Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, a prominent Democrat enlisted as a surrogate for President Obama’s campaign, sharply criticized it on Sunday for attacking Mitt Romney’s work at the private equity firm Bain Capital.
Booker, speaking on the NBC program "Meet the Press," made his comments in response to a television advertisement the president’s campaign unveiled last week. It portrays Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, as someone who eliminated jobs for the sake of profits during his years running Bain Capital.
“I have to just say, from a very personal level, I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity,” Booker said. “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 are 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, to grow businesses. And this to me, I’m very uncomfortable with.”
“The last point I’ll make is this kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides,” Booker continued. “It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.”
In mentioning Wright, Obama’s former pastor in Chicago, Booker seemed to be referring to a report last week in The New York Times that Joe Ricketts, a billionaire who founded the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, was considering a plan to finance a $10 million advertising campaign tying Obama to controversial and racially tinged comments by Wright.
After the plan being considered by Ricketts was disclosed, it drew sharp criticism not just from Democrats and the Obama campaign but also from Romney.
On "Meet the Press," Booker said: “This stuff has got to stop, because what it does is it undermines, to me, what this country should be focused on. It’s a distraction from the real issues.” He added that the race would either be a “small campaign” about issues like Wright and Bain, “or it’s going to be a big campaign, in my opinion, about the issues that the American public cares about.”
Booker’s comments immediately provoked widespread interest among political types on social media, in large part because he seemed to be equating the Obama campaign with Ricketts, who announced that he was rejecting the ad campaign after The Times published its report.
The Obama campaign declined to comment, directing reporters instead to Booker’s Twitter account, where he later wrote: “Yes, Obama must be re-elected. But we as a nation owe it to him and ourselves to reject politics as usual.”
Later, Booker responded to his critics in a YouTube video. “Let me be clear: Mitt Romney has made his business record a centerpiece of his campaign,” he said. “Therefore, it is reasonable, and in fact I encourage it, for the Obama campaign to examine that record and to discuss it. I have no problem with that.”