January 14, 2020

Cory Booker Drops Out

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“Democrat Cory Booker dropped out of the presidential race Monday.” AP News

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From the Left

The left notes Booker’s strengths and is surprised that he didn’t make more headway with voters.

“Booker is a mesmerizing orator — in my view, more compelling a speaker than any of the other Democrats running. He presents the story of his own life as an allegory of the best that this country can be. His destiny was changed by a white man, a volunteer lawyer, who helped his parents buy the home of their dreams at a time when New Jersey real estate agents steered African Americans away from white neighborhoods. Booker uses the word ‘grace’ frequently and calls for a ‘courageous empathy’…

“His problem was not that he lacked a solid operation. Booker had a talented campaign team, and a good organization, albeit one that ran out of money as his prospects dimmed. What was really misplaced, sadly, was faith that his uplifting message could be heard in the ugly moment we are in.”
Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

Dated but relevant: “Maybe it’s that he can come off like he’s trying too hard… Maybe he’s just too weird a confection of traits—a vegan Star Trek fanboy who still lives in inner-city Newark while courting Wall Street and dating the actress Rosario Dawson—to connect with a broad cross section of voters. Or maybe he’s being subjected to a kind of second-order racism: it’s not that voters are opposed to putting another black man in the White House; it’s that they’re afraid other voters won’t be willing to put another black man in the White House—a sort of racist Prisoner’s Dilemma.”
Edward-Isaac Dovere, The Atlantic

Many posit that “Despite introducing notable policies on gun control, criminal justice reform and the racial wealth gap, [Booker’s] candidacy lacked a defining issue or position on the ideological spectrum in a contest defined more by the divide between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic Party. But his campaign also suffered from factors beyond its control. In a historically diverse field, Mr. Booker struggled for attention amid the excitement of new candidates like Senator Kamala Harris of California, who allowed voters to imagine a black woman as president, or Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., whose campaign as an openly gay man is also historic.”
Nick Corasaniti, New York Times

“[There is also] the unusual nature of the incumbent. [Bernie Sanders and Tom Steyer] insist that it will take an unconventional candidate to defeat Trump. Meanwhile, middle-of-the-road candidates such as [Joe] Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) say voters are hungry for a return to normalcy. Booker and the other folks who’ve fallen by the wayside represented neither a complete break with convention (except for Williamson, who proved that simply being unconventional isn’t enough) nor a pendulum-swing back to the salad days of pragmatic policymaking and bipartisan governing of the Clinton presidency.”
Jon Healey, Los Angeles Times

“There is a moral radicalism to the way Cory Booker lives out his politics. He lived for years in a housing project. He leads hunger strikes. He challenges political machines. He’s a vegan. He has a more ambitious policy vision than is often discussed, but beneath that is a far more radical ethical vision than he gets credit for. The problem is that while he’s comfortable saying what that ethical vision demands of him, he’s very uncomfortable saying what it demands of the rest of us

“Booker is trying to craft a politics of love and reconciliation in a time of conflict and confrontation. But how do you fight and heal simultaneously? If you need to create friction to get attention, how do you not feed the thing you think is ripping the country apart?… The race will be poorer for Booker’s absence. There’s something he was trying to say that I think the country would benefit from hearing. I hope he figures out how to say it more clearly, and we get more opportunities to listen.”
Ezra Klein, Vox

“By declaring that the United States will respond with airstrikes to any attacks on American targets or assets, Mr. Trump is drawing a bright red line that Iran cannot cross. And yet, Iran relies on a network of proxy actors from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Must they all respect Mr. Trump’s red line? There are plenty of hotheads in those proxy forces that will be incensed by the assassination, the same way young men with weapons and minimal discipline often are… Mr. Trump can’t keep an entire region from crossing his red line, making violent conflict all the more likely if the president holds to it…

“It is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right is critical of Booker’s campaign strategy and the media’s focus on his race.

From the Right

The right is critical of Booker’s campaign strategy and the media’s focus on his race.

“Perhaps the most interesting thing to say about Booker’s campaign is that he’s a vivid illustration of how the traits that make a politician interesting for media profiles don’t always translate into actual support on the trail. Booker was the multiracial, vegan, former standout Stanford tight end who had been the subject of Oscar-nominated documentaries [and] generated tales of heroics as mayor of Newark…

“Despite all that, Booker could often come across as boring. His debate one-liners and applause lines were so perfectly rehearsed that they came across as cloying. His signature move in the debate was to wait until an argument between two other candidates had started to get interesting and impassioned, and then interject with a disapproving: ‘this kind of infighting is just what the Republicans want to see.’ But ‘this kind of infighting’ was also a serious disagreement about which policy direction was right for the Democratic party, which is precisely the sort of thing a presidential primary is supposed to sort out.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“Booker’s campaign failed to make a significant impression — on black voters, progressive voters, or older, establishment voters. Perhaps that’s because his message was so unoriginal. Even his signature policy, gun control, was associated more with Beto O’Rourke’s campaign than with Booker’s. And many of Booker’s other proposals have been dominated by Warren and Sanders.”
Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner

“Here’s a guy who was a high-school football all-American, went to Stanford, earned a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford, graduated from Yale law school, served two terms as the mayor of a medium-sized city (almost three times larger than South Bend, Ind.) and has twice been elected to the United States Senate. But what the [mainstream media] really wants you to take away here is that he’s a black guy. He did all those amazing things, and the [media’s] response is to reduce Booker to his race. No wonder he had to drop out…

“By a literal interpretation of identity politics, the debate ended up as quite diverse by any empirical standard when compared to recent history: two women, two men of Jewish ancestry, the son of Taiwanese immigrants and one Roman Catholic. But as the [media] says of Booker and as Booker said of Harris and Julian Castro before him, some diversity is more diverse than others.”
Chris Stirewalt, Fox News

“Are rank-and-file black Democrats distressed by the absence of debaters who share their skin color? I doubt it. Black Democrats have not supported black presidential candidates in this cycle. They prefer the very white Joe Biden… The fact is that if black Democrats supported Booker in large numbers, he would be on the stage. If they had supported Kamala Harris in large numbers, she wouldn’t have seen the need to quit the race, and she would be on the stage. But black Democrats seem to be largely color blind when it comes to evaluating this cycle’s crop of candidates. Bless them for that.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

“Cory Booker has run a campaign centered on ‘love’ in a political era with little time for it. Most of the Democratic candidates vie to see who can denounce President Donald J. Trump in more florid terms. For former Vice President Joe Biden, Mr. Trump is destroying the soul of America. For Mr. Sanders, he is a racist. Mr. Trump hits right back, accusing the Democrats of embracing socialism, crime and even terrorism. Mr. Booker, on the other hand, says he ‘loves’ Donald Trump — not his policies, or his personality. He just says he won’t be drawn into the hateful morass that constitutes American politics in the year 2020. Love manifestly isn’t selling, alas.”
Editorial Board, Washington Times

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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