Cory Booker went on Meet the Press, pointed a rhetorical gun at President Obama’s recent and highly potent campaign ad critical of Bain Capital and shot it in the head. Something of a forensics novelty, the bullet likewise killed any lingering affection for the Mayor of Newark among rank and file members of his own party.
Booker’s rush to defend the honor of Bain Capital tarnished the legacy of Sir Galahad beyond any possibility of future redemption. His stirring and emotional championing of…private equity?…if it was what it certainly appeared to be was one of the most demeaning displays of ingratiation by an ambitious politician in the long history of cuddling up to reptile skin in exchange for financial support. America’s beleaguered middle class received comforting reassurance no doubt that coziness between the political class and the financial sector warmly endures.
While it was extraordinary to watch a putative ally of a politician contribute such lethal ammunition to an ally’s opposition, political minutiae of this sort might not be worthy of such pervasive commentary were it not emblematic of several necrotic infections afflicting the nation’s economy and politics. The only slightly less nauseating interpretation of Booker’s performance than money-grubbing was that it exemplified another disgusting commonality, which is the tendency of high achieving politicians to signal fellow elites in the private sector of their elite camaraderie as great successes. Whether it’s the quality of the suits or the effortless banter about quants and such, the high finance crowd seems to cause the political class to melt in adulation. The embarrassment of such inducement of timidity in elected officials and members of the media wouldn’t matter much by itself, were this timidity not responsible for such obvious stymieing of Democratic politicians and journalists in doing the job many Americans wish they would do, but at this point have little hope they actually will.
Another plague on the health of the body politic Booker managed to exemplify was the pox on both your houses meme, equating the appropriate criticizing of Bain Capital’s record of job creation with recently exposed plans for racialized political attack ads by supporters of candidate Romney all but accusing the president of radical black separatism. While our sleepily contented careerist mainstream press lazily draws water from this poisoned well, what prompted such a brainless detour by someone of Booker’s intelligence and stature we may never fully understand. If pandering, it was pandering with the subtlety of Gallagher splitting a watermelon.
Booker’s performance also had a tinge of what for lack of a better diagnosis we will classify as Harold Ford Syndrome, a malediction which causes a politician to toil with such transparent ardor and meretriciousness to capture the stink of centrism, the viewer is both embarrassed by what she sees and astonished by the pointlessness of the forum in which it takes place. I enjoy a cliché or a hackneyed observation as much as the next hangover bedeviled Sunday morning viewer. But while the Sunday morning news shows are free to put their insipid Washington cocktail party consensus on television each week, with the requisite if serious people on television can all be pals why can’t we bullshit, I long ago tired of trying to swallow it down with my Eggs Benedict.
Perhaps a great public good was performed with Booker’s reminder to us in the wake of the financial sector’s role in the collapse of the world economy that we shouldn’t be overly judgmental when it comes to high finance. Perhaps there is benevolence in the operation of private equity we have overlooked. On the other hand, Booker’s obsequiousness may have given pause, understanding the hypertrophy of the financial sector over several decades and the consequences of its behavior for the rest of us as we have recently experienced so acutely. In this light, perhaps Booker would have served the public good better by reminding us that the financial sector warrants as much critical scrutiny as we can bring to bear, keeping several facts in mind: The financial sector has grown from 2.8% of GDP in 1950 to 8.4% currently; the financial sector is responsible for 30% of corporate profits, 40% before it brought the world economy to its knees; during the deregulatory period of 1998 to 2009 the financial sector spent $3.3 billion on lobbyists… and as of 2007 employed 2,9996 separate lobbyists, five for every member of Congress.
Perhaps Booker should have saved his succor for a segment of the polity more in need.