more elaborate, less unpleasant rationale.

The very notion that Mitt Romney’s private-sector investment career is remotely comparable to the actions of Barack Obama, or any other politician of either party, is nauseating.  Political leadership is not the same thing as investment management.  Much of the Obama disaster was caused by politicians who viewed themselves as investors.  They should not be allowed to secure re-election by judging investors as if they were elected officials. 

Private equity firms do not exist to “create jobs,” spread welfare benefits, or implement “social justice” programs.  They exist to create value for their shareholders.  If you have a problem with that, you have a problem with capitalism… and your mind drifts inevitably closer to perfect harmony with the fastest-growing political movements of the early Twentieth Century, which were built around the notion of requiring private businesses to secure political approval for their investment and development plans. 

I don’t think Cory Booker really wants to go there.  On Sunday, he learned that he isn’t the one charting the Democrat Party’s course.  Not yet, anyway.

Update: I should clairfy that Booker’s “walk-back” video is not substantively different than what he said on “Meet the Press,” but the style of the video makes it clear he’s backing off under intense pressure.  He’s a big social media presence, so I don’t know if he’s responding to direct criticism from angry liberals on the Internet, or pressure from Team Obama.  I suspect it’s a combination of the two.

Update: Internet wags have taken to describing Booker’s statement of clarification as a “hostage video.”  The Republican National Committee got in on the fun by circulating an “I Stand With Cory” online petition, to come to the embattled Newark mayor’s rescue.  Bipartisanship is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?