Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker has a knack for accumulating media attention. The articulate, reform-minded, anti-partisan urban legislator known for his chummy relationship with Republican Gov. Chris Christie and heat-of-the-moment heroics, looks to have found himself tangled with Democratic Party elite over the last 24 hours. Why did the two-term mayor, who many considered the likely first African-American president pre-Obama 2004 convention speech, draw the ire of his fellow Democrats? During an appearance on NBC's "Meet The Press" Sunday, Booker called the Obama campaign's attack against private equity "nauseating," going on to compare the strategy to planned media attacks on the president by outside conservative groups referencing Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Within hours the mayor put together a nearly 4-minute Youtube soundbite clarifying his support for the president and the vetting of presumptive GOP-nominee Mitt Romney's business record, but still reiterated his frustration with negative campaigning and his feeling of nausea. Many have speculated that Booker's video explanation came following immediate behind-closed-door rebukes from DNC and Obama campaign headquarters, as the Morning Joe men have since compared the footage to a 'hostage video'.
Making the situation stickier for the folks in Chicago, POLITICO's Dylan Byers noted last night that Obama campaign Press Secretary Ben LaBolt was caught tweeting out Booker's hostage video but cut down to just 35-seconds, making the mayor's remarks seem much more apologetic:
What gets lost in the edit is the nuance of Booker's argument. Watching the 35-second video, you would believe that Booker was flip-flopping from his comments on Meet The Press and going on an all-out assault on Romney. In the four-minute video, Booker stands by his comments -- including "nauseating" -- and explains that while he does think Romney's record is fair game, he remains "furstrated" by the Obama campaign's negative attacks.
Republicans have jumped on Booker's comments and the Obama campaign's subsequent reaction, organizing a "I Stand With Cory" petition to stop the Obama campaign's effort to "silence support for job creation."
POLITICO notes that a RNC spokesman has emailed saying "it's clear this video was orchestrated by the Obama campaign, and as long as he is President any defense of the free market/private sector by members of his party must be silenced and apologized for."
Byers notes that LaBolt's twitter account has also released a 17-second version of Booker's video, seemingly indifferent from the orignal edit.
LaBolt has responded to an email from New York Observer's The Politicker questioning the edits:
“Mayor Booker released the full video which was widely distributed – we highlighted the portion of the video in which he addressed whether or not a discussion of Mitt Romney’s private sector record was appropriate,” Mr. LaBolt wrote. “He made clear that it is – that it’s the central premise of Romney’s candidacy and that Romney had not accurately represented that record.”
We emailed with Mr. LaBolt after an Obama campaign conference call where the issue was discussed. On that call, Mr. LaBolt defended the campaign’s criticism of Mr. Romney’s work at Bain.
“We’re not questioning the purpose of the private equity business as a whole or Romney’s capacity to run a business as he saw fit,” he said. “We’re questioning what the values and lessons are from that experience and whether the economic philosophy that he demonstrated while he was a corporate buyout specialist is one that Americans would like to see in the Oval Office.”
Mr. LaBolt also pointed to the segment of Mr. Booker’s video that he highlighted as evidence Mr. Booker believes the Bain criticism is legitimate.
“As you know, Mayor Booker expanded upon his comments yesterday and he pointed out, in a similar fashion that we have today, that Romney has based his candidacy on his tenure as a corporate buyout specialist,” said Mr. LaBolt.
Absent from this explanation is why the campaign chose to edit out Booker's repeated criticisms of negative campaigning from both sides.