This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things


Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

Related Post Roulette

79 Responses

  1. Obviously, Cory Booker is a pretty crappy surrogate for Obama, and it was a pretty terrible thing to say in that capacity.

    That, right there, is the only remotely interesting thing made clear by this whole idiotic fiasco.Report

  2. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    This is one of those posts I wish I had written first.


  3. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    If you don’t wana be a surrogate, don’t be a surrogate.Report

    • No doubt, but in reacting to the fact that he’s a pretty crappy surrogate, it seems to me that some perspective is necessary. Is it more important that he’s a crappy surrogate or a good mayor? Which of those two things says more about him?

      Reading the commentary on this, the answer seems to be the former for an awful lot of people.Report

      • …And then we wonder why we wind up electing politicians who talk a great game but don’t seem to actually accomplish much of use when they’re in office.Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

        All true, and obviously people should judge him mostly by his mayoral record.

        I don’t judge him for saying what he wanted. And most other people will take the wrong message away from this incident (how could you question Obama?!)

        But I do question anyone that decides to go be a surrogate on any of those shows. And he is perfect for TV, which is why he gets called back. But it has nothing to do with being mayor. And while it’s a shame he’ll get mafia handled for this, I found his comments self serving and opportunistic. He knew what he was saying, where he was saying it, and that he didn’t have to be there, saying that, or saying anything else. He chose that game though, and so I can’t feel to sorry for him when it plays out.

        From what I’ve heard and read, he seems to be doing a great job in Newark. So why not stick to Newark?Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          I found his comments self serving and opportunistic.
          Would toeing the party line not qualify as self serving and opportunistic?

          From what I’ve heard and read, he seems to be doing a great job in Newark. So why not stick to Newark?
          A Newark mayor can’t have grander political aspirations? Jeez, we all mock New Jersey, but still…

          I can’t feel sorry for him…
          I think you’re taking the wrong message from the post and comments.Report

          • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

            “Would toeing the party line not qualify as self serving and opportunistic?”
            Of course it would, which is why I don’t have much respect for people that go on those shows to begin with.

            “A Newark mayor can’t have grander political aspirations? Jeez, we all mock New Jersey, but still…”
            He’s allowed to do whatever he wants, but forgoing the work he’s doing to go on a political ego trip wouldn’t be very inspiring.

            “I think you’re taking the wrong message from the post and comments.”

            Mark wrote, “Clearly, for this sin, Booker must be cast out of the Democratic Left. He can’t be trusted and should never see another dime of progressives’ campaign donations. He is, in fact, nothing but another corrupt politician on the take for the financial industry who should never be allowed near public office again.*”

            His remarks on private equity were extremely self-serving. Yes, he’s been tarred and feathered, as per the rules of the game that he plays very well. Should we be focusing on his record? Yes, but only in so much as we should be focusing on him at all, which we shouldn’t.

            Rather than talking about the issue that he caught flack for commenting on, we’re talking about brusied feelings and politics played too rough.Report

            • I don’t actually care about Booker’s feelings. I care about the witch hunt in which saying the wrong thing is a more relevant indicator of whether a politician is worthy of support than what the politician actually does. What makes Booker a progressive or a liberal has jacksquat to do with what he said on Sunday, and everything to do with what he’s done in 6 years as mayor. Yet people are trying to cast him aside and disown him because of what he said. If they’re successful in casting him aside and basically making him an untouchable, guess who’s going to suffer?

