Booker Speaks the Truth

Politicians, it seems safe to say, are not renowned for their familiarity with the truth. On the rare occasion when a politician blurts out something which is both verifiable and accurate,  apologies and explanations often follow.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker should offer neither an apology nor an explanation for the truth he spoke during a television interview over the weekend. Speaking with David Gregory of NBC’s Meet the Press, Mr. Booker criticized the campaign tactics of both Mitt Romney and President Obama. Now, it was hardly a surprise that the mayor found Mr. Romney’s campaign flawed. But the attack on Mr. Obama’s campaign has caused a gigantic stir. And that’s a good thing—because the mayor spoke the truth about the president’s divisive re-election rhetoric and strategy.

Mr. Booker compared the president’s bashing of big business and affluent Americans with the Romney campaign’s attacks on the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the controversial Chicago cleric who was Mr. Obama’s pastor for several years. “This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides,” Mr. Booker said. “It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity, stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.”

Absolutely. Will Mr. Obama and his surrogates heed the mayor’s advice? One can only hope—but it doesn’t seem likely. Mr. Obama appears determined to win re-election by portraying business leaders and corporate America as the enemy, rather than the partner, of the middle class. The Obama campaign no doubt realizes that with the economy still stagnant, the president can hardly run on a record of job creation and prosperity.

Instead, then, the campaign will focus on the politics of envy.

Mr. Booker’s denunciation of these tactics has won him praise from national Republicans—in fact, the Romney campaign has released a web ad featuring the mayor and his words (never mind that Mr. Booker also criticized the Romney campaign’s Wright-baiting). But Mr. Booker’s comments should not be boiled down into a campaign sound bite. His analysis of the Obama campaign’s strategy speaks to a wider and corrosive assault on the creators of wealth in the United States and, indeed, around the world.

The global economic crisis has angered tens of millions, from New York to Athens. Posturing politicians have been quick to blame corporations, or banks, or CEO’s. The energy consumed by mindless finger-pointing actually has prolonged hard times for many. Rather than work together to find a solution and to create a stable environment for investment, demagogues have sought to stir envy and even hatred.

Mr. Obama’s campaign has given into this sort of rhetoric, and that is a bitter disappointment for many who supported him in 2008. Mr. Booker was right to call out his president for this damaging strategy. Let’s see if Mr. Obama is listening.