Newark's Democratic Mayor Cory Booker started a firestorm Sunday when he said on NBC's Meet the Press the Obama campaign's attack on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's private equity career is "nauseating."
"To continue his damage control efforts," Booker's only interview Monday was with his "good friend" Rachel Maddow, and despite having a twelve minute exclusive with the mayor, the MSNBC anchor never once asked him what his opinion was of private equity (video follows with commentary, full transcript at end of post).
For the record, Booker said the following Sunday:
CORY BOOKER, NEWARK MAYOR (D): As far as that stuff, 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 this--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, it ain't--they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses, And this, to me, I'm very uncomfortable with. [...]
MAYOR BOOKER: Well, again, I talk to the White House quite often. I'm a surrogate for the Obama campaign. The messages that they're sending me out to do, out to talk about is nothing about this. [...]
MAYOR BOOKER: But the last point I'll make is 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 a distraction from the real issues. It's either going to be a small campaign about this crap or it's going to be a big campaign, in my opinion, about the issues that the American public cares about.
As a result of these comments, many in the media and throughout the political realm believe the Obama campaign has lost a key issue - in their mind, anyway - to attack Romney on.
Maddow's colleague Chris Matthews was so angered by this that he called it a "betrayal" and an act of "sabotage."
Yet when Maddow had twelve minutes Monday evening to speak to the mayor exclusively about this subject, she not once asked him specifically about his opinion of private equity firms or to clarify what he said Sunday.
Instead, these were her questions:
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: Joining us now for his first interview since his "Meet the Press" appearance caused all this hullaballoo is Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker.
Mr. Mayor, thank you for being here. It's nice to have you here. [...]
MADDOW: What is the line that they crossed that made you feel that way? What is it about the way they have reacted to this that made you change your mind about talking about this issue again? [...]
MADDOW: Cory, the Republican Party's hook for saying they stand with you is that you have been a victim of the Obama campaign. You're not being allowed to say what you really say, that you only issued that clarifying response after "Meet the Press" because of pressure from the Obama campaign.
What is your response to that and are you being pressured by anybody to say something that you don't believe or to take back something that you do believe? [...]
MADDOW: Cory, when you say you heard the president`s remarks today talking about the substantive matter, the substantive matter that started all of this, when you heard him talking about private equity and you say now that you wanted to be clear that talking about Mitt Romney's record as a self-proclaimed job creator is on the table, what exactly are you saying ought to be part of the political discussion and what ought to be off the table? Where is the line for you and what do you think is appropriate? [...]
MADDOW: Cory, as a practical matter, you are in -- it's sort of weird because the idea of collateral damage is it`s unintentional. But in this case, I think you are intentional collateral damage, that the attack is directed at the president by using you as a weapon against the president. You as collateral damage are also supposed to be silenced in this debate.
You were effectively supposed to be rendered inoperable as a campaign surrogate and a person who speaks on behalf on his own support for the president. Has that aspect of it do you think worked? Do you feel like you have to sit out national campaigning for now or for the long run because of this incident? Are you just going to keep doing what you`ve been doing? [...]
MADDOW: Mayor Cory Booker of the great city of Newark, New Jersey -- my friend, I know it was a hard decision to talk publicly today as you just described. I appreciate that you're willing to talk with me here, man. Good luck.
And that was it. Not one question about his position concerning private equity.
Wouldn't it have been appropriate to say, "On Sunday, you defended Bain Capital and private equity. You said, '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, it ain't--they've done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses.' Do you stand by that, or would you like to correct it?"
Assuming he altered his view, a real journalist would have asked, "Then why did you say what you said Sunday? How could private equity have been good for Newark Sunday, but now it's bad?"
Maddow also neglected to ask, "You said Sunday you want the Obama campaign to 'Stop attacking private equity' because it's 'nauseating to me' and it's 'nauseating to the American public.' Do you still feel that way, and if not, what changed your mind in 24 hours?"
