Politics is fun. Writing about it; talking about it; even fussing about it is an exhilarating exercise. Passions swell, tempers rise and people demonstrate a genuine interest in what it all means. But sometimes, it can be all-consuming, frustrating and painful to watch to the point we lose sight of what’s most important.
Take the case of Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey. In what I would describe as an honest moment, he made the case for this presidential race to be about something other than “nauseating” negative ads, lies and distortions of the candidate’s records. But within two hours of leaving the set of Meet the Press, the politics ensued.
As they say: one man’s truth is another man’s gaffe. So, there was Booker cutting a video — ostensibly to “clarify” his earlier remarks which the political intelligentsia had construed to be either wonderful if you were a Republican or heresy if you were a Democrat. And over the next four days, story after story played out the political drama, each one focusing more on Booker “going rogue” than on what was most important: the nature of our politics is undermining the country and the way we engage in political discourse has become “nauseating.”
Everyone was so busy trying to defend their right or left flank that few noticed the shift away from truth. What I found personally disappointing was the political pressure brought to bear on Booker to the point he was almost doing backflips to affirm he really does support Barack Obama and his re-election. Like that wasn’t obvious. But it wasn’t enough.
Booker had to go on the offensive against Mitt Romney, later stating that the former governor had not been “forthright” in his leadership of Bain Capital. The mayor insists the RNC made him do it when they launched their “I Stand With Cory” campaign, but I suspect it was more like the Obama campaign that convinced His Honor to do the honorable thing and backtrack: politics as usual.
Like all political dustups, this too shall pass, but I feel this one may leave an indelible stain on the body politic. Truth is treated as a mere gaffe, political handlers come in with a quick script and the right words to help “set the record straight” and good men like Cory Booker are forced back on script. Too bad.
Michael Steele served as the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee. He is a former lieutenant governor of Maryland and a political commentator. He will be providing commentary on all things politics for BET.com each week.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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