9:17 am May. 21, 20122
President Obama's re-election campaign has tried to argue that the anti-Bain Capital offensive it launched last week isn't meant as a broader attack on the private equity industry as a whole, but not all of his surrogates are willing to thread the same needle.
On Sunday morning, Mayor Cory Booker of Newark wandered off the Obama re-election reservation during a roundtable on "Meet the Press," and said he was "uncomfortable" with the campaign's attacks on private equity and found the negative ads on both sides as "nauseating" evidence of a "small campaign."
"I have to just say from a very personal level I'm not about to sit here and indict private equity," Booker said, after host David Gregory played a clip of an anti-Bain ad Obama's campaign launched last week.
"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."
Booker isn't the first Democrat to express frustration with the attacks on Bain. Former car czar Steven Rattner dismissed it on "Morning Joe" just after it was released, which didn't help the campaign's roll-out.
Booker went to to explain that the talking points he gets from the White House are all focused on average Americans and the middle class, veterans and small businesses.
"The last point I'll make is this kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides," he said. "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."
If there was any silver lining for the Obama campaign from Booker's undermining appearance, it might have been that there was enough of a backlash against Booker's comments that the mayor felt the need to issue a YouTube clarification in the afternoon.
In the video, Booker did his best to draw a line between the negative ads proposed by Republican super PACs and those of the Obama campaign.
"I was very frustrated this past week when I saw people dredging up the Reverend Wright an already-discussed issue from many years ago and try to bring it to the center stage as a way to undermine and attack our president," he said.
Without mentioning the words "Bain" or "private equity," he contrasted that with a legitimate examination of Mitt Romney's business record.
"Let me be clear, Mitt Romney has made his business record a centerpiece of his campaign," he said. "Therefore it is reasonable and I encourage it, for the Obama campaign to examine that record and to discuss it. I have no problem with that. In fact I believe that Mitt Romney in many ways, is not being completely honest with his role and his record, even while a businessperson, and is shaping it to serve his political interest and not necessarily including all the facts of his time there."
But he didn't entirely disavow his sentiments on Sunday morning.
"I used the word 'nauseating' on 'Meet the Press' because that's really how I feel," he said, adding, "I get very upset when I see such a level of dialogue that calls to our lowest common denominators and not the kind of things that unify us as a nation and move us forward."
The video, as of this writing, had approximately 10,400 views.
A jokey video Booker made with Governor Chris Christie, posted last week, had approximately 332,000.