              Answer: Not Booker, who will no doubt wind up making millions in the private sector no matter what happens. The people of Newark, however, will definitely suffer. If you believe progressive policies are better for people than conservative or centrist policies, then the people of New Jersey will suffer when Christie is reelected. Etc., etc.Report

              • Avatar swearyanthony says:

                Was there actually a witch hunt? As far as I saw, it went:
                various left-leaning blogs: #facepalm
                right-leaning blogs and then RNC: OMG OMG OMG
                booker: no, that’s not what I meant

                That is, a surrogate went off message. Oh no. It’s May. You need a tag for these posts, “utter crap that will be forgotten well before election day”Report

              • If that’s all this was, I’d not have written this piece. It frankly would not have even registered on my meter. It was only when I saw numerous pieces around the left-o-sphere, several of which I’ve linked above, basically insisting that Booker be disowned, that I got annoyed.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Booker will be an extremely important signifier of the right’s intellectually-bankrupt hypocrisy, up until people start looking at his historical performance, at which point he will be totally irrelevant at best and more likely speaking well beyond his competence and will have been all along.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Are you sure they’re insisting that he be disowned? Or just pointing out Cory Booker isn’t a saint and has higher aspirations where support from the financial industry would be important?

                The Think Progress piece just points out that Bain gave Booker lots of money. Elias doesn’t seem to be demanding Booker be cast out, and even Cole isn’t demanding that. He’s just pointing out how the media loves the false equivalence narrative equating questioning Bain capital with Wright.

                C’mon, man this is a bit weak.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                I’m not actually saying that Bush intentionally allowed the World Trade Center attacks to proceed, I’m just pointing out that if he had then he’d benefit a lot from it.Report

              • The clear implication of the Think Progress piece is that Booker is on the take. To me, once you’ve reached the stage where you’re doing things like that, you’re burning the bridge permanently and consciously. The Cole piece references that Booker is suddenly unworthy of campaign support and openly speculates whether his political career is finished. Elias’ piece suggests that this is the end of any support for Booker from the Netroots (though I’m not certain he takes a position on whether he agrees with that outcome).

                There’s also several pieces taking Booker to task for raising boatloads of money from the financial industry for urban development in Newark, again with the implication that this is somehow evidence of him being on the take. Never mind that Newark lacked the tax base to accomplish this development, so raising it from the private sector in the form of donations is about the only way he could have done that. Also never mind that the mess he inherited from Sharpe James was of epic proportions.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:


              if either critiquing Obama or supporting him is self-serving, then why are you criticizing him for being self-serving at the same time as you’re criticizing him for not supporting the Prez? Is there something meaningful about criticizing him for being self-serving in way X, rather than being self-serving in way Y that I’m missing?

              As to not respecting anyone who goes on those shows, fine, but I think it’s ridiculous that you think they’re terrible for going on those shows, then condemn them if they don’t behave in a particular way. It comes across as you saying you disrespect them slightly less if they completely sell themselves out for their party.

              As to Mark saying, “clearly for his sin Booker must be cast out of the Democratic Left,” I’m really struggling to see how you read that as an expression of sympathy for Booker rather than as an expression of disdain for those who would react by kicking him out….your type of response, if I dare say so.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                When someone says “toe the line”, they’re implying an involuntary or value-maximizing decision; related is “go along to get along”. The idea is that your decision is pragmatic rather than moralistic or intellectual, and if you weren’t trying to maximize your personal money/power then you’d choose differently.

                Gach is saying that it’s possible to support President Obama from a position that is entirely intellectual or entirely moral, without any thought of personal benefit; that is, if someone speaks in favor of Democrats then they aren’t necessarily being self-serving.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                No, Ethan already agreed that toeing the party line would be self-serving and opportunistic. He explicitly agreed to that.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                I’m trying to say that “agree with someone” and “toe the line” are not synonymous statements.Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                I don’t see him as wronged in all this, and I don’t see the manufactured outrage as particularly destructive. Not least all because many dems appear to share Booker’s sentiment.

                Outrage at his remarks is unnecessary. But so is reverse outrage at the outrage.

                And what he said, irrespective of the Prez’s position, deserved harsh criticism.Report

              • It’s not that I’m outraged – I’m actually not. I could point just as easily to things on both the Right and, yes, the Center as well, that are symptomatic of precisely the same problem, to wit: that the horse race is an end unto itself, in which actual good governance is at best an afterthought. My problem is that this incentivizes the development of politicians who are really fun to root for/against in the horse race, but don’t actually have a clue how to get the things done that they say they are for, and don’t actually have an interest in helping their constituents improve their lives.

