It was revealed about a week ago by the New York Times, that Chicago Cubs owner John Ricketts, had a plan to spend up to $10 million in a negative ad campaign intended to smear Pres. Obama by reintroducing Rev. Jeremiah Wright. You know, Barack Obama’s radical preacher and the leader of the church where Obama sat in the pews for 20yrs, and listened to those crazy hate-filled sermons along with the occasional beheading of a white baby? Surely you remember him, right? Yeah, I know; it didn’t work in 2008, and I doubt it would’ve worked in 2012; but don’t tell that to a crazy old white man with tons of money who votes for Republican candidates; or, to the asshole Birthers willing to retread the racist tires of old. Yep, the old run and shoot-a-nigger playbook.

But as fate and convenience would have it, much to the disappointment of Sean Hannity and company at Fox News, Ricketts has since denounced any plans of resurfacing Rev. Jeremiah Wright. However, in speaking about negative campaign ads, Newark, NJ Mayor and self-avowed Obama campaign surrogate Cory Booker, has become the pariah of the week. Reminiscent of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his infamous, “God damned America,” 20 second soundbite of old, Booker expressed his disdain for the negative perception of Bain Capital cast by last week’s Obama campaign ad targeted at the GOP’s presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, who touts his record as a businessman who was once the head of Boston-based private equity firm, Bain Capital.

So what did Booker actually say? Aside from baseless negative ads being “nauseating,” he pointed out just how beneficial private equity firms like Bain, have been to the city of Newark. Of course such a characterization of Bain is antithetical to the perception everyone has bought into, that Bain was an evil monster who frequently came down from the hills to eat working peasants. You know, the perception one develops after taking a look at Newt Gingrich’s, “When Mitt Romney Came To Town,” Republican primary campaign, thirty minute attack ad mini-movie thing-a-ma-jig?

My guess is that the Obama campaign had already made a conscious decision to hit Romney below the belt by continuing the “Bain is evil,” narrative, that has long existed in the anti-Romney playbook that goes back to Ted Kennedy. Yep, no harm no foul by bringing Bain into the mix and using them as Mitt Romney’s audition tape for the big leagues. However, like Cory Booker, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, and now, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick: I find the egregious characterization of Bain to be problematic, especially for the Obama campaign’s re-election efforts. And why do I say that? Listen to the entire discussion as opposed to the silly media spin:

Now, after watching the entire exchange — not to mention the entire episode last Sunday — can you show me where Booker was off message, or attacked the Obama campaign as it’s being sold in the media? Nope, you can’t; but, if you still insist that he did, personally, I think you’re an idiot. Okay, so maybe not an idiot; but instead, easily influenced by the media and are unable to think critically about what Booker said on Meet The Press last Sunday. Which from my observation, many of my fellow Democrats and Liberals are reacting to this, much in the same way the typical  brainless-right-wing-acolyte and Fox News programmed tool would, to anything Obama says.

So why is Cory Booker and all Liberals who agree with him are saying he’s right? First of all, all politics are local; and, Cory Booker happens to be the mayor of a major U.S. city that’s seen it’s share of economic decline. If you don’t understand what it is to be a mayor, think back to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin crying out for help from the federal government before and directly after his city was hit by Hurricane Katrina. Yep, most U.S. urban centers were hit by the wave of economic downturn much in the same way the 9th Ward in New Orleans were flooded after the levee broke. Though the overall economy has shown slow signs of improvement, mayors like Booker are daunted with the arduous task of making sacrifices to keep their respective cities afloat.

However, beyond the criticisms of Booker and his defense of Bain, what I found to be quite iroic, was the way Pres. Obama pulled Booker from under the bus; and, he carefully prefaced his answer on the subject of Bain when asked by uttering the following response in Chicago on Monday:

My view of private equity is that it is, it is set up to maximize profits and that is a healthy part of the free market, of course. That’s part of the role of a lot of business people. That is not unique to private equity. My representatives have said repeatedly and I will say today, I think there are folks who do good work in that area and there are times where they identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries. But understand their priority is to maximize profits, and that is not always going to be good for communities or businesses or workers. — Pres. Obama

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like an endorsement of the idea of Bain being a “vampire,” to me; and actually, as The Economist notes, it’s pretty clever. But then again, maybe Obama’s remark was carefully calculated for two reasons: 1) so as to not alienate potential independent voters who are actively engaged in the financial industry  as employees or investors, or 2) Obama is no stranger to accepting campaign contributions from private equity firms and entities with ties to Wall Street – heck, just about a week ago Obama attended a fundraiser at the home of Tony James, the CEO of the Blackstone Group, yet another private equity firm, that saw total contributions somewhere close to the $2.1 million mark. Which is funny, because I don’t hear any of my fellow Liberals chastising Obama for being a “sellout,” like they have Booker.

