CNN Swoons for ‘Energy’ Inside ‘Force of Nature’ Cory Booker Who ‘People Want to Touch’

Along with California Democrat Kamala Harris, it’s becoming evident that, at this early moment in the 2020 presidential campaign, fellow Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has become a liberal media darling and that was on display on New Day moments after his Friday morning announcement. In a 12-minute stretch, CNNers marveled at the “energy” and “freshness” emanating from such a “force of nature” that “people want to touch.”

CNN Politics reporter Rebecca Buck got it started from Newark, showing off Booker’s video in which she summarized it as being an “optimistic message” plus his “raw political talent” in what’s “[o]ne of the most diverse in history if not the most diverse in history.”

 

 

Weekend CNN host and political commentator Van Jones was next and, well, he uncorked some effusive praise to the point that he could have swapped out the name Booker for Obama (click “expand”):

Just his raw political talent, he's a force to be reckoned with. Cory Booker is a force of nature. He has — no one is surprised he's running because, in some ways, people have been telling him to run since he was a very small guy.. Don't forget, this left Yale Law School, could have gone anywhere in the world, went to Newark, New Jersey, moved basically into the poorest neighborhood and began the most improbable climb from working with folks in housing projects, living in a housing projects to now running for the president the United States. He's not a normal person, not a normal candidate. He's somebody who brings an extra gear when it comes to energy and empathy and you'll see this throughout the rest of his campaign. 

Senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson was apparently pleased with Jones’s analysis, praising him for “hit[ting] on great points there” by citing “[t]he energy” and “the enthusiasm” from Booker with a video that felt “very young,” “very now,” and “very fresh.”

Henderson then touted Booker being profiled for a 2002 The New York Times Magazine profile that wondered if he’d become president one day plus how he’s been a heavy user of social media.

“We’ll see if he can keep than that kind of spirit alive in this race because he has been around so long, if he can keep that freshness going forward in this race,” she added.

Perhaps the most smug person on CNN (and that’s saying a lot), senior political analyst John Avlon offered spin that could have been confused with an audition tape for the Booker campaign. 

Avlon first offered a rant about how “this incredibly diverse field” that features only one white male “speaks to, I think, the need to transcend our tribalism and the ethnic and racial algebra of putting together coalitions doesn't work so much as being a compelling candidate with a great message and a great record” like Cory Booker.

Avlon continued, throwing a bone to objectivity by citing Booker’s love for the spotlight (click “expand”):

AVLON: I mean, people running for city council in Newark don’t typically get New York Times profiles. They don’t get an award-running documentary Street Fight about their first mayoral race.

BERMAN: Non-successful. 

AVLON: Yes, non-successful. It was a great doc and so, you know, you get a sense of that trajectory and his record. He has executive experience, that's a important differentiator. It’s actually — we’ve got more mayors in the race right now — current and ex-mayors than governors in the race and he has a strong record. Brought a lot of attention and investment into Newark, lowered unemployment, lowered crime, but there was the criticism from his successor, then-a city councilman. Did you see the mayor more on Meet the Press than in the streets toward the end of his term? And so, that’s — that's one of the things. He's been a media figurehead for so long, can he keep that freshness and that energy? But he is a raw talent that really stands out in any political field. 

In terms of criticism, was there a T-Bone mention? Nope. How about corruption scandals? Nope. Rising crime? Nope. Failed education investments with Mark Zuckerberg? Nope. How about his “I am Spartacus” moment? Nope.

Instead, the only points came from the left as co-host John Berman and Jones cited Booker being vulnerable to being spun as too close to Wall Street for the left’s liking. The other came from Henderson citing Booker’s 2012 comments critical of the Obama campaigns attacks on Mitt Romney’s wealth.

Despite that, both Avlon and Henderson largely hailed Booker at the end of the discussion. In fact, the latter offered a screaming Notable Quotable (click “expand”):

AVLON: And I can just say one thing, though? When you're mayor of Newark, he brought major investment into downtown Newark. That was part of his job and it is hard to do. Big companies weren't coming into Newark and he helped turn that around and that involves reaching out to Wall Street and big corporations. So I think, you know, that hit on him from the activist class, I get it, but did he his job in mayor in doing that outreach. 

(....)

HENDERSON: But on the stump, he is somebody that's electrifying. Between him and Elizabeth Warren, those are the folks who really send sort of a buzz through the crowd. People want to touch them. People want to be around them and that's something that I think will serve him really well, particularly in a state like Iowa, particularly in a state like New Hampshire where you are in those living rooms talking to people, telling your story and trying to connect with them.

To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s New Day on February 1, click “expand.”

CNN’s New Day
February 1, 2019
7:00 a.m. Eastern

REBECCA BUCK: We're here in Newark, the city that launched Cory Booker's career as mayor some years ago, today as he's takes that next big step to run for president and he picked a symbolic day to do it. This is the first day of Black History Month. Booker is the second African-American candidate to jump into this Democratic primary after Senator Kamala Harris and he is putting that heritage front and center in this race, not only because he will be targeting African-American voters but it is a key part of his own personal story. In an announcement that he had today, Booker nods to that history. His parents struggled to buy a home in a white, affluent neighborhood and a white lawyer who helped them to do so because he was inspired by Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. Booker says in his announcement video today that courage is contagious, it's part of the optimistic message he's hoping to bring to this presidential primary. I want you to look at his announcement video. 

[BOOKER ANNOUNCEMENT VIDEO]

BUCK: So today Cory Booker answering one question, will he run for president? And the next question, how will he fair in this crowded Democratic primary? One of the most diverse in history if not the most diverse in history. One advantage he could have is that he has raw political talent the Democrats point to. One of the challenges? This is a year of the woman. Women candidates running. He's going to go on The View today for his first interview after he rolls out his campaign and then off to Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire in the weeks to come. 

JOHN BERMAN: Rebecca Buck for us in New Jersey. Cory Booker announces he's running for president, certainly one of the more anticipated announcements in this 2020 race. Let's bring in CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson, Van Jones, host of The Van Jones Show, Jackie Kucinich, Washington bureau chief for The Daily Beast, and John Avlon here as well. Van, I want to start with you here. Where does Cory Booker fit in this new crowded field, and I don't think it's any coincidence at all that Senator Booker is announcing on February 1st, the beginning of Black History Month and some of his first radio interviews will be with the likes of Tom Joyner, an extremely — maybe the most popular African-American radio host. 

VAN JONES: Well, Tom Joyner is certainly that. First of all, I have to say I've known Cory Booker for almost 25 years. I graduated from Yale Law School in spring of '93. He showed up in the fall of '93 and took the entire law school over. I'm so glad I got out before the Cory Booker phenomenon took over the Yale law school. You have Bill Clinton and you have Cory Booker, the two people that had the biggest impact on the law school. Just his raw political talent, he's a force to be reckoned with. Cory Booker is a force of nature. He has — no one is surprised he's running because, in some ways, people have been telling him to run since he was a very small guy.. Don't forget, this left Yale Law School, could have gone anywhere in the world, went to Newark, New Jersey, moved basically into the poorest neighborhood and began the most improbable climb from working with folks in housing projects, living in a housing projects to now running for the president the United States. He's not a normal person, not a normal candidate. He's somebody who brings an extra gear when it comes to energy and empathy and you'll see this throughout the rest of his campaign. 

ERICA HILL: Nia, I heard ya — I heard you in the background there. As we heard, saying he's not a normal candidate, being described as well by Van as a force of nature. What’s your take? Where does he fit in in this increasingly crowded field?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Yeah, I think Van hits on great points there. The energy, the enthusiasm. You can see it in that introductory interview, he's got the marching band there. It feels very young. It feels very now. It feels very fresh. Cory Booker is someone people have known about for years. If you go back to 2002, there was a New York Times Magazine article that said he would likely be the first black president. That was in 2002. Of course now, he's trying to be the second black president and I think his path looks a lot like Obama's. In many ways Kamala Harris's does too, this idea that you can do well not only that you do well with African-American voters, young voters, as well as women. I mean, these are people who occupying the same lane in many ways and it's not just because they're both African American, it's because they're fresh faces. It’s because they've already zeroed in on key constituencies and already have some sway with those constituencies. The interesting thing about Booker is that he was doing a lot of things that we see Beto O’Rourke doing now, the things that we see AOC doing now as well, heavy on Twitter, heavy on Instagram, heavy on that social media and really energizing young folks and we'll see if he can keep than that kind of spirit alive in this race because he has been around so long, if he can keep that freshness going forward in this race. 

HILL: He’s been around. His social media game too, we should point out, has actually been around for a long time. 

HENDERSON: Nah. Exactly.

HILL: He was early on in that. 

JOHN AVLON: Early enough. 

HILL: Yeah.

HENDERSON: Yeah.

BERMAN: It was practically before social media. 

HILL: Right.

BERMAN: I mean, Cory Booker predates the social media game and helped usher it in. Jackie, Rebecca Buck noted this is easily the most diverse candidate we have ever seen. We can pick up the pictures here so people can see of the people who have already announced and/or are exploring. You have five women, you have, you know, a Latino in Joaquin — Julian Castro, you have the Mayor Peter Buttigieg who is gay. This is a very, very diverse field already. 

JACKIE KUCINICH: Well, absolutely and that's why we're talking a lot about lanes, right? Because we're going to have a lot of these candidates competing for the same people. You talk about Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, there's already — they’ve been reporting they've already been courting various members of the black caucus in the house. One of the things, though, Cory Booker has made criminal justice reform a part of his being, right? He just helped push it through the Senate. Kamala Harris is going — that's going to be a big point of contention between the two of them because of her role as a prosecutor, as the AG when she was in California. I think we're going to hear a lot of exchanges between the two of them as get a little further into this about that issue in particular, because that's going to be one of the ways they try separate themselves from — in the lane that they're both in. 