                This isn’t a matter of there being too few John McCains and Joe Liebermans, who to me are emblematic of this type of problem coming from the Center. It’s a matter of there being too few Tom Coburns and Russ Feingolds.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                It’s a matter of there being too few Tom Coburns and Russ Feingolds.

                I’m w/that, MarkT. As a gentleperson of the right, I’d never vote for Russ Feingold. But in the runup to the Iraq War Part Deux, he spent hours upon hours poring over the intelligence data and decided “no.” [Over half the Dem senators voted yes, iirc.]

                How can I not respect Feingold for doing his duty to the best of his ability? Good man.Report

              • Thanks, Tom – that’s exactly the sort of thing I’m trying to get at: taking the job seriously, trying to get what you honestly believe is the right thing done, even if that means working with someone who is trying to get a different thing that they believe is right done, etc.Report

        • Sure it’s self-serving, but the entire point of these shows is for politicians to feed their egos, and increase their name recognition and cache. I also don’t think it’s possible to be a successful politician without having an outsized ego.

          Beyond that, though, in Booker’s case there are some clear fringe benefits to the citizens of Newark that arise from his appearing on these shows. These are, I emphasize, fringe benefits rather than the point of such appearances. But given Newark’s history, having the mayor of Newark appear on these shows as someone who is respectable and successful goes a long way towards undoing the tarnish on that city’s reputation, sending a message that the city is safe for private investment, jobs, as well as charitable donations, amongst other things.Report

  4. Avatar James Hanley says:

    +1, Mark.Report

  5. Avatar Burt Likko says:
    Not a Team Blue guy,
    But a pretty good mayor.
    He’s Cory Booker!


  6. Avatar Scott says:

    Booker isn’t the first to pan the Bain ad. Barry’s car czar, Steve Rattner, criticized it before he did. Sadly Booker will be punished for not toeing the party despite any other accomplishments. This shows that folks in both parties get carried away by orthodoxy.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:


    • Avatar Mo says:

      Steve Rattner founded a PE firm and ran it for close to a decade before he became the car czar. That he wouldn’t be enamored with an anti-PE ad is pretty unsurprising. It’s when people act out of their expected role that people are surprised.Report

      • Avatar Scott says:


        Rattner’s PE experience give him more expertise to judge the validity of the the ad than that of the regular Pol or TV talking head. Rattner knows that you can’t judge Bain on the merits of one deal. Besides who can take the ad seriously when one of the persons featured calls Bain a vampire? And not to mention that how can you possibly impute all of Bain’s action to solely to Mitt?Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I’m confused…

    Is being a “surrogate” like an official thing? Is it like that Bruce Willis movie? What does it mean to be a “surrogate” for a politician?Report

  8. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    > I hear that Vegas has also set the over/under on the
    > number of people whose voting patterns this will
    > affect in November at 4.

    “I’ll take the under!”Report

  9. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    Can I still pass the Very Serious Person test if I believe he’s a good mayor (if you ignore his support for profitizing education and way too many connections to right-wing think tanks) who should never be any higher office since his bonafides show him to be a “centrist” on matters I care about? Or does that not pass the test?

    I mean, there’s also the fact that Sharpe and Booker both had pimps, it’s just Booker’s is legitimate.Report

    • So you care more about his opinion of Obama’s ad than about what he would actually do on economic issues, on which his actual record is anything but “centrist.”

