If you’ve never read Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s tweets, you should; the man is endlessly entertaining and never short of an opinion on national issues. (Keeping his options open?) That became a negative for his Democrats yesterday. He has a problem with President Obama’s re-election campaign taking shots at former Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R-MA) past at Bain Capital. Republicans love that. All Booker has to do is say “Fuck off” to the GOP and he’ll win my seal of approval. (UPDATE: He did.)
I have to just say from a very personal level, I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity. 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 invest 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.
Not very articulate, but the point is made. The trouble is that it’s not at all below the belt to question how Romney’s history at Bain makes him an economic savior. Maybe Obama administration economic adviser Steven Rattner is correct in saying that it was never Bain Capital’s job to create jobs, but to generate profits. But what good will that do for a president? Given Massachusetts’ 47th-place ranking while Romney was governor, does he know how to help businesses without outsourcing, automation or slashing salaries and benefits?
That’s prong one of my argument: The substance of Booker’s argument does not stand. Prong two is how the Obama team responded. Chief Obama strategist David Axelrod insisted that Booker was “talking about the general tenor of the campaign.” That was certainly a part of it, but it’s pretty evident from the above quote that Booker was also coming to the defense of Bain-style private equity. How can you miss that?
Axelrod does himself and his campaign no favors by jumping on every Democrat who criticizes a strategy or policy of theirs in public. The two-party system has always allowed for more ideological diversity than multi-party system (trust me, I’m Canadian – I know), and thus you’ll never have a completely coordinated message. I’d be more inclined to give Axelrod a pass for this if I didn’t think the conditions (i.e. Obama’s record) were ripe for this to become a habit.
And as for Booker: The way a candidate’s economic worldview was shaped is kind of important, especially when recovery is so anemic. I wouldn’t trust Romney to help anyone outside his base, and so far he hasn’t provided any reason to believe otherwise.