Tags: Cory Booker

Prominent Democrats, Suddenly Quiet on Russia and Ukraine


Look, wildly over-hyped messianic Democratic Party rising stars like Sen. Cory Booker don’t do foreign policy, okay?

After giving my two hour lecture, I wondered what the Senator from New Jersey’s thoughts were on the saber-rattling going on over the crisis in Ukraine. So I went to his official Senate website and looked. It read very much like the website of a mayor. I clicked on “news” and found a list of recent press releases — most jointly written with New Jersey’s senior Senator, Bob Menendez. I searched for the word “Ukraine”. I got back: “No news found at this time.”

The most recent news item on the senator’s official office web page is from February 26, about a rock salt shortage in the state. Not a word about Ukraine on Cory Booker’s busy Twitter feed, as of 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday.

According to the Census Bureau, about 67,000 New Jersey residents are of Ukrainian heritage. 

I suppose we shouldn’t give Booker too much grief; our previous Secretary of State isn’t willing to say much right now, either:

Hillary Clinton has yet to comment on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a situation that escalated Saturday when 6,000 troops moved into the province of Crimea. Even as Republicans have criticized the former secretary of state for her implementation of Obama’s “reset” approach to Russia in recent weeks, Clinton has stayed quiet. Her spokesman did not respond to an inquiry on Monday about the still shifting conflict.

Well, it’s not like she had a role in managing the American relationship with Russia in recent years, right?

Tags: Cory Booker , Hillary Clinton

A Thin Silver Lining in New Jersey


Last night, Democrat Cory Booker won New Jersey’s special Senate election over Republican Steve Lonegan.

Booker won 713,594 votes and 54.6 percent; Lonegan won 579,388 votes and 44.3 percent.

Turnout was low for several reasons, most notably that it’s a special election held in October, and the election was held on a Wednesday. A “normal” November Senate election in New Jersey gets about 2 million votes, and in a presidential-election year it can reach around 3 million votes.

Republicans looking for a silver lining can note that Lonegan’s share of the vote tied the best performance for a GOP Senate candidate since 2000. In 2012, Joseph Kyrillos had 39.37 percent; in 2008, Dick Zimmer had 42.5 percent; in 2006, Thomas Kean Jr. also had 44.3 percent; in 2002, Doug Forrester had 43.95 percent; and in 2000, Bob Franks had 47.1 percent.

Booker’s drug-dealer friend “T-Bone” could not be reached for comment.

Tags: Cory Booker , Steve Lonegan

The Pitfalls of Judging a Booker by His Cover


From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

The Pitfalls of Judging a Booker by His Cover

Today is NOT Election Day in New Jersey; apparently the GOP sent out an erroneous Tweet Monday afternoon suggesting it was. Cue the cries of “voter suppression,” when it is in fact just New Jersey being New Jersey — it’s such a “special” special Senate election that it can’t even be held on a Tuesday.

In all likelihood, Cory Booker will win. One poll released Monday had Booker up 52 percent to 42 percent over Steve Lonegan; another one had him up 58 percent to 36 percent. Turnout should be pretty darn low.

Still, Cory Booker’s Senate campaign hasn’t been a cakewalk or a waltz. We’ve learned a police report contradicts key, dramatic details of his tale of a man dying in his arms; we’ve learned his tales of T-Bone are sketchy to the point of dubiousness; we’ve learned he violated his own law on vacant properties; we’ve learned the human props in the tales of his mayoral heroics don’t think he’s been a good mayor overall; we’ve learned he offers generic cut-and-paste responses to constituents . . . and that’s just Eliana Johnson’s work.

BookerFAIL takes the tale of the vacant property and puts together a devastating video on the “absentee landlord, absentee mayor”:

Lonegan’s closing argument has focused on the idea that Booker doesn’t actually live in the city.

In a press conference outside the Hawthorne Avenue residence where a Booker spokesman said the mayor has rented an apartment, Lonegan alleged that news stories and residents’ accounts indicate that Booker does not live in Newark.

“Who is Cory Booker?” Lonegan said. “Can you trust him? Where is he from? Where does he live? I propose that he doesn’t even live in Newark.”

A few weeks ago, Booker moved from the Hawthorne Avenue residence to a Longworth Street house that he owns, according to Griffis. His rent is paid through the end of the month, but he no longer lives on Hawthorne Avenue, Griffis said.

The Newark Police Department has rented a separate apartment in the Hawthorne Avenue house to use in its protection of the mayor, Police Director Samuel DeMaio said in a statement.