      In other words, what is more relevant to whether he is a “centrist” on issues you care about? What he said on Sunday or what he’s done over the last 6 years?Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I think part of Jesse’s point is that the last six years have been filled with compromises that Jesse is uncomfortable with and would not like to see made at any higher level of office.Report

        • I would buy this if I’d seen anyone attacking Booker’s record or referring to any compromises he’s purportedly made prior to Sunday. Maybe I missed a whole bunch of concerns being raised in that direction, but I’m more than a little skeptical.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            Corey Robin was so desperate to pile on to Booker that he tried to use Booker’s fire heroics as an opportunity to attack him. I think this has been simmering for a while.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              He diduse Booker’s heroics to actually attack him. In a pretty clever way, too.Report

            • Thanks, Will. I’m deeply suspicious that it’s something that was significantly more widespread than Corey Robin, though. I’d also take lots of issue with how Robin characterizes a lot of that stuff, but that’s another story altogether.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Oh yeah. I mean, the structure of the attack (well, one part of it) is that Booker is regarded as a hero for performing social services in areas of government where he cut funding. So the point is sorta a ‘if he didn’t cut the funding, he wouldn’t have to perform heroics!’ That’s the clever part. But even on a surface level there’s some real stretching going on.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            There’s been plenty of criticism on the left toward Booker’s connections to right-wing think tanks and is support of various profitization schemes, including trying to bring Michelle Rhee on board as leader of Newark schools.Report

  10. Avatar Will Truman says:

    I think the main issue here is that there has been lingering mistrust below the surface. I think this just gave it an opening. Assisting matters is that this touched on the very reason there was the mistrust to begin with. I don’t think this is actually all that much about Bain itself.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “I think the main issue here is that there has been lingering mistrust below the surface.”

      Careful there, you’re about to accuse Booker’s opponents of being closeted racists.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Oh, we’re well beyond that Duck. We know by know that criticizing someone who criticizes liberals is always construed as an accusation of racism.Report

  11. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    If Romney cutting a classmate’s hair thirty-some years ago is important, then whatever Booker has or hasn’t done recently is irrelevant.

    er, wait, how was that supposed to go, again?Report

    • Avatar wardsmith says:

      Let’s see, Romney went to high school 48 years ago, Obama went to high school 34 yrs ago. Obama in his own autobiography admits to bullying a girl, Romney doesn’t admit (doesn’t remember) something that happened longer ago than 90% of the folks reading this comment. My own 40th reunion will be coming up next, I’m reasonably confident I won’t remember many things, not out of repressed memories but because I don’t even remember what I had for breakfast last week let alone last decade.

      All this of course is a distraction from the looming catastrophe that will be the economic collapse of western civilization followed by war, famine, etc.Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The last thing we need is someone pretending to be a better Obama than Obama.Report

  13. Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

    The worst part about this scandal is that it draws attention away from the fact that the actual content of what Booker said was complete and unadulterated bullshit. Who cares which team he’s on? He’s talking shit; someone tell him to stop.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      So, cribbing from Barack Obama circa 2008 is now “complete and unadulterated bullshit”, and anyone who talks like that is talking shit and should be told to stop?Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

        Correct. This kind of centrist idiocy is, and always has been, total shit. Obama’s Red America/Blue America speech from 2004 is just insipid crap. It was even in 2004.Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          That kind of centrist idiocy (and the absence of a vote in favor of the Iraq War) is what caused Obama to go from a 2004 speech to the White House in 2009.Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

            That makes it not shit? I don’t understand your argument here.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe says:

              Just that centrist idiocy works. Which from one point of view, is I guess why we can’t have nice things. But not mine, as I’m mostly a centrist idiot myself. Although a buffet grazer with a libertarian bent better describes my political preferences.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Sure it works, but precisely because we have fights like this one – who strayed from which reservation, which set of partisans is acting irrationally (or, God, even worse, why BOTH sets of partisans are acting irrationally, the dreaded centrist-idiocy-within-a-centrist-idiocy) – instead of pointing out that Booker is talking shit.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Could you please explain what Booker said that you think is shit (I don’t know specifically what he said, nor would I want to make assumptions about what part you object to), and why centrism is idiocy (or if not all centrism, which type of centrism you’re referring to)?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                I refer to this idiotic need to equivocate. Side A says X, Side B says Y, here’s why they’re both evil and I will take you to the Promised Land. It’s shit. If you have a point about something, make it. Actual adults with functioning brains don’t need to be told that something is bad because two different people both did it. Just say why it’s bad and stop making me want to scream Revelation 3:16 at you until you cry.

