Cory Booker can't equate Bain with Rev. Wright

OPINION - Cory Booker's attempt to draw a false equivalency between Wright and Bain was wildly off the mark...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Cory Booker’s appearance on Meet the Press sparked a firestorm on Sunday, the effects of which are still reverberating throughout the political sphere. In the interview, Booker criticized President Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s private equity/job creation record at Bain Capital, calling the attacks “nauseating” and likening them to a pro-Romney Super PAC’s attempt to re-litigate the Jeremiah Wright issue.

Booker’s comments were, without question, a mistake. Romney has placed his tenure at Bain Capital at the center of his own campaign. President Obama, on the other hand, addressed the Jeremiah Wright issue four years ago with a historic address on race, cut ties with Jeremiah Wright, and has had no contact with him since. In short, Jeremiah Wright is entirely irrelevant to this election. Bain Capital is not. Accordingly, Booker’s attempt to draw a false equivalency between Wright and Bain was wildly off the mark.

After his disastrous appearance on Meet the Press, Booker quickly walked back his remarks. In a YouTube video, Booker noted that Romney’s record at Bain should be on the table, reiterated his support for President Obama, and expressly endorsed the campaign ad:

Let me be clear. Mitt Romney has made his business record a centerpiece of his campaign,” he says in the video. “He’s talked about himself as a job creator. And therefore it is reasonable — and in fact I encourage it — for the Obama campaign to examine that record and discuss it. I have no problem with that.

Then, after initially refusing to grant any interviews, Booker gave an utterly milquetoast interview with Rachel Maddow last night, wherein he failed to do what he should have done, and what Democratic voters expected him to do: apologize.

Obviously, I did things in the Meet the Press interview, as I told you, that did not land the points that I was trying to make. And in some ways, frustratingly, I think I conflated the attacks that the Republicans were making with Jeremiah Wright with some of the attacks on the left. And those can’t even be equated.

Booker’s comments are nonsense. He didn’t conflate the Wright attacks with “some of the attacks on the left.” Booker specifically criticized the Obama campaign’s Bain ads as an attack on private equity, and directly and in every way conflated the Obama campaign’s ads with the renewed Wright attacks.

Moreover, during his Meet the Press appearance, Booker defended Bain Capital in a deeply personal way:

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.

And rather than explaining to Rachel Maddow why he did so — perhaps by explaining that his own campaign has benefited from more than a half million dollars cash influx from Bain Capital — Booker sounded squirrely and evasive.

Instead of a clear and forceful apology, we were treated to Booker’s nervous ramblings about marriage equality and how great President Obama is, and “Hey! I’m just the mayor of Newark!” Even more embarrassingly, Booker, who proudly proclaimed himself to be President Obama’s surrogate, and therefore competent to speak about issues on a national scale, attempted to distance himself from Democrats by claiming to be an “independent Democrat who cares about issues facing his community.”

No, Cory. Wrong answer. First, you don’t get to explain your screw-up by retreating to local politics. If you were only prepared to speak about issues facing your community, then you had no business showing up on national TV to speak on behalf of a man running for President of the country.

Second, calling yourself an independent Democrat does nothing to help you. Rather, it gives Democrats Lieberman nightmares and raise more questions — questions like, “What the hell is an independent Democrat?” and “Why is this independent Democrat claiming to be a surrogate for President Obama, and while veering wildly off-message?”

In the end, what remains is a mayor with deep ties to Wall Street – ties that will be seen as toxic in a post-Occupy world – who has likely ruined his chances of political success on a national level because Democrats are not likely to forget this incident anytime soon.

As the old saying goes, “if you’re explaining, you’re losing.” And despite his progressive bona fides and his staunch support of President Obama, Cory Booker lost.

Follow Imani Gandy on Twitter at @angryblacklady