“There have been numerous threats on the mayor’s safety during the last seven years,” DeMaio said. “The mayor’s apartment on Hawthorne Avenue was located in a building with multiple units. The mayor rented a unit and the police department rented a separate unit to use in their protection of the mayor.”

Oh, and Booker regularly takes credit for massive charitable contributions that never actually happened:

Booker told the New York Times in March that he “kept very little” of the millions of dollars in speaking fees he has raked in over the past several years. “After Uncle Sam takes his share and after I’ve given away hundreds and hundreds of thousands, I’ve kept very little of it, if any,” he said.

The Newark Star-Ledger notes that Booker has earned $1.3 million on the speaking circuit since 1998, when he first took office, with the majority of that income coming in 2011 and 2012. According to Politico’s Maggie Haberman, however, Booker “gave about $150,000 total to charity over 14 years.”

That fact makes it tough to square the mayor’s claim that he has given away “hundreds and hundreds of thousands” of dollars of the money he’s made in speaking fees — after taxes. The only way for his claim to be true is if Booker indeed gave away several hundred thousands of dollars this year; that information will appear on his 2014 tax returns. Even that, though, would stretch the truth, as Booker claimed in March of this year — in the past tense — that he had already given away the money, presumably in years past.

As Eliana summed it up:

It’s astonishing that Booker is now 15 years into his political career, and, largely through anecdotes we are now coming to see are full of holes, has amassed dozens of high-profile backers in Silicon Valley and around the country who fell in love with his “story.” Thanks also in part to these emotional anecdotes, he is now and set to become the junior senator from New Jersey. Maybe one of these days a prominent national political reporter will ask him about what increasingly looks like his troubled relationship with the truth.

So if you know somebody in New Jersey . . . give ‘em a call today. Remind that person Wednesday is Election Day, and offer a thought or two about the Cory Booker that doesn’t get featured on the late-night shows.

Tags: Cory Booker , Steve Lonegan

Remember Last Year, When a Candidate’s Tax Returns Mattered?


Dear mainstream media, 

If you wanted to know why more and more Americans don’t think of you as something they read or watch, and increasingly think of you as something they step in, one big reason is the ludicrous double-standards you have for Republican and Democrat candidates.

In January 2012, Mitt Romney released his 2010 tax return; in September, he released his 2011 return after filing for an extension. 

For much of last year’s presidential campaign, the tax returns for the preceding and most recent year were treated as a huge pressing issue for the wealthy candidate. Romney’s tax returns warranted segments on CNN, segments on Meet the Press, the roundtable on ABC’s This Week, and the roundtable on PBS NewshourCNN and Gallup asked questions about it in their surveys. Obviously MSNBC hosts treated his tax returns as if they contained the location the Lost City of Atlantis in them. Obama surrogates and Romney surrogates were asked about it. Ann Romney was asked about it on NBC’s Rock Center. Romney was asked about it in interview after interview. The Obama campaign put out plenty of “what is he hiding?” ads. To ensure the low-information voters heard about it, The Daily Show and Funny or Die did segments on Romney’s delay in releasing his tax returns. 

The calls for Romney to release more of his tax returns became an all-out crusade, and deemed one of the major issues of the campaign. Because openness, financial transparency, and accountability are important in evaluating candidates for higher office, right?

This year, the Democrats’ candidate for Senate in New Jersey, Newark Mayor Cory Booker allowed their hand-picked reporters to look at his tax returns for three hours, with no copies or photographs:

Newark mayor Cory Booker, who hopes to be New Jersey’s next senator, claims to have “released” 15 years’ worth of his tax returns in what his campaign trumpeted as a “historic gesture of transparency.” Perhaps the mayor should consult T-Bone or another of his possibly imaginary felonious friends about the definition of “release.” The mayor’s tax returns remain locked up, though they were allowed a conjugal visit with the press: Nine reporters, all hand-picked by the Booker campaign, were permitted three hours with the documents in a hotel ballroom in Newark — no photographs, no copies, no removing documents from the room, resulting in what one of the reporters present described as a mad scramble to record information as the clock ticked to zero.

In Virginia, the Democrats’ gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe still hasn’t released any of his tax returns; choosing to release summaries of his financial information

Booker and McAuliffe are two wealthy guys, with lots of business ties to companies that have business before the Newark city government and Virginia state government. The possibility of conflict-of-interest or financial misdeeds is at least as great for these two as it was for Romney. 

And yet neither Booker nor McAuliffe have received even one-hundreth of the grief Romney received from their local or state press.

And we know why this is. The mainstream press cares about the tax returns and financial disclosures of Republican candidates and doesn’t care about the tax returns and financial disclosures of Democrat candidates, because Republicans are the bad guys and Democrats are the good guys.