                In this particular case, what infuriates me is there’s no argument. He calls the attack ads – BOTH SIDES DO IT HAR HAR – “nauseating” but never actually manages to say why. They distract from “the issues” – which issues? The ones Corey Booker cares about? Are Jeremiah Wright and Bain Capital not issues just because Corey Booker doesn’t want to talk about them?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Woo! We can talk about Jeremiah Wright again!!!

                Question: Does Barack Obama strike you as the kind of person who goes to church and then tunes out for two hours?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Barack Obama doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who has thought critically about anything anyone has ever said to him in the entire history of his life. So I’ll go with “yes”.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Thank you.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Ironically, that was my defense of Obama back in 2008 (on Redstate!) of the Wright debacle.

                “How awful is it that Obama went to this church!”

                “Eh, I dunno. He probably went for the sake of the wife/kids and sat there and tuned out and thought it was more important to shake hands with everybody in the lobby than listen to the sermons that closely.”

                “HOW DARE YOU ASSUME THAT???”

                “That’s what I did.”Report

              • Avatar b-psycho says:

                If Obama acted remotely like a radical black liberation theologist then the “his pastor was a radical black liberation theologist!” thing would be valid. If anything, he’s way too conventional.

                Bain is only valid to the extent that Romney’s governorship is ignored by Romney himself.

                That said, the most honest criticism Obama could use — that Romney is a slippery empty suit who’ll say anything — is shut off for the most part because the same applies to Obama (this is why their painting is so much more Evil Corporate Raider and so much less Flip-Flopper). Likewise, Romney can’t go the depress-the-other-guys-base route because his view on those issues (particularly foreign policy) is basically Yes Please, But With A Scowl This Time.Report

              • Avatar sonmi451 says:

                You don’t know specifically what he said, but you want to criticize people who criticize him anyway?Report

              • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing out that Booker was talking shit, if that’s what you believe (for purposes of my argument, I assume he was,and I personally have no opinion on the matter since I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid any political ads). My problem is that the collective freak out over what he said seems grossly out of proportion to the actual impact of what he said (zero). It is not enough that Booker be proven to have been full of shit, his character must be assassinated and he must be turned into a pariah for the Left, consequences be damned.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                I’m more or less with Will on this. There is a lot of resentment toward Booker boiling under the surface in liberal circles. Being a centrist asshole is pretty much the thing that lost Adrian Fenty his job, and the same people who went after him don’t find Booker nearly as appealing as your post might want them to.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                “Being a centrist asshole is pretty much the thing that lost Adrian Fenty his job”

                It contributed to it, but it was really a referendum on ‘new’ Washington vs ‘legacy’ Washington, and ‘legacy’ Washington won.Report

  14. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I guess I missed a lot of excitement over the last few days- we had a big party at our house and then I was at the library doing penance. I did see the clip. I wasn’t particularly moved one way or the other, but I found his (Booker’s) tone of moralism fascinating.Report

  15. Avatar Scott says:

    Barry doesn’t like Bain’s business practices but will keep the campaign contributions he got from Bain’s executives. I guess their business practices are OK when it benefits him.

  16. Avatar scott says:

    Not sure what the big deal is. Large parts of the Democratic Party are (rightly) angry about the part that our casino-style financial elites have played in the slow-motion, unresolved crisis of the last 4+ years and counting. They’d like their party to lead a critique of that and they get annoyed when their “leaders” (Booker and Clinton) tell them not to be so mean to the nice men who, incidentally, are in the habit of giving Booker and Clinton lots of money. I don’t find this difficult to grasp.Report