HILL: There's been a lot of talk about taking certain voting blocks, certain demographics for granted as we know over the last number of years and John Avlon, one of the things that stood out to me, we were talking to Michael Smerconish a short time ago and asking him what his listeners were saying about this growing field and he was saying that people were calling in saying “listen, I'm a minority caller and I want you to know Kamala Harris should not be taking my vote for granted just because of who I am.” And that's an important reminder too as we're seeing that courting is important, but people are people and they won't more, they don't want just a one dimensional candidate. 

AVLON: Of course and I think it's time as a country we have this incredibly diverse field where, you know, of the folks already running, you know, the straight white guys are very — I think there's one candidate right now and that speaks to the evolution of American politics and the Democratic Party. But it also speaks to, I think, the need to transcend our tribalism and the ethnic and racial algebra of putting together coalitions doesn't work so much as being a compelling candidate with a great message and a great record and with — with Cory Booker, as you heard, you know, Van say, this is someone who have laid with expectations from early, early on. I mean, people running for city council in Newark don’t typically get New York Times profiles. They don’t get an award-running documentary Street Fight about their first mayoral race.

BERMAN: Non-successful. 

AVLON: Yes, non-successful. It was a great doc and so, you know, you get a sense of that trajectory and his record. He has executive experience, that's a important differentiator. It’s actually — we’ve got more mayors in the race right now — current and ex-mayors than governors in the race and he has a strong record. Brought a lot of attention and investment into Newark, lowered unemployment, lowered crime, but there was the criticism from his successor, then-a city councilman. Did you see the mayor more on meet the press than in the streets toward the end of his term? And so, that’s — that's one of the things. He's been a media figurehead for so long, can he keep that freshness and that energy? But he is a raw talent that really stands out in any political field. 

BERMAN: I think he actually backed off a lot of the media over the last over the last four or five years in anticipation, I think, of getting in this race. And Van, you’ve been talking about — we’ve been having this discussion about taking no one’s votes for granted. I've heard you say that many, many times here. No one should assume that any one voter or voting block is going to follow any one candidate for any one reason. Cory Booker, complicated, interesting, as you said. He also, if he's been criticized for something, it's for being too close to Wall Street, right? He is a Senator from New Jersey. This is an interesting year to running with Elizabeth Warren and other very critical of Wall Street. Cory Booker is someone who has seen to be close to financial interests. 

JONES: I think one of the reasons why in addition to his personal passion for the issue that he's leaned to hard on criminal justice reform is because it is, you know, a very, very strong progressive value that gets — rounds out the picture of Cory Booker. I mean, Cory Booker really was that guy who would — in the morning he might be in the community center in Newark talking to the poorest kids in New Jersey and that afternoon, he might be on Wall Street talking to some of the richest people in the world and then back in Newark and basically with the same message to both constituents, but if you just grab him on the Wall Street side you can really do some damage to him with this new democratic party that does not like Wall Street. It really was born with Occupy Wall Street, saying the 99 percent versus the one percent. Cory Booker can sometimes be characterized as being too close to that so-called one percent. This may not be the year for that. So you're going to see him go very hard with the black community, he's going to go very hard on criminal justice reform, going to go very hard on his common touch which he does have with ordinary people, but is he going to catch fire and he's going to catch some flak from the left of our party. 

AVLON: And I can just say one thing, though? When you're mayor of Newark, he brought major investment into downtown Newark. That was part of his job and it is hard to do. Big companies weren't coming into Newark and he helped turn that around and that involves reaching out to Wall Street and big corporations. So I think, you know, that hit on him from the activist class, I get it, but did he his job in mayor in doing that outreach. 

HENDERSON: Yeah, he's going to -- there's an interview I think he gave in 2012, might have been on Meet the Press, where he criticizes the approach that the Obama campaign is making to Mitt Romney and beating up on venture capitalists and so that's going to come back to him. He called it nauseating the way that the Obama allies and Obama was attacking Mitt Romney. So, that's certainly going to come back and haunt him, so we'll see how that plays. But on the stump, he is somebody that's electrifying. Between him and Elizabeth Warren, those are the folks who really send sort of a buzz through the crowd. People want to touch them. People want to be around them and that's something that I think will serve him really well, particularly in a state like Iowa, particularly in a state like New Hampshire where you are in those living rooms talking to people, telling your story and trying to connect with them. We'll see what happens obviously on South Carolina, with African-American women being a really important voting block there as well as African-American men — men and white women as well. So, yeah, he has to prove he can do well with white voters. That's the way that Obama was able to persuade black voters that he could win a general election, so, you know, that trip to Iowa for Cory Booker is going to be incredibly important as well as the work that he's doing in South Carolina. He's already trying to amass a talented team down there. I’ve talked to folks down there. He's going to have a real blockbuster team in South Carolina as well as the others. 

NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2020 Presidential Bias by Omission Liberals & Democrats CNN New Day Video John Avlon Rebecca Buck John Berman Nia-Malika Henderson Cory Booker Van Jones Pete Buttigieg
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