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Cory Booker came to West Virginia University to give a talk at the Festival of Ideas, an annual series that brings in interesting people to talk about current events and provocative subjects. I hadn't been to one for a few years, but I thought that I would go to see what all the hype was about. Follow me below the fold to get my report...

Other people had the same idea. This was the biggest crowd I have seen on campus that didn't involve sports, music, or beer. I didn't count the seats but there must have been close to 1000 people. I haven't ever seen any political gathering that size in Morgantown. A big turnout for one of our Democratic events is 100.

Morgantown is a college town and mostly Democratic, but Romney beat Obama here. This definitely isn't a home field crowd for a black big-city mayor. It didn't matter.

He gave a speech that lasted about an hour and then took questions for an hour. He even stuck around afterwards to talk to students, but it was past my bedtime. It was the most amazing performance I have ever seen. It was Bill Clinton quality: he would recite facts, quote from a variety of sources, and then rip your heart out with a story. All this without notes or a teleprompter, wandering around the stage interacting with his audience. And we were his audience- he had us eating out of his hand.

His themes were standard moderate Democratic mantra: coming together as a community, helping those less fortunate help themselves, economic development, fiscal responsibility, and tolerance. He name checked Bloomberg, Christie, Frist, and a local right-wing think tank to suggest he could work with the Republicans. I have heard similar talk from our WV Blue Dogs and it leaves me cold. Why did this work for him?

My mother (in her 80s) remarked as we left that he had her vote. He had mine too. It seemed at the time that on every issue that he brought up I was in complete agreement with him. I may change my mind in the morning after the rush fades and I start to think about the reality of what he said and has done. But for now all I can say is: This guy is good!

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Comment Preferences

  •  asdf (5+ / 0-)
    He name checked Bloomberg, Christie, Frist, and a local right-wing think tank to suggest he could work with the Republicans. I have heard similar talk from our WV Blue Dogs and it leaves me cold. Why did this work for him?
    Please tell me that you will cast your vote based on policy and not personality.
    •  As I said, I may change my mind in the (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joynow, slothlax, PinHole, Chi, Loge, viral

      morning.

      However, am I impressed with his impact on me. I am old, somewhat cynical, and have been involved with local politics for a number of years. Political speeches mostly bore me and I never listen to the convention talks. But he turned me into a quivering lump of jelly.

      Policy is important, but so is personality. No matter how good someone's goals are, if they can't persuade people to support them it doesn't matter. And if they aren't sincere then we end up getting sold out.

      •  AFC - Booker is very talented and impressive (6+ / 0-)

        and his next step is a run for the Senate from NJ. He is the front runner in the 2014 cycle. He isn't well liked here at DKOS, but I think he is one of the rising stars in the Democratic Party and has broad bipartisan appeal.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 11:00:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If I'm right, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Andrew F Cockburn

          Lautenberg is pushing Menendez out behind the scenes so that Booker has to run in a special election and then Lautenberg gets to either run for reelection or else retire on his own terms (which is what I think he wants), rather than having Booker try to push him out.  Tacky, tacky.

          That said, the fact that Booker won't challenge Christie means he's either less of a rising star than he likes to tell people he is, or he's in substantial agreement with Christie (who, apart from his wholly understandable desire to accept federal disaster relief when made available to him, is quite unreasonable).  If that's the case, why does it matter if he's a "rising star."

          I'm a little miffed over the campaign, where he had ONE JOB, which was to talk shit about Mitt Romney so the President didn't have to, and he instead undermined the anti-Bain narrative.  The campaign's campaign against Bain was, of course, reductive and simplistic, but it was never "private equity is bad," it's "private equity doesn't teach someone how the economy works from the perspective of a worker or even an entrepreneur."  If low information voters heard "private equity is bad," I'm sure we were ok with that, but that doesn't justify Booker undercutting our plausible deniability.

          Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

          by Loge on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 08:08:27 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's time for Lautenberg to announce his (0+ / 0-)

            retirement. He will be 90 in 2014 and it's time to gracefully step aside. Booker is a great candidate, he has real charisma. I don't have a problem with his Wall St/Private Equity comments. Wall St firms did a lot for Newark when Booker asked for help and he has friends in private equity and knows they aren't monsters.  

            I don't think Menendez will be forced out of office based on what I have read to date, but you are right Booker would jump into any special election.

            "let's talk about that"

            by VClib on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 01:17:59 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Lautenberg (0+ / 0-)

              has never done anything gracefully in his life.  New Jersey politics is amusing enough, but an old guy who can buy a seat and who just doesn't give a fuck just makes it the best.

              I feel decently confident nobody can prove Menendez had sex with underage prostitutes (or overage prostitutes), but I'm not so sanguine about his chances re the influence peddling.  He always struck me as a sleazebag.