Instead, quite clearly, Booker knew he was going to have to walk back his comments further than the "hostage" video he posted at YouTube Sunday.
As such, he contacted Maddow, who Wikipedia claims Booker "became good friends with" at Stanford University, so that he could do a far more lengthy correction with a far larger audience knowing full well she'd toss him softball after softball allowing him to say exactly what he wanted without actually having to clarify the key elements of his statements on Meet the Press.
This was even made clear at Maddow's blog at MSNBC.com: "Cory Booker went on The Rachel Maddow Show Monday to continue his damage control efforts."
How brazen! These shills are so upfront with their advocacy they're willing to put it in writing!
And, like a dutiful Democrat shill, Maddow came through.
Now clips of this interview will be broadcast by other dutiful shills across the fruited plain in the hopes that this issue will be put to rest, and Obama along with his supporters in the media can go back to beating up Romney for his affiliation with Bain Capital.
Brava, Rachel. You're one hell of a journalist.
Here's the full transcript for those that can stand it:
MADDOW: If you go to the homepage of Republican Party right now, if you type GOP.com into your web browser, the front page of the National Republican Party`s Web site comes up.
And today it looks like this: "I stand with Cory." I stand with Cory? With Cory Booker?
I don`t think I need a spoiler alert here if I let you know that the Republican Party in reality is very unlikely to actually stand with Cory Booker. Mr. Booker is the Democratic progressive firebrand mayor of Newark, New Jersey, who supports President Obama`s re-election emphatically.
The Republican Party is making a big show of saying they are standing with him because they say that Cory Booker is a victim, who needs people to stand up for him because he can`t stand up for himself. Because it`s the Republican Party, the person that is victimizing Cory Booker is Mothra, I mean Godzilla. I mean, I`m sorry, President Obama.
Today, while President Obama was at the NATO summit in Chicago, the Republican Party chairman sent out these email to Republican Party supporters.
It says, "Do you know what Obama does with people who stand up for job creators? He silences them. That`s right. By Sunday evening, the Obama campaign had pressured Booker into taking back support of the free market.
This is how far President Obama has sunk running an all-out assault on job creators. And in his own Democratic Party, anyone who dares to defend them must be silenced.
Don`t let the White House silence free enterprise. If you agree, then please sign our petition: I stand with Cory Booker."
And if you do sign that petition, you will thereby give your e-mail address to the Republican Party, which will make infinite use of your e- mail address from here to spam-ternity.
What all of this is about is a comment made by Cory Booker, excuse me, on "Meet the Press" yesterday, where he -- excuse me -- where he criticized negative campaigning on both sides of the presidential campaign this year. He said he found the negative campaigning nauseating.
He said that event though the president`s reelection campaign which he supports has criticized Mitt Romney`s tenure at Bain Capital, he said he does not think that private equity per se is always bad. That`s the sort of thing that people in Washington call off-message, for someone who was functioning in that instance as an Obama campaign surrogate. It was off- message.
Off-message like when Marco Rubio endorsed Mitt Romney for president and then promptly followed up that endorsement by saying, quote, "There are a lot of other people out there that some of us wish they had run for president, but they didn`t."
Off-message like when former Congressman Tom Davis endorsed Mr. Romney this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM DAVIS (R), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: He may not be Mr. Personality. You know, this is the guy who gives the fire side chat and the fire goes out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Off-message like when Jon Huntsman endorsed Mr. Romney with this love song to the Republican nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON HUNTSMAN (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Gone are the days when the Republican Party used to put forward big, bold visionary stuff. We`re going to have problems politically until we get some sort of third party movement or some alternative voice out there that can put forward new ideas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Oh, and by the way, please vote for Mitt Romney.
Off message like when Nevada Congressman Joe Heck endorsed Mitt Romney by saying, quote, "Mitt Romney and I don`t agree on every issue and certainly housing is one of them."
Off message like when Michigan Congressman Fred Upton said his candidate, Mitt Romney was wrong on the auto bailout.
