Breaking Down Cory Booker's 'Meet the Press' Gaffe

Newark Mayor Cory Booker

I don’t particularly care about whether or not Newark’s mayor and noted hero Cory Booker is in need of Mylanta after viewing one too many political ads criticizing private equity. After all, private equity has been good to both Booker and the city he was elected to serve. If he takes the Obama campaign’s ads targeting Mitt Romney’s record as CEO of Bain capital “very personally,” let him simmer in his feelings.

However, the context in which he spoke about this “great offense” makes me want to down some Pepto to settle my own stomach.

The not-always-so-super surrogate said on Meet The Press: "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."

It’s one thing to say you don’t agree with the President’s line of attack on Romney’s work in the private sector (although Romney is the one who made it a central narrative to his campaign), but it’s another to put that on par with a political strategy that’s intentionally racist. I don’t know how anyone, much less a Black man, could place the two in the same sentence – much less to argue some superficial kumbaya point. I know he has campaign backers to please, but c’mon.

For the record, Obama’s argument wasn’t an attack on private equity, an attack on success, an attack on free enterprise, or any other trite claim Republicans have thrown out there. If Obama really wanted Wall Street to crumble, his administration would look a lot different than the way it does. At its core, the president’s point was that qualities found in a good CEO are not necessarily ones that make for an excellent president.

Meanwhile, the now hugely mocked and since dismissed plan to revisit the controversy surrounding Rev. Jeremiah Wright by conservative billionaire Joe Ricketts was rooted in the idea that aggravating racial resentment among a certain bloc of the population is a key to win a national election. One sentiment clearly comes from a much more sinister place than the other. Booker has since shot another video trying to clarify his remarks, acknowledging, “Mitt Romney has made his business record a centerpiece of his campaign.”

He added: “He's talked about himself as a job creator. And therefore it is reasonable -- and in fact I encourage it -- for the Obama campaign to examine that record and discuss it. I have no problem with that.”

As for his words about Rev. Wright, he told Rachel Maddow, “I think I conflated the attacks that the Republicans were making with Jeremiah Wright with some of the attacks on the left. And those can't even be equated.”

Actually, he directly referenced the Obama reelection campaign, not people “on the left.” And even if it were just those on the left, the pebbles overzealous liberals throw don’t compare to the boulders many on the far right are pushing. But I guess efforts to posture oneself as post-partisan are more important than the truth.

Speaking on Rev. Wright being “used as an object of degradation,” Rev. Jesse Jackson said on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown: “I remember when parents were kicking their youth out of houses, called AIDS a kind of leprosy, he had a ministry. I remember when gays were being in isolation and committing suicide, he had a gay ministry. His ministry has been a most profound one. That’s why people like a young Barack Obama and Michelle would go to that church, because it was such a well ministered church.”

The worst part about Rev. Wright’s role in national politics is that it proved how easy it still is for a person of color to have their exercise of political discourse spurring instant demonization by the majority. There’s only one side behaving that dastardly and I’m assuming Booker quickly remembered that in the midst of his own firestorm as he claimed to Maddow, "You can't even equate the negativity on the right with what's happening in some sectors on the left." 

As Booker drowns himself in mints to remove the taste the foot in his mouth has left behind, let’s hope he remembers that the next time he’s talking about whose antics make him nauseous on air.

Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer currently based in Los Angeles. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick