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That is unlikely to be the end of it, however. For one thing, Booker continues to make the administration look bad even as he tries to appease it. For instance, Obama’s press secretary initially denied that the administration had reached out to Booker to urge him to change his message. Supposedly, the mayor had just done an about face of his own volition. That story was never plausible and Booker, in yet another unsanctioned lapse into truth-telling has since confirmed that it was in fact a lie. “I certainly did talk with campaign officials,” Booker told Rachel Maddow on Monday night. He went on to stress that the administration didn’t force him to change his words, but did allow that after “having good conversations with them” he decided that “you know what, I need to go on and clarify.” Never has a coincidence been timelier.
Beyond spotlighting the administration’s credibility deficit, Booker has exposed the flaw in Obama reelection strategy. The Obama campaign wants to pretend that the election is not a referendum on the incumbent but rather a choice between two competing economic philosophies – the rapacious capitalism of Romney and Bain contrasted with the gospel of economic “fairness” preached by Obama. The problem with this approach is that Obama has already had a full term to implement his vision, and all he has to show for it is persistently high unemployment and sluggish growth. By dismissing the attacks on Bain and private equity as a diversion from the core issues facing the country, Booker has inadvertently revealed the shallowness of the Obama campaign. With few accomplishments of his own to boast of, all Obama can do is diminish Romney’s achievements in the private sector.
The months ahead will reveal the wisdom of this strategy. For now, though, Booker’s off-message moment has revealed that a reelection campaign intended to persuade the country can’t even convince Obama’s fellow Democrats.
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