Booker, a Barack Obama surrogate, later tried to walk back his comments. He posted a video in which he explained that he was expressing his frustration with negative campaigning when he spoke out, effectively undermining the president's re-election narrative. (Booker also referred to the biggest non-story in politics last week, about a political consultant who recommended that a super PAC use Wright in an anti-Obama ad. That ad didn't get made.)
But there is no walking back from Booker's disapproval of the Obama campaign's attacks on Bain Capital, the private equity firm that Mitt Romney founded. Last week, Team Obama released an ad that told the story of a Kansas steel mill that Bain bought in 1993 and that went bankrupt in 2001. In the ad, laid-off steelworkers had some choice words for Romney. Like "vampire" and "job destroyer."
The problem with such ads, Booker said Sunday, is that "we're getting to a ridiculous point in America." Pension funds, unions and others invest in companies like Bain Capital. Bain's record has been to grow businesses. To Booker, Bain Capital has been good for America. To Obamaland, Bain Capital has been bad for America.
As a mayor, Booker said, he, too, has had to lay off workers "because it's the only way" his "government would survive." He added, "Call me a job cutter if you want."
I should note that PolitiFact rated as "mostly true" this statement from the Obama campaign: "After purchasing the company, Mitt Romney and his partners loaded it with debt, closed the Kansas City plant and walked away with a healthy profit, leaving hundreds of employees out of work with their pensions in jeopardy." Missing from the story: the fact that Romney wasn't in charge anymore and that in 2001, the steel industry was in a world of hurt -- with low steel prices and high production costs -- which drove a lot of mills out of business.
I would add that the steelworkers in the political ad were talking about the heyday of the steel industry, which occurred long before Bain stepped in to rescue an ailing mill.
Monday, a reporter asked Obama about Booker's remarks and the role of private equity. The president explained that the goal of private investment is to "maximize profits," whereas a president's job is to make sure that everyone has "a fair shot" and that everyone pays his or her "fair share" of taxes.