There was a time when I was a regular ticket buyer on the Cory Booker train. He has always been a magnetic presence and a forceful speaker. What truly sold me though was the terrific Newark documentary series on the Sundance Channel, “Brick City.” The 2 season, 10 hour presentation showed that not only did Mayor Booker have good, progressive ideas, but also was politically talented enough to achieve them. He brought new business to the struggling city and hired a hard ass Irishman (Garry McCarthy) for Police Director and greatly reduced (at least temporarily) Newark’s horrendous crime rate.
His star was clearly on the rise. Many people were starting to see him as the second coming of Barack Obama. Progressive, charismatic, and let’s face it, not white. But then he went on Meet The Press in May 2012, and this happened:
Now, it was bad enough to defend Mitt Romney and Bain Capital’s history of vulture capitalism, but he did so as a self-proclaimed Obama surrogate. Not only do I believe that he was wrong on the substance, but providing cover for the republican presidential candidate while claiming to be a hardcore Obama backer had me questioning his motives if not his sanity. What I later discovered is that Booker was far from nutty even if he was off the reservation. Going back to 2002, it was later revealed that among Booker’s earliest contributors was Bain Capital along with a plethora of other private equity firms.
Yes, of course, I should have known better to view an ambitious politician through a naive lens, but I found myself more than a little disappointed on that day. One of my hopes for the future had been revealed as a clever politician. Maybe a slightly better than average one, but one nonetheless. And let’s face it, when Booker went on Meet The Press to deliver that defense of Richard Gere/Pretty Woman style of wealth creation, he was only one month removed from saving a neighbor from a raging house fire, suffering relatively significant burns to his hand. The myth seemed real.
After taking significant heat for his Sunday morning news show remarks, Booker kind of stepped back from the stage for the rest of the campaign. Post election, Booker has taken some additional hits to his reputation. A December New York Times column posited that Booker was a mere opportunist who was more likely to look for a television camera to get in front of as opposed to dealing with the very real and continuous issues of the city he presides over.
Booker’s next move seemed to confirm some of those suspicions. The Newark Mayor had been seriously considering a run for the governorship of New Jersey. However, post-Hurricane Sandy, with the republican incumbent Chris Christie’s popularity ratings soaring for his handling of the disaster response, that option had to seem less than appetizing. So, Booker then turned his attention to the 2014 Senate seat currently held by 88-year-old democrat, Frank Lautenberg. One catch: Lautenberg has not declared that he would be retiring. By creating an exploratory committee for his possible senate run, Booker at minimum is guilty of a breach of etiquette. A misdeed that Lautenberg has not taken kindly to.
So is Booker a craven politician? Maybe so. He certainly isn’t the saint that many of us might have hoped him to be. While my original post Meet The Press derision has mitigated to a degree, I have been several steps below hero worship since.
And then this happened. A local reporter alerted the Mayor via Twitter that a neighborhood dog had been left outdoors for an extended period of time and was shaking in the bitter cold. Booker could have just called animal control, but instead he showed up himself, carried the dog from the yard and had the local authorities take it to a warm place for the evening. Yes, cameras recorded the event and I’m sure Booker knew that they would be there and that the press coverage would be glowing. But what’s a hater (or in my case a disappointed supporter) supposed to do? Not be glad he did it? I have two dogs of my own. If one of mine somehow snuck out on a particularly frigid night, I wouldn’t care who showed up to rescue my pup and keep it safe until I returned home.
So alright Mayor Booker I give. Dammit.