April 27, 2006 - Issue 181

Cory Booker: The White Right's Man in Newark
by BC Publishers Glen Ford and Peter Gamble

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Cory Booker is back – like a recurring disease. The former one-term city councilman whose wholly unproductive career has been artificially sustained by Black America’s worst enemies has amassed bundles of rightwing cash for his second assault on Newark city hall. Booker’s stealth mission on behalf of the far-right Bradley and Walton Family (Wal-Mart) Foundations, under the tutelage of the hyper-racist Manhattan Institute, once again threatens to provide the Right with a long-coveted showcase for privatization and capitalism in-the-raw in urban America.

Booker is a unique danger to African American interests, well beyond the boundaries of New Jersey’s largest city. As in the Verizon television commercial in which a vast “network” is arrayed behind the actor playing the cell phone service subscriber, Booker is tightly wired into the interlocking political networks of the Right. He is the darling and point man for the corporate campaign to create a cadre of “New Black Leaders” who will provide “authenticity” to reactionary social policies hatched by the think tank servants of the super-rich.

May 9 is no ordinary Election Day – and it is anything but a local affair.

Indeed, the upscale suburb-bred, Yale and Stanford educated lawyer may be the purest specimen of the Black Trojan Horse Democrat yet foisted on the African American public by the likes of the Manhattan Institute – the outfit that nurtured Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, the infamous blood-libel book that attempted to prove Blacks are intellectually inferior to whites – and at whose “power luncheon” Booker made his national debut, in 2000.

The 36-year-old Booker is the Right’s Young Black Frankenstein, powered, as in his first mayoral run in 2002, by constant infusions of corporate cash and free media. Or, as his current opponent State Senator and Newark Deputy Mayor Ron Rice puts it, Booker is the “Six Million Dollar Man” – a reference to his campaign war chest, a fantastic sum for a mayor’s race in a city of just 275,000, and far exceeding the corporate largess showered on the upstart candidate four years ago. The $6 million figure is also by now out of date.

Printer Friendly version of Booker Cartoon.

Sen. Rice’s underfunded organization finds it difficult to even keep track of Booker’s capital accumulation. Rice’s last campaign ad put Booker’s contributions at $4.1 million – still far exceeding declared contributions in the 2002 race, when Booker significantly outspent but still lost to incumbent Sharpe James. In both campaigns, Booker’s large contributors’ hailed from across the nation, and their names looked nothing like a Newark telephone book. That’s the rightwing network’s fine-tuned money machine in motion.

Sen. Rice – and the city of Newark, itself – is like an Indian surrounded by cowboys summoned from all points of the map, eager to plant their alien flag. Rice is further disadvantaged by the inexplicable behavior of Mayor Sharpe James, who waited until March 27 to announce that he would not seek a sixth term, leaving Rice just a little over six weeks to stop Booker’s Right-financed juggernaut.

A Pact With the Devil

The Black Commentator is proud of the role we played in exposing Cory Booker’s true political and financial backers, in 2002. The Cover Story of our inaugural issue, “Fruit of the Poisoned Tree,” April 5, 2002, was the first published revelation anywhere of Booker's political genesis in the bowels of Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation – George Bush’s favorite foundation, the outfit that birthed a fully financed Black school voucher “movement” out of thin air and hard cash. As an original board member of the Bradley-created (and now Bush-financed) Black Alliance for Educational Options, and a co-founder of the Newark voucher outfit Excellent Education for Everyone (E-3), Booker worked his way ever deeper into the Right labyrinth of mega-money, media manipulation, and raw corporate power.

So enthused with Booker was the Right in 2002, one of their most esteemed members let the cat out of the bag. Syndicated columnist George F. Will, whose politics would correctly be called fascist in any part of Europe, traveled to Newark to observe the campaign up close and gushed like a schoolgirl at Booker’s rightwing credentials:

"Booker's plans for Newark's renaissance," Will's March 17 [2002] column informs us, "are drawn from thinkers at the Democratic Leadership Council and the Manhattan Institute think tank, and from the experiences of others such as Stephen Goldsmith, former Republican mayor of Indianapolis, a pioneer of privatization and faith-based delivery of some government services, and John Norquist, current Democratic mayor of Milwaukee, which has one of the nation's most successful school-choice programs."

– from BCFruit of the Poisoned Tree,” April 5, 2002.

Despite his narrow loss to Mayor James, Booker’s rich rightwing