If I’m wrong, prove me wrong, mainstream media.


Tags: Mitt Romney , Tax Returns , Terry McAuliffe , Cory Booker

Cory Booker, Suddenly Not Quite So Opposed to Syria War


New Jersey Senate candidate Cory Booker, in a chat with the Huffington Post on August 28: “My posture on Syria is that we should not be going to war. We should not be unleashing missiles.”

New Jersey Senate candidate Cory Booker, on the campaign trail, September 2: “There’s got to be a high bar that’s met, and I think the president will meet that in the coming days.”

What changed?

Tags: Cory Booker , Syria

Lonegan, Booker Both Oppose U.S. Action in Syria


Steve Lonegan, the Republican nominee in New Jersey’s special election for the United States Senate, spent yesterday and today emphasizing his opposition to intervention in Syria.

“While there has been much tragedy, the war in Syria is not simply between the Syrian government and the Syrian rebels,” Lonegan said in a statement. “We must work with our allies to provide humanitarian aid to those affected by the war, but punitive actions in Syria will not deliver stability to the region.”

Yesterday, Lonegan held a press conference with Montvale, N.J., councilman Mike Ghassali and Archbishop Cyril Aphrem Karim of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, urging President Obama to resist the temptation to take military action in Syria, and calling on Senator Bob Menendez, New Jersey’s Democratic senator, to reverse his position. Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for missile strikes and declared, “time is of the essence.”

Lonegan said: “The President should not intervene militarily without the consent of Congress. And given the facts we have today, I would vote against sending American men and women into Syria as a member of the United States Senate.” (Any U.S. military action in Syria is not likely to put American men and women in uniform directly into Syria; any attack is expected to rely on Tomahawk cruise missiles and other long-range weapons, fired from ships and submarines in the Mediterranean Sea.)

In a chat with the Huffington Post on August 28, Booker said, “My posture on Syria is that we should not be going to war. We should not be unleashing missiles.”

Cory Booker’s oft-mentioned friend, “T-Bone,” could not be reached for comment.

Tags: Cory Booker , Steve Lonegan , Syria

What Steve Lonegan Must Do in the Next Two Months


Credit where it’s due: Yesterday in New Jersey’s primary elections, Republican Steve Lonegan received more votes statewide (102,481) than the Democrats’ second-place finisher Frank Pallone (69,311) and third-place finisher Rush Holt (59,922).

Of course, Newark mayor/media superstar/Silicon Valley schmoozer Cory Booker ran away with the Democratic primary with 207,891 votes and is an extremely heavy favorite for the October 16 general election.

But Lonegan can do some good for his causes, even if he doesn’t win the general election. Almost from the moment he became mayor in 2006, Booker rode a wave of glowing media coverage that emphasized small but vivid gestures (“He shovels the city sidewalks himself!” “He rescued a neighbor in a burning building!”) and largely overlooked the fact that Newark’s economy and quality of life largely remain the same. Stories of his failure to disclose certain legally required financial agreements broke too late to impact the primary; Booker broke a loud public pledge and his media fans shrugged. He’s been anointed the next Democratic-party superstar; he appears on Morning Joe almost as often as Scarborough and Mika; he’s appeared on the Tonight Show, Oprah’s show, etc.

A signficant reason that Barack Obama was able to generate the messianic coverage he enjoyed in 2007 and 2008 was the fact that A) he didn’t face a competitive opponent in his 2004 Senate race, meaning he coasted into office with 70 percent of the vote, and B) no one had done significant opposition research or poked holes in his heroic narrative. Republicans cannot afford to give the Democrats’ rising stars free passes to statewide office.

Lonegan is highly unlikely to win. But he can make sure the state — and the nation — know how modest Booker’s record as mayor really is.

Tags: Cory Booker , Steve Lonegan

It’s New Jersey’s Primary Day, or as Booker Calls It, ‘Coronation Day’


Today is the primary election for New Jersey’s special U.S. Senate election, prompted by the death of Senator Frank Lautenberg. On the Republican side, Steve Lonegan and Alieta Eck are competing, with Lonegan favored.

On the Democratic side, Newark mayor Cory Booker is heavily favored against Representative Rush Holt, Representative Frank Pallone, and state-assembly speaker Sheila Oliver. 

Polls opened at 6 a.m., and are open until 8 p.m.

UPDATE: For the reader contending that Romney voters have no right to demand any candidate release his tax returns, a reminder:


Mitt Romney: 2

Cory Booker: 0

Tags: Cory Booker , Steve Lonegan , Alieta Eck , Rush Holt , Frank Pallone , Sheila Oliver

Cory Booker’s Wild Hype-to-Accomplishment Ratio


Cory Booker has the largest hype-to-accomplishment ratio of anybody on the political scene since . . . well, since a guy who had been in the U.S. Senate for two years decided to run for president.