Off-message like when Chris Christie joined the Democrats in demanding that his candidate, Mitt Romney, release more years of his tax returns.
Actually, it should be noted that the platonic form of off message surrogate this year came in the form of Chris Christie as well. Do you remember this one from him?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: In terms of me, I`ll be much more ready four years from now than I am now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)(
MADDOW: In stomping for the guy who is running right now, you`re talking about how you`re going to be ready to run in four years? Why, because your guy is going to lose this year and so the Republicans will have another shot at it in four years? Or are you thinking that he will win and you`ll run against him after his first term? That`s off message.
Off message happens. Off message happens a lot. It`s happened a whole heck of a lot with people acting as Mitt Romney`s surrogates this year -- which Democrats and the Beltway media have tended to react to by softly chuckling if they notice it at all.
But when off message happens on the Democratic side, even when Mayor Cory Booker clarifies his remarks and says he does not think that Mitt Romney`s tenure at Bain shouldn`t be off limits, even when President Obama expresses the same basic idea that private equity per se is not bad, it`s just that in Mitt Romney`s case, it`s not a great, great qualification for running for president, no matter.
When off-message happens on the Democratic side, there`s no mitigating factor that can distract from the feeding frenzy. Democrats join right in with the attack. Liberals join right in. The Beltway media joins in with the attack in way that they can almost not control.
The Republicans not only attack but they caricature this Democrat in this case into a helpless victim who they supposedly want to rescue from being silenced since he obviously isn`t allowed to speak for himself.
Let`s let him speak for himself.
Joining us now for his first interview since his "Meet the Press" appearance caused all this hullaballoo is Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker.
Mr. Mayor, thank you for being here. It`s nice to have you here.
MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: Rachel, thank you very much for having me on. I appreciate this because actually you and I talked earlier. I told you I was doing no interviews.
It wasn`t until the GOP went across that line that I said forget it. I`ve had all I can stand, and I can`t stand no more. So, thank you for giving me a chance to be on tonight.
MADDOW: What is the line that they crossed that made you feel that way? What is it about the way they have reacted to this that made you change your mind about talking about this issue again?
BOOKER: Anybody who watched the entire "Meet the Press" saw not only was I defending Obama`s position on numerous issues, but I also talked about super PAC money and the negative campaigning, and my outrage and really my frustration was about the cynical, negative campaigning, the manipulating of the truth.
And so, here they are plucking sound bites out of that interview to manipulate them in a cynical manner, to use them for their own purposes. That slogan is really what had me and basically my entire staff really fit to be tied.
In the beginning, I think I used if metaphor my staff is going to have hold me back because -- to say "I stand with Cory Booker," I have not seen a Republican national candidate, with maybe the exemption of Jack Kemp a long time ago, be willing to stand with me in places like Newark, New Jersey, Camden, New York, Patterson, places they seem want to imagine doesn`t exist.
And so, what I really feel strongly is anybody in the GOP who wants to stand with me, please stand with me. Stand with me for marriage equality, as Barack Obama stands up for. Stand with me for not turning the back, the clock on women in terms of medical issues and other things like Barack Obama is standing against.
Stand with me on making health care more accessible to all. Stand with me for making college more affordable as President Obama is doing.
If anybody listens to the entire "Meet the Press" and they want to stand with me, they`ll see I stand firmly with the president. What really, really unfortunately has me frustrated is not only does the GOP tend to overlook urban areas like the one I`ve been standing for and working in for my entire professional career, but the one time they seem to pay attention to it, they want to exploit a mayor who for my entire has been standing for something different.
And I`ll tell you this -- I`ve been standing for Barack Obama before most people were standing with Barack Obama, as one of his earliest supporters in New Jersey, if not his first major political endorsement. This is a president that in my opinion rejects so many of the things, the tired rhetoric, the distractions, the kind of things that get America not focused on the problems that we need to solve.
So, today to the GOP, I say -- I welcome you to stand with me. Stand with me for moving America forward. Don`t stand with me for the kind of things that Mitt Romney is advocating, they`re going to further bankrupt our city, close off opportunity, discriminate against gays and women, and do the kind of things that I think are sending America in the wrong direction.
MADDOW: Cory, the Republican Party`s hook for saying they stand with you is that you have been a victim of the Obama campaign. You`re not being allowed to say what you really say, that you only issued that clarifying response after "Meet the Press" because of pressure from the Obama campaign.
What is your response to that and are you being pressured by anybody to say something that you don`t believe or to take back something that you do believe?
BOOKER: Well, for anybody that knows me and really knows my career, I`ve been an independent Democrat for a long time, standing up on issues. And actually, I`m comfortable to say I disagree with the president before marriage equality and now he stands for that issue.
But the reality is that the Barack Obama team in the White House and their political team have been good to me for many, many years. I`ve worked with them early in the primaries in the last election. They have never pressured me to do anything. They have done nothing but encourage me.
In this case in particular, I certainly did talk with campaign officials, but they didn`t force me to do anything. They had good conversations with me. And after having conversations with them especially after hearing the president`s remarks on this issue where he was not condemning all of private equity. He was not condemning any particular firms. He was focusing in on a guy who is bragging about his job creation record. To me, I think that`s fair game.
All of those things made me say I need to go on and clarify, because obviously, I did things in the "Meet the Press" interview that did not land the points that I was trying to make, and in some ways, you know, frustratingly, I think I conflated the attacks that the Republicans were making with Jeremiah Wright with some of the attacks on the left.
Those can`t even be equated. The noxious nature of the some of the attacks that we`ve seen going on our president, where you poll many people in the GOP who still believes he`s a secret Muslim, and these other things, it`s gotten so ridiculous. You can`t even equate the negativity on the right with what`s happening by some sectors in the left.
And so, at this point, I`m grateful to the president who came out today and said very kind words to me. Some cynical folks in his camp probably wanted the president to go on attack on me, God bless him, because I think his team listen to the totality of what I was doing, heard me defend the president on "Meet the Press" on health care, heard me defend him on job creation, heard me defend him on doing tax reform that actually helped people in my community in Newark, New Jersey.
It`s a partnership I`m going to continue to have no matter what role they want me to play. I play it proactively, not reactively to them.
MADDOW: Cory, when you say you heard the president`s remarks today talking about the substantive matter, the substantive matter that started all of this, when you heard him talking about private equity and you say now that you wanted to be clear that talking about Mitt Romney`s record as a self-proclaimed job creator is on the table, what exactly are you saying ought to be part of the political discussion and what ought to be off the table? Where is the line for you and what do you think is appropriate?
BOOKER: This is my independence. I`m not going to shy away from being one of those people that says, I`m tired of presidential campaigns, the primary we just watched with Republicans talking about all kinds of issues that don`t make sense for my community, who is struggling with foreclosures -- things that Obama -- excuse me, things that Romney`s against helping or not in favor of giving tax breaks to middle class families in my community. I`m not going to remain silent when people try to bring up issues and negativity that distract from the core issues, that in my community right now, there`s a high level of urgency that we`re talking about and doing something about.
And so, I reject that negativity. I`m not going to come back from that point. But when it comes to what I think is appropriate questions, when Mitt Romney, himself, says "I was a job creator," not a successful guy in private equity, that I wasn`t -- hey, I didn`t return great investment for my people and my firm, but when he says "I was a job creator," I think that`s a characterization of his record that deserves inquiry.
I think the way the president himself is talking about that is something I will defend. In fact, something I will echo.
But let`s just be clear, in this election, and this is why I wish if Romney wanted to pull my remarks from "Meet the Press" where I went after super PACs and Citizens United, and the incredible flood of tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars that are going to flow into this campaign, one of the most extensive campaigns we`re going to see in terms of money spent, and the majority will be negative, cynical vicious attacks in distracting this country from dealing with the issues and substance that we want to do with. I`m sorry, I`m going to reject that every day.
But I`m happy and I`m proud to have been a friend of the president before he started talking about running for president. I`m proud that we have a guy who`s got the Obama cool who`s focusing on the issues that matter.
I`m hoping that both sides, my side of the aisle, which can sometimes go too far, and their side that`s bringing up to stuff to me that is in many ways the dirtiest aspect of politics, I`m going to call that for what it is.
But in terms of me, I`m a mayor of a city. I have to deal with urgencies every single day. People looking for jobs, people looking for access to education, people looking for hope. And right now, from the cynical right and from even this Congress on the right, I see very little coming out that`s actually going to help people in urban issues.
And this is why if Mitt Romney and his campaign want to say, "I stand with Booker," come stand with me in Newark, stand in Camden, stand in Detroit, and talk about issues that effect people, like the auto industry, substantive issues like Obama is talking about.
That`s really what I want to continue to talk about in this campaign. I`m upset. This is why I`m on your show that I`ve been taken out of context, I`ve been used to support a -- if there`s any honor in what they were saying, Mitt Romney would have come out and said, you know what, like Obama did, Citizens United decision is going to hurt our democracy. He would have come out and said the negativity on our side, I`m going to talk about us, has got to stop.
If he wanted to come out and stand with me, he would say, you know what? I stand with Cory Booker. Let`s stop the super PAC money. Let`s stop the negative campaigning.
Let`s talk about the issues. I`ll meet with President Obama to talk about those.
And for him to use that slogan in a way that manipulates my record and my entire professional career working in the streets of my community with good people trying to make Newark better, I`m sorry. People knew (ph) Newark before, but to exploit it or its mayor, it`s something I`m not going to sit still for.
MADDOW: Cory, as a practical matter, you are in -- it`s sort of weird because the idea of collateral damage is it`s unintentional. But in this case, I think you are intentional collateral damage, that the attack is directed at the president by using you as a weapon against the president. You as collateral damage are also supposed to be silenced in this debate.
You were effectively supposed to be rendered inoperable as a campaign surrogate and a person who speaks on behalf on his own support for the president. Has that aspect of it do you think worked? Do you feel like you have to sit out national campaigning for now or for the long run because of this incident? Are you just going to keep doing what you`ve been doing?
BOOKER: Well, one, I`m going to serve the president and what his team thinks is the best use for me. Two is every opportunity I have for within my city, wherever I go, as I`ve done consistently for a very long time for the White House, as well as for the president, as well as for his campaign, I`m going to continue every single day to pour my heart and soul into making sure that he gets re-elected because I`ve seen what happens under Republican president.
I`ve seen what happened under George Bush within my city. I`ve seen the challenges of money pouring into a war we shouldn`t have been into and not into programs that could empower our community. I`ve seen this investment in education, I`ve seen this investment in middle class job creation. And that`s something I can`t sit still for.
It hurts me. I feel disappointed if anyway that now I`m being used to undermine the president in this kind of cynical of being a way. I`m going to work harder. If anything they have turned me on, even to work harder the next six months, from fundraising to whatever need be, to ensure our president gets re-elected.
I`m not going to be quiet on my disappointment with the nature of campaigns. I think we as a democracy really now, and especially after this election, need to start looking at the things that we can do to get all this money out of politics and to begin to start focusing on what we can do to ensure our democracy is advanced and ensure the voices of average people can be heard and not drown out in the way they are right now by super PACs.
But as far as where my heart is right now, I`m very upset that I`m being used by the GOP this way. And it`s -- well, I thought today I was going to be quiet, being pushed so far that you`re going to hear a lot from me to the extent possible, and to the extent that President Obama and his campaign want to hear from me.
MADDOW: Mayor Cory Booker of the great city of Newark, New Jersey -- my friend, I know it was a hard decision to talk publicly today as you just described. I appreciate that you`re willing to talk with me here, man. Good luck.
BOOKER: As always, Rachel.
MADDOW: -- over the next few days as this continues to unfold. Thanks.
BOOKER: Thank you.