But no, instead there’s all this talk about money donated to Booker’s 2002 campaign by Bain Capital, and his Manhattan ties. However, the important thing to note, is that Booker broke no laws in taking campaign funds from Bain. More importantly and to the point he made on Meet The Press: the negative perception of Bain cast by the campaign ad can be problematic for Obama and Democrats in general. Again, this can potentially alienate undecided voters — Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike — who represent the investment class, especially as Mitt continues to tout the “class warfare” meme, and the idea that Obama is down with punishing success by casting Bain in a negative light with his talk of fairness. Not a tough sell when you think about the fact that 78 percent of the companies Bain invested in became successful. Sure factories were closed, and yes people lost jobs; but, is it beyond reason given the companies total record that said factories and plants were doomed from the beginning?

Listen, in my humble and unprofessional opinion, a more effective strategy for the Obama campaign, would be to hit Romney where he’s most uncomfortable: his record as a “job creator” as Governor of Massachusetts. Sure Romney wants to tout his Bain record; but, fortunately for Obama his dismal record as Governor builds political capital in hopes of a reelection in this slowly recovering economy. Heck, let Romney lie talk about his Bain record. If he thinks that’s what it takes to be president, then so be it. The message war will be won if he is countered with the question: if Romney was such an effective “job creator” as seen at Bain, why then did Massachusetts go from 36th to 47th in the nation as far as job creation under Romney? A question you can bet he’d be as uncomfortable answering as he would about “Romneycare” being the template for “Obamacare”.

But hey, “nauseating” political campaign strategy aside. I’d like to congratulate the people on our side who have managed to revive Rev. Jeremiah Wright in the form of Cory Booker. Watching this all play out in the media this week, I can’t help but to be reminded of how much of what Wright said was taken out of context and twisted to advance a particular agenda. And what’s funny about it, is that back then, many of Obama’s supporters then like now, told Wright to shut the fuck up out of fear of Obama losing the election. Even funnier, was that those very same people, in no uncertain terms, all agreed that Rev. Wright was correct about much of what he said in his sermons.

But somehow someway, the “God damn America,” soundbite, that was originally delivered by a white reverend and repeated by Wright, made him a racist and self-serving idiot as he was thrown under the bus by loyal, but cowardly Obama supporters willing to attack Booker’s honest and principled position on private equity firms. However, it’s a damn shame when a Democrat catches hell for being honest about the influence of  money in politics, all because the media loves to see two black men duke it out on television. Yep, good job making Cory Booker the new Rev. Wright.

  • MsJaDell

    Just had this convo with my guy (who’s in finance). Your point about politics being local and the consideration Booker has to have for Newark in his consideration of private equity is exactly the point we discussed. Yours is the first commentary I’ve encountered that made this point – thank you! All this cynical talk of Booker’s comments aimed at doing more for his own political career is tiring. I get that Bookers a savvy politician, but this moment to boost himself at the expense of Obama seems simplistic, dramatic, and, again, quote cynical. Meh.

  • I understand exactly what you’re saying about local politics, and your observations are spot on. However, the campaign is a national one in which local politics of individual surrogates should not become a temporary centerpiece. Booker got excited and opened his mouth without realizing where he was or the potential effects of his words. Shit happens. There was nothing conspiratorial about what he said, but he should have raised the issue with the DNC or White House first. Even Rendell was clearly uncomfortable when pressed to respond to questions about Booker’s statements because he had to be honest about his own opinion. We cannot deny that US politics is a big game of strategic wit, which is why this was one hand the Dems did not want to play…regardless of its validity.

    Again, what Booker said was true for the most part, but he allowed his emotions to screw up a message that could have been a benefit to the campaign. He’s human…can’t fault him for that.

  • Good post Rippa. It amuses me how people twist themselves in pretzels to avoid seeing certain similarities. There are some differences here but nowhere as many as some people would like to imagine.

  • Here’s a very good article on private equity firms and how politicians use them:

    It’s beyond ironic that Texas Gov. Rick Perry threw the term “vulture capitalist” at Romney, as if Perry didn’t catapult his key donors to adviser positions at the $110 billion Texas Teachers Retirement System pension fund, which then steered it toward increasing private-equity allocations. Newt Gingrich’s video release was even more ludicrous in its attempt to paint Bain as somehow different from every other private-equity firm.


  • I’m with you; yes, it is simplistic to conclude that Booker was self-serving with his commentary. He may have higher aspirations other then being the mayor of Newark. But, it’s not like he doesn’t know where his bread is buttered and has to seek a larger base of funding should he decide to make that move.

    But hey, as polarizing a figure as Obama has been for the left — especially black folks. It’s expected that folks would be up in arms and see Booker’s comments as an attack on POTUS. That coupled with the “scared negro” routine that says, “we’re too close to the elections and we’ve worked too hard to eff this up,” are just a few of the things that irritate me. It’s easy for people to talk than it is to get up and get out and make it happen for Obama by way of volunteering to work with Obama For America in their local neighborhoods and cities.

  • Here’s the thing: yes, all politics are local; however, to expand on my point… even politicans on the federal level rely on funds from companies like Bain as well as other firms tied to the financial industry; heck, Obama himself does it.

    That said, yes surrogates have to be careful; but, honesty trumps all. Let’s take this scenario for instance: what if Booker came out slamming Bain Capital on MTP as opposed to airing his personal feelings? What if he did that, and then Romney’s campaign turned around and used his harsh comments against Bain to point to the hypocrisy of it, when Obama and Booker (and many other Democrats) benefit from private equity firms?

    Personally, I think what Booker did was in fact a blessing in disguise; and, having said that, maybe it was a good idea that Dems went on an uproar. I say that because ultimately what this does, is force Obama and company to shift the convo to Romney’s record as governor, where it actually should be.

  • The idea that Democrats aren’t beholden to corporate interests like Republicans are is beyond naive – it’s blissful ignorance. I think people on the left need to wake up to the fact that the financial industry has made it’s power play as far as politics is concerned, a long time ago – heck, this didn’t happen overnight.

    More importantly, Obama caters to this wing of the party and it’s acolytes. Yes he talks about “fairness,” but, is he really talking about reforming the tax structure? I think you know politics when you see it, my brother — nobody wants to touch yax reform and or campaign finance reform. LOL

  • From the New York Times:

    Last week, a few dozen hedge fund and investment executives arrived at the Park Avenue home of Hamilton E. James, president of the private equity firm Blackstone. Each had paid $35,800 to spend two hours at a fund-raiser with President Obama, but the timing proved awkward: A few hours earlier, Mr. Obama’s campaign had begun a blistering attack on Mitt Romney’s career in private equity, the same business in which Mr. James has earned his many millions.
    “Campaigns do what campaigns have to do,” Mr. James later told friends. But not everyone was as forgiving. “People were incredulous,” said one person who attended the dinner. “They could have waited a week.”
    Debates over how much to blame – and regulate – Wall Street have stoked tensions between Democrats and the financial industry ever since Mr. Obama took office amid a financial crisis. But now Mr. Obama is leveraging his bully pulpit and advertising dollars to argue that Mr. Romney’s career as a successful financial executive exhibited values that are not those of a good president.
    In doing so, he has not only drawn criticism from allies like Steven L. Rattner, the investor and former adviser on the auto industry, and Cory A. Booker, the mayor of Newark and a favorite of New York’s hedge fund world. Mr. Obama may also be testing a bond first formed by Bill Clinton, who persuaded much of his party’s elite that Democrats could be both populist and friendly to Wall Street.
    “I think the consensus, such as it was, has badly eroded under the pressure of events,” said William Galston, a former Clinton adviser who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “The depth, the severity, and the length of the Great Recession have exacerbated strains within the country and within the Democratic coalition.”
    For some Democrats, the line Mr. Obama is trying to walk – between asserting that Mr. Romney’s career at Bain Capital does not support his claim to be a job creator, and criticizing the private equity industry as a whole, between his acknowledgments of the vital role in the economy played by big investors and the scorching attack ads aired by his campaign – is a perilous one.
    At stake are not only a political and policy relationship Democrats have nurtured over decades with the financial services industry, but the millions of dollars in campaign cash that have come with it. Already this year, securities and investment firms have given Republicans 59 percent of their donations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the party’s highest share since the center began tabulating campaign money. Mr. Obama has raised millions of dollars on Wall Street, but far less than he did four years ago.


  • As in the case of his last campaign, it is the financial industry as a whole that has bundled (collected from high-net-worth individuals) the most money for Obama’s 2012 campaign, $17.6 million so far. Those bundlers include quite a few private-equity firms or firm divisions, such as Centerview Partners, Barclays Capital, MF Global (financed by PE firm J. C. Flowers—who lost $47.8 million on the venture), UBS, and Greenstreet.
    The financial sector has also given the most money to Mitt Romney’s campaign. His top 20 donors included Goldman Sachs, Bain (of course), Barclays, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, and Blackstone.
    Private-equity firms aren’t in business to create jobs, but to make money, and use it to maximize their profits and political opportunity. Bain Capital touts its ability to deliver returns for its investors, not jobs for the economy. The others are no different. For Romney to paint things otherwise is disingenuous. And for the rest of his GOP competitors to claim that of all the private-equity firms out there, only Bain left behind a trail of pain, is at best clueless, and worst, an outright lie. For the Democrats, to remain silent is spineless. No party is discussing public stability over private risk-taking.