Newark is pretty much the same economically struggling city it was when he started; as the New York Times noticed,

his constituents do not need to be reminded that six years after the mayor came into office vowing to make Newark a “model of urban transformation,” their city remains an emblem of poverty. . . . A growing number of Newarkers complain that he has proved to be a better marketer than mayor, who shines in the spotlight but shows little interest in the less-glamorous work of what it takes to run a city.

He failed to disclose the extent of his holdings in his tech startup, which increasingly looks like it was designed to win Booker wealthy friends in Silicon Valley.

He failed to disclose his payments from his old law firm that did business with the Newark city government.

He ditched a Senate debate to hold a fundraiser with Oprah.

He broke his pledge to finish out his term as mayor.

So what is Booker good at? Photogenic publicity stunts like snow-shoveling, food-stamp diets, and, to his credit, fire rescue. Sure, he uses Twitter, but then again . . . so does Anthony Weiner.

Perhaps most important, Booker is good on television. Maybe that’s all he needs.

UPDATE: Another key component of Booker’s success: shamelessness.

“I do believe we have met requirements for disclosure and transparency and we’ve gone above and beyond what most of the — all of the candidates in this race have submitted to in terms of disclosure,” Booker told NBC News in a wide-ranging interview the day before the Democratic Senate primary.

See, no, you really didn’t.

The investment has been public for over a year, but he amended his federal financial disclosure forms in July 2013 to show his stake in Waywire is worth between $1 million and $5 million. He amended his forms with the city of Newark last Tuesday, a day before the Times story was published.

Later in that interview with NBC, he declares he believes that candidates should release their tax returns . . . and that he’ll release his tax returns sometime in the future — after tomorrow’s primary.

Tags: Cory Booker

The Hard Realities of Cory Booker’s Reign in Newark


American Commitment Action Fund, a conservative super PAC, is launching a web video that brutally contrasts the campaign boasts of Newark mayor Cory Booker with the ugly realities of life in the city and the way he governs. In short, all glitzy image, few actual results:

The video features quite a bit of Booker criticism from Ras Baraka, a Newark city councilman . . . who is also the son of Amiri Baraka.

If that name sounds familiar, you’re probably remembering Baraka’s post-9/11 controversy:

In September 2002, at the Dodge Poetry Festival in Waterloo, N.J., Amiri Baraka stood up on stage and read his recently published poem on the 9/11 attacks, “Somebody Blew Up America.”

The crowd reacted with stunned silence, and several people booed. A few days later, Gov. Jim McGreevey asked Baraka to resign his post as Poet Laureate of New Jersey. This year, Baraka returned to the festival, and read the poem again.

About half the audience stood to cheer when he was finished, while the other half was either clapping quietly, or sitting with arms crossed, scowling. Baraka hadn’t changed the poem, and the line that outraged so many people in 2002 was still there: “Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed / Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers / To stay home that day / Why did Sharon stay away?”

Who could imagine that 11 years later, his son would be featured in a conservative super PAC’s ad?

Tags: Cory Booker , New Jersey , American Commitment Action Fund , Ras Baraka

Hey, Remember Cory Booker's Pledge?


Over in New Jersey:

Hours after Chris Christie set the special election clock in motion, New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) started making a round of calls telling people [he] plans to run for the Senate, sources confirmed to POLITICO.

Pallone, who had acted as next-in-line for Lautenberg’s seat for years, had been on the fence about whether to challenge Newark mayor Cory Booker in a primary in 2014 for the seat.

Booker is a strong fundraiser and is the odds-on favorite. But the special election this year allows Pallone to keep his congressional seat if he loses, making this something of a free shot for him.

The coverage seems to suggest Booker is running. So Booker’s big pledge from last December is now moot, huh? “Let there be no doubt, I will complete my full second term as mayor. As for my political future, I will explore the possibility of running for the United States Senate in 2014.”

Notice the lack of conditions or wiggle room in that statement.

But I guess he meant, “unless our 89-year-old senator dies in office or something.”

Tags: Cory Booker , Chris Christie , Frank Pallone , Frank Lautenberg

Obama Scheduled to Take $359,500 Flight Today


Today, President Obama boards Air Force One and flies to Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Lemont, Illinois, to deliver a speech on weaning the nation from oil and gas.

If the flight to Chicago takes about one hour, and another hour to return, the operation of Air Force One will cost taxpayers $359,500 today. That’s enough to restore about 20 weeks of public tours of the White House.

The Chicago Sun-Times notes, “Obama was last in Chicago on Feb. 15 for a speech at the Hyde Park Academy.”

“On the road again . . . Just can’t wait to get on the road again . . .”

UPDATE: Also note that the president will be flying about 620 miles between Washington and Chicago. While the precise rate of fuel consumption of Air Force One is not revealed to the public, a 747 burns about five gallons of fuel per mile. So President Obama will burn about 6,200 gallons of jet fuel in his round trip, to deliver a speech urging “new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Cory Booker

Hillary’s $85,000 Global Exit Interview


The U.S. State Department spent $85,000 on a “Global Townterview” with Hillary Clinton — that’s the actual term used by the department — at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on January 29. The event occurred one week before Secretary Clinton departed her position.

It lasted one hour and ten minutes and can be seen here.

Your pre-sequestration tax dollars at work.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Campaign Advertising , Cory Booker

Geraldo: I Won’t Decide on A Senate Bid for a While


Over on his Facebook page, Geraldo Rivera clarifies his level of interest in running for U.S. Senate in the state of New Jersey in 2014:

The deadline for the relevant filings for the November 2014 New Jersey election to fill the seat currently held by five-term incumbent Senator Frank Lautenberg is still many months away. Despite my constitutionally protected musings on whether to seek that high office, I am taking no formal steps to initiate the electoral process, making no declarations, forming no committees, raising no money and hiring no campaign aides. Therefore, there is no FCC complication regarding equal time.

Moreover, supporters of Newark mayor Corey Booker can hardly complain about my bully pulpit since the media-savvy mayor appears on television more frequently than I do. Further, I extend to Mayor Booker an open invitation to appear on my radio program as often as he would like; and that invitation is also extended to Senator Lautenberg. 

Perhaps we could discuss and debate how best to deal with issues affecting New Jersey and the nation, like the continuing plague of gun violence in cities like Newark, which refuse to implement policies I advocate like “stop, question and frisk.”

If he does decide to collect campaign donations, I’m sure he knows some good secure storage sites, such as a large, empty vault.

Tags: Cory Booker , Frank Lautenberg , Geraldo Rivera

Awful News Out of Ankara


From the last Morning Jolt of the week, breaking and sad news:

Awful News Out of Ankara

Back when I lived in Ankara, I went into this building plenty of times — I begin today in shock.

Turkish police say a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at an entrance to the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital Ankara on Friday, killing two people, according to the Associated Press.

A U.S. State Department official confirmed to CBS News that at least one guard had been killed at the embassy, but the victim’s nationality was not given. U.S. Embassies are usually guarded by a combination of local security personnel and American diplomatic security forces.

An AP journalist reported seeing a body in the street in front of an embassy side entrance. It was not clear whether the victims of the blast were U.S. nationals, but they were identified as embassy security guards by the French news agency AFP.

The bomb appeared to have exploded inside a security checkpoint at an entrance to the embassy.

CNN’s Turkish service said witnesses had seen the bomber approach the building and enter a gate to the fortified compound. It wasn’t clear whether the bomber entered the building before detonating their explosives.

I lived in Ankara from 2005 to 2007. People used to ask me if it was dangerous, and I answered it was probably the safest city in the region — the national, political, and military capital of a NATO ally, with cops and special national police and troops of every kind all around. There was a modest U.S. military presence as well, although most of it was working at the embassy, with Turkish troops at nearby bases, or working with moving non-combat supplies through Incirlik Air Base (pronounced In-jer-lick) to Iraq.

The only attempted terror attack that I recall in the city during my time there was a suicide bomber who tried to get into the Justice Ministry. But when you saw a terror attack in Turkey, chances are it was the PKK (the Kurdistan Worker’s Party), which was fighting for a separate Kurdish state. The PKK liked to put bombs in trash cans, etc., but they mostly targeted Istanbul and the coastal beach resorts, trying to scare away the tourists. The PKK certainly wasn’t pro-American, but Americans weren’t generally the targets of their wrath — the Turks and their government were.

There was an al-Qaeda presence in the country while I was there, and periodically folks who worked at the embassy would tell me they suspected the bad guys were “probing” their defenses and attempting to conduct surveillance, looking for weaknesses, etc. But Turks made up a very small portion of al-Qaeda’s ranks; at the time, out of the several hundred al-Qaeda sitting in Guantanamo Bay, six were Turkish citizens.

Of course, al-Qaeda hit the British consulate in Istanbul with a truck bomb back in 2003, along with the HSBC bank. In 2008, there was an attack with guns on the U.S. consulate in Istanbul; three gunmen were killed and three Turkish police were killed.

(It’s worth noting that Istanbul is the cultural and economic capital of the country while Ankara is the political capital, somewhat analogous to New York and Washington. I suspect maintaining security in the sprawling, crowded, narrow-streeted megalopolis of Istanbul is considerably tougher than in Ankara, a government town that was a relatively sleepy town until Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, made it the new capital.)

Every interaction I had with embassy security guards, Turkish police, and related folks during my time reassured me with their dedication and expertise. I’ve commented that I would completely trust Turkish airport security with the see-through-clothes x-ray scanners more than I would trust TSA; they consistently demonstrated a culture of absolute professionalism — at least to Western outsiders.

The sense I got back then was that the U.S. and Turkey were proving to be thoroughly effective partners in counter-terrorism efforts; two fairly big fish in Al-Qaeda were caught in Turkey during those years, Louai Sakra and Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi.

The U.S. consulate in Turkey had moved far from the city center and built like a fortress with extensive security, a development that Tom Friedman lamented back in 2003. The U.S. embassy in Ankara is located downtown, not far from several other embassies and just down the road from the Turkish national assembly (the legislature). I know there had been talk about moving the embassy outside the city center — partially out of security concerns, partially because the embassy itself was a very dated structure (we used to joke about it as a classic example of Early American Cinder Block Architecture). Diplomats had very mixed feelings about a potential move, feeling that their job of interacting with the Turkish government would be more difficult if they were working in some outer suburb.

Keep in mind, I haven’t followed Turkish news or politics nearly as closely since I returned in 2007, and my observations about life in Ankara may be outdated.

Steven Cook: “Most obvious suspects in Ankara embassy bombing are PKK, Syria, and some al Qaida wannabes. Could even be Turkish nationalists.”

UPDATE: A Turkish journalist, Mahir Zeynalov, says that Turkish police have identified the suicide bomber as a member of DHKP-C, a Marxist-Leninist party in Turkey.

Tags: Cory Booker , Terrorism , Turkey

Lautenberg to Booker: I’ll Spank You! Now Get Off My Lawn.


The midweek edition of the Morning Jolt features more reactions to Obama’s inaugural address, the election results in Israel, and then this sudden Democrat-vs.-Democrat spat in New Jersey:

Lautenberg: Respect Your Elders, and Get Off My Lawn!

From one of the first articles I wrote for National Review Online, back on October 22, 2002:

The annual town fair in Metuchen, N.J., isn’t really known for bare-knuckle politicking. It’s usually marked by parents eating funnel cakes drowned in powdered sugar and children trying to win goldfish by tossing beanbags into baskets. In election years, the political action is mostly candidates showing up for a little handshaking and baby-kissing.

But fairgoers got some dramatic theatrics this year. Democratic Senate candidate Frank Lautenberg’s scheduled grip-and-grin was interrupted by the approach of his GOP opponent, Doug Forrester, dragging two podiums. Forrester challenged Lautenberg to make good on his earlier “any place, any time” debate pledge on the spot.

For about 15 minutes, Forrester asked the 78-year-old former senator to justify past votes against the 1991 Persian Gulf War and for military spending cuts, while Lautenberg, wagging his finger in Forrester’s face, brought up his opponent’s views on abortion and gun control. The exchange devolved into a shouting match by both men’s supporters, with Forrester’s backer’s chanting, “DE-BATE, DE-BATE!” and Lautenberg’s crowd countering, “WE WANT FRANK!” The scene ended when Metuchen’s mayor asked them to move, and the former senator walked away.

Hey, I just realized I passed my 10-year anniversary as an NRO contributor last year. Well, we were all a little busy last October . . .

Anyway, few would have expected that Lautenberg would still be on the political scene in 2013, much less acting indignant that any other Democrats in New Jersey might have an inclination to run against him in 2014.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who might face a 2014 primary challenge from Newark Mayor Cory Booker, said his fellow Democrat is “entitled” to run if he chooses to but suggested that he had to give a “spanking” to his potential rival for so openly coveting his seat.

Booker has already formed a 2014 campaign committee, prompting anonymous Lautenberg aides to rip the mayor to Politico, accusing him of being “disrespectful.” I asked Lautenberg about that characterization this afternoon.

“I have four children, I love each one of them. I can’t tell you that one of them wasn’t occasionally disrespectful, so I gave them a spanking and everything was OK,” Lautenberg said with a smile in his first public comments since Booker announced he was considering a run for Senate.

Lautenberg, who turns 89 on Wednesday, would not say if he intends to run for another six-year term in 2014.

“I’ve got a lot of work to do yet, serious things and we pride ourselves (in) my office and my team (on) getting things done. That’s the focus. I’m not thinking about the politics right now,” Lautenberg said.

Ah, an elderly white senator threatening to spank a younger black male politician for being too ambitious and not knowing his place. Ahem. I guess we should be glad he didn’t call Booker “boy” or threaten that a primary fight would result in a “whuppin’.” Say, mainstream media, you might want to take note of this, if you want to have even a shred of credibility the next time some no-name state lawmaker makes some racially insensitive comment and you demand every Republican in the country ritually denounce the unknown yokel in order to prove no racial maliciousness lurks in their hearts.

Strom Thurmond served until he was 100; perhaps Lautenberg is aiming to top that record.

Also kind of embarrassing for Lautenberg? Democrats are starting to talk about the 2014 race like he’s not even there anymore:

New Jersey’s Assembly speaker has a warning for Cory Booker as the Newark mayor begins exploring a race for the U.S. Senate: Focus on New Jersey.

Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) told The Huffington Post that she is seriously considering entering the 2014 primary race for U.S. Senate against Booker. Oliver said she sees a need to send a woman to Congress from New Jersey and added that Booker’s potential ascendancy to the Senate is not a “fait accompli.”

Tags: Cory Booker , Frank Lautenberg

The Flawless Communicators on the Obama Campaign Strike Again!


Today’s Morning Jolt discusses two books – Jonah’s The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas and Phil Klein’s new e-book, Conservative Survival in the Romney Era. There’s also an update in the Cory Booker saga:

Shocking News: Some Democrats Seem to Like Wall Street Donors, Aim to Avoid Demonizing Them!

Booker, Harold Ford Jr., Steven Rattner…at this rate, we may never see Republicans criticizing Obama in Romney’s ads.

Booker is not the only Democrat to question the aggressive, negative portrayal of Romney’s work in private equity.  Former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. said today he agreed with “the substance” of Booker’s comments and “would not have backed out.”

“I agree with him, private equity is not a bad thing. Matter of fact, private equity is a good thing in many, many instances,” the Democrat said in a separate appearance on MSNBC earlier in the day.

Former Obama administration economic adviser Steven Rattner made similar comments last week, calling a new Obama campaign TV ad attacking Romney’s role in the bankruptcy of a Bain-owned steel company “unfair.

But hey – the Obama campaign has their best folks on this!

One criticism of the Bain attack has been the notion that it’s hypocritical for the President to attack Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital, yet raise money from private equity donors like Blackstone Group president Tony James, and top Obama bundler Jonathan Lavine, currently a managing director at Bain. It’s an obvious line of attack that’s been kicking around for a week now, and was the subject of Anderson Cooper‘s first question to Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt on tonight’s AC360.

“How can President Obama attack Mitt Romney on his time at Bain, highlighting only times when Bain cost companies jobs, and at the same time hold high priced fund raisers with the head of another private equity firm that’s done work with Bain, the Blackstone Group, there are people who have worked at other private equity firms in his own administration?”

LaBolt started off right, explaining the pertinent point that Mitt Romney himself has bragged about job creation as a “corporate takeover specialist” at Bain Capital, when job creation is about as central to private equity as fertilizer creation is to dairy farming.

But even as Cooper tried to get him to answer the hypocrisy question, LaBolt plowed right through him with more talking points. Five or six times, Cooper tried to get LaBolt to answer that one question, only to be met with uninterrupted talking points, or naked subject changes.


Step back! This man’s a professional!

Tags: Barack Obama , Cory Booker , Mitt Romney

Cory Booker’s Conscience Held Hostage, Day One


On Morning Joe, Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s subsequent video explaining that he has no real quarrel with the tactics and methods of the Obama campaign is compared to a “hostage tape.”

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

On Twitter this morning, I’ve been… extending the metaphor.

“One image says it all: The flag of the seal of Newark, being burned by angry crowd of Obama staffers outside Booker’s embassy gates…  Ever since Shah Daley left the Obama camp, there has been fear that the radical young students had taken over the movement… Analysts note that in his hostage tape, Booker blinks in Morse code, ‘MY CITY STILL NEEDS A THRIVING FINANCIAL SECTOR.’ … A figure with ties to both the Obama camp and high finance, like Jon Corzine, may be permitted to visit Booker’s conscience in captivity…. The angry mob of Obama staffers is now chanting, “DOWN WITH THE GREAT LIEBERMAN,” an ancient figure associated with betrayal in their faith… In an ominous development for the fate of Booker’s conscience, Ayatollah Axelrod has declared it guilty of “apostasy against our deity.” When Booker’s conscience called the Bain attacks “crap” and “nauseating”, he committed blasphemy under the strict orthodoxy of Obamism… All across the country, candlelight vigils are beginning, with millions praying for the safe release of Cory Booker’s conscience.”

It’s best enjoyed while listening to the classic Nightline themes, found here.

Tags: Barack Obama , Cory Booker , David Axelrod

Now Axelrod Is Fuming, ‘Booker!’


In the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Suddenly David Axelrod Is Fuming a Christie-Esque ‘Booker!’

Newark Mayor Cory Booker… not only does he save people from burning buildings, not only does he shovel sidewalks, not only does he do hilarious videos with Chris Christie… he even calls them as he sees them, even if it really, really complicates life for the president of his party:

Mayor Cory A. 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.

Mr. 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 Mr. 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,” Mr. 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,” Mr. Booker continued. “It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.”

Did you see what he just did there? He just put attacks on Romney’s years at Bain Capital up there with what the MSM deems the gold standard of unfair attacks, Jeremiah Wright. (Never-mind that a presidential candidate’s mentor being coo coo for cocoa puffs might be relevant to some voters. For that matter, Romney’s management style and judgment at Bain probably ought to be worth a look. But to blame him for every job lost from an investment that failed without crediting him for every job created from an investment that worked is an inane standard, and the vast majority of voters know this.)

And the angry lefties know that Booker just blew up one of their main attacks on Romney for the rest of the year. Whenever anyone in Obama-world mentions Bain between now and November, expect to hear a lot of, “Oh, this is a silly smear and everyone knows it, even Cory Booker wants the Obama campaign to drop these tired, baseless attacks…”

Brett LoGiurato tours the Left’s outrage and betrayal to Booker Sunday:

Cory Booker seemed to shock the left this morning on “Meet the Press.” Calling himself an “Obama surrogate,” he said this when asked about the Obama campaign’s attack ads this week on Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital:

“I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity. To me, 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 CapitalIf 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.”

Heads started to roll. Keith Olbermann tweeted that Booker “may have done progressive things, but he believes in nothing but Cory Booker.“ The left-heavy Think Progress went with an unflattering “Booker attacks Obama” headline for the “popular, progressive mayor” from Newark. 

Truth is, though, that Booker has always been thought of as something of a “moderate” or “centrist” Democrat, despite being perhaps their favorite rising star. (He’s going to either run to be New Jersey’s governor in 2013 or for one of its Senate seats in 2014.)

Here’s Cory Booker talking about the labels of Republican and Democrat, and how he wants neither to fully apply to him. 

Over at Salon, Steve Kornacki writes why this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise

Financial support from Wall Street and, more broadly speaking, the investor class has been key to Booker’s rise, and remains key to his future dreams.

That’s because Cory Booker was originally elected to the Newark mayor’s office on the strength of the private-equity types. In 2002, when he narrowly lost his first bid, nearly a quarter of donations to his campaign came from Wall Street. Pretty much all of it, Kornacki writes, was from outside Newark. 

Dylan Byers of Politico notices the Obama campaign is distributing an edited version of Booker’s subsequent remarks:

In an almost four-minute follow up video for his social media followers, Booker explained that Romney’s business record was fair game, and that he was simply frustrated by negative campaigning.

The Obama campaign, however, sent out a different video on Sunday night. On Twitter, Obama campaign press secretary Ben La Bolt tweeted out a 35-second version of the video, which was very likely cut by the Obama campaign (because, when I clicked on La Bolt’s link, it had just 8 views).

What gets lost in the edit is the nuance of Booker’s argument. Watching the 35-second video, you would believe that Booker was flip-flopping from his comments on Meet The Press and going on an all-out assault on Romney. In the four-minute video, Booker stands by his comments — including “nauseating” — and explains that while he does think Romney’s record is fair game, he remains “frustrated” by the Obama campaign’s negative attacks.

In other words, the 35-second video is a reverse of position. The four-minute video is an extenstion of the original argument.

Asked for his response to the ad, RNC spokesman Tim Miller, who has been attacking the ad on Twitter, emailed:

It’s clear this video was orchestrated by the Obama campaign, and as long as he is President any defense of the free market/private sector by members of his party must be silenced and apologized for.

The Obama camp’s Michael-Bay-style editing with a blender set for “puree” screams confidence, doesn’t it?

UPDATE: I’m told that this morning, Joe Scarborough joked that Booker’s follow-up message “clarifying” his remarks “looked like a hostage video.”

Tags: Barack Obama , Cory Booker , David Axelrod , Mitt Romney

Subscribe to National Review