              The point of the P.E. comments was that nobody required Booker to say anything to the effect that they were monsters.   He went out of his way to sandbag the campaign at the very moment they were boosting his profile by booking him on MTP.  Officially, the argument was that Mitt's PE experience didn't qualify him for the Presidency because he never had to take responsibility for the job losses that he caused and the effect on the community.  Booker could have walked that line.  And since he is as smart as he tells us he is, I have to assume he was intentionally being as uncooperative as possible.  

              And having met private equity folks myself, they're not monsters, they're just colossal bores.  Almost as bad as surgeons.

              Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

              by Loge on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 02:01:42 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  I've seen him in person as well. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joy of Fishes, Andrew F Cockburn

        In a smaller setting, and he is impressive as hell.  Comes across as incredibly sincere, and you admire him for even thinking of trying to fix Newark.

        •  Adam, (4+ / 0-)

          the guy may be impressive and super smart, but he's a phony through and through.  He hasn't done anything concrete to help Newark.  

          He doesn't even help dogs out in the freezing weather unless there's a camera nearby.  Remember how quickly and easily he threw Obama to the wolves on MTP?  All politicians must be selfish to some extent, but believe me this guy takes it to the next level.  

          Ambition is like me - neither of us should be on view naked.

          •  A quote attributed to Marx: (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            hayden, Loge, Adam B
            The most important thing to an actor is sincerity. If you can fake that you have it made.
            Groucho

            If Booker was faking it, he has it made. As I said in the diary, he reminded me of Bill Clinton, who can turn it on and off at will. The Republicans used to make fun of that little hitch in Clinton's voice when he was overcome by emotion, but it was effective as hell.

            •  But here's what bothers me (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Andrew F Cockburn, Mr Robert

              Over a long campaign, voters really do get a sense of who these people truly are.

              Clinton doesn't fake his emotion.  The reason he resonates so strongly is that at the moment he expresses his emotion, he truly feels the emotion.  It may not last long and it may not be his driving force, but at that moment, it's real.  

              My fear is that, after watching Booker (yes, I'm from NJ) for so long, I fear none of it is real, and that's what's showing through.

  •  He is among the people who (15+ / 0-)

    castigated Obama for being mean to Wall Street in the campaign, because he himself is in the tank for Wall Street.  He is also in the tank for the education "reformers" like Michelle Rhee. This is another New Dem/DLC/ThirdWay Democrat.  We need better Democrats, not more like this.  Take a cold shower and fire up the Google.

  •  Are you sure Romney beat Obama? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn, Chi

    Looking at the 2008 results, even including Westover, Granville, Baker Ridge, and some other adjacent areas that appear to be beyond city lines of Morgantown, Obama won the area 58-40, roughly.  Adding in all the areas between the river and highway 68, and again including Westover and Granville, it was still roughly 57-41.  That'd be quite a swing for Obama to lose the city itself to Romney, given it looks like he got 60-70% in most of the precincts in 2008.

    ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

    by James Allen on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 09:45:56 PM PST

  •  charisma = smoke & mirrors (8+ / 0-)

    both the comments above asking for some sanity are all you need to know. Booker is popular with the media but not the citizens of his town; he rescues freezing dogs, and pulls people from burning buildings, but not much else. He was a lead election-runup story on the BBC for his high-profile attack on Obama for "being mean to Wall Street," as 2laneIA says—and as s/he also suggests, he is out to destroy public education.
    I hope he falls in a hole politically; enough of his type of mediagenic smooth talkers!

  •  Clinton, Obama, Booker (8+ / 0-)

    2 conservative parties don't help me regardless of the specific personality.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 10:25:21 PM PST

    •  I would link these 3 together in a good way (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PinHole, hlsmlane, Andrew F Cockburn

      I met Booker a couple times when in College, both of us at Stanford. I would say even as an undergraduate, he was impressive. Very engaging personality-yes, charisma.

      I would like a Howard Dean or Paul Wellstone type progressive as Democratic leader and president, but I don't see that happening.

      Clinton and Obama are obviously too centrist for many here at dKos, but I would not say we have 2 conservative parties. Keep electing Democrats and we can keep moving left.  Lose to the repubs and the country moves right. It is as simple as that.

      I'd like to see Booker in Senate from NJ. After that, who knows.

      •  moving left / moving right (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Andrew F Cockburn
        Keep electing Democrats and we can keep moving left.  Lose to the repubs and the country moves right.
        Here's the thing, though -- Booker's next race looks to be the '14 Senate race.  And if he replaces Frank Lautenberg, that moves the Senate slightly to the right, not to the left.  I don't think it's too late for a more progressive candidate to emerge, if, in fact, Lautenberg chooses to retire.  

        What I will say for Booker, though, is that if I lived in West Virginia, I'd be delighted to have him as my senator.  But I don't live in West Virgiinia, I live in New Jersey, and I like to think we can elect someone more progressive.

  •  He Was Grooming The Audience..... (7+ / 0-)

    Everything Booker does is calculated.  He has got to be the single most ambitious politician around.  

    He's a blue dog on a mission.  Keep your eye on him.  Being bamboozled is never really fun in the end.

    I felt the same way when Dennis Kucinich came to town.  He was here for a rally in Washington state, then stayed around for a presentation in our local theater.  He was looking for a home as it was rumored his district was going to be eliminated.  He was practically licking his chops as he sized up the audience reaction....No thanks!

  •  I trust you AFC (5+ / 0-)

    I know some people will see this diary and say "Oh, he's just drinking the Kool-Aid".  But I've seen enough of your comments to know you aren't some naive neophyte.

    I'm not sold on Booker yet, but no Democrat has won the White House as a straight up liberal since Lyndon Johnson, so the purity trolls won't win any points with me.

    There is truth on all sides. The question is how much.

    by slothlax on Thu Feb 07, 2013 at 11:47:04 PM PST

    •  Thanks. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      slothlax

      I hope that the diary made it clear that I was more impressed by his delivery than his message. The message was OK, but as has been pointed out in other comments, he had certainly tailored his remarks to a college audience.

      I am closer to Jill Klein in political philosophy than any other major politician in the US. Despite that I remain a Democrat and happily voted for Bill Clinton and Obama. Booker is probably cut from the same cloth. He said he was more libertarian on social issues (he made a big deal about LGBT rights and trashed the War on Drugs). Some of that may have been for the audience but probably some is also generational.

      He may crash and burn due to hubris, but if not I expect that he will be a major player for a long time.

    •  Purity vs. Loyalty; priorities; tri-triangulation (3+ / 0-)

      Obama is more of a triangulator than a Progressive purist, especially towards the financial industry and education reformers.

      After Booker triangulated (which is the most charitable characterization of his "nausea" and false equivalence) against Obama's bet-the-election attacks on Romney's Bain Capital vulnerability,

      Is it "purity trolling" to regard Booker's triangulation of the triangulating President's re-election effort as a major problem in the area of loyalty and priorities?

      It is true that Bill Clinton dabbled in this position too, but then he turned around and became Obama's most effective (and very active) surrogate for the last few months of the campaign.

      In contrast, Booker ducked a Governorship challenge to Christie (which could have earned Booker some loyalty redemption and at least softened up the dangerous Christie), and instead has been pressuring Lautenberg to drop out of the Senate race.

      In light of this recent history, Booker needs to show much more than charisma and articulateness before he has a right to Progressive support in any primary.

      There are plenty of opportunities.  I would be impressed if he worked to promote an end to the private equity "carried interest" tax loophole, which could be done without any accompanying vilification of the type that he was "nauseated" by.  This would be a good way to demonstrate that the relevant "concern" is truly about tone, as claimed by Booker, Jamie Dimon and others (For more background, see: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/...)

      Support filibuster reform by adding $0.51 to all contributions!

      by emorej a Hong Kong on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 07:34:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  At this point (4+ / 0-)

    Blue Dogs maybe the only ones with a chance in WVa.

    Glad he went and stirred things up.  Too many there are only exposed to RW/Fundy viewpoints.  Rush & FAUX are inescapable.

    Were the questions hostile?

    What has been the reaction in the community & campus press?  The Morgantown Star is behind a high paywall now.

  •  Andrew, wow, my mom's a Morgantown resident... (4+ / 0-)

    in her 80s too.

    Fervent lefty, from whom I derive my political self.

    She was so saddened that Obama abandoned WV as a lost cause (though I get it). Not since Bobby Kennedy had I seen her so engaged in the process, not just the dinner conversation. She literally went to Dem state conventions in support of him.

    I'm far away, so I have no idea if she attended this deal with Booker.  I'll check in...

    Anyway, I have no particular point to make, other than I couldn't let this wonderful, random confluence pass without saying something.

    Best.

  •  I saw Cory on Bil Maher (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn

    Issues wise he is not far from me, apart from his corpratist bent.

    He said he was half latino? uh?

    There is something about him though.....his penchant for self promotion and his rather excessive earnestness - I dont know......

    I would definately prefer him to any GOPer though

  •  what did he say his policies are? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aliasalias, Andrew F Cockburn

    did he mention laying off Newark's sanitation workers, privatizing snow removal (and then not even letting the contracts for snow removal)?

    did he mention water privatization?

    did he mention the city's ongoing and unsuccessful campaign to get rent from the Devils?

    did he mention how much of the Zuckerberg donation is going and has gone to consultants as compared to going to schools?

    He may certainly have good things to say about all these issues, but we need to judge him by how he governs Newark .

    That record is not very effective.  I would say no more effective than his predecessors Sharpe James and Kenneth Gibson.

    His close alliance with the Adubato political machine is open to question as well.  You can't get elected in NJ unless you have the machine on your side, but the Essex County machine is not working for all those great and good things that Cory is talking about as he tours the land.

    It's not a fake orgasm; it's a real yawn.

    by sayitaintso on Fri Feb 08, 2013 at 10:24:52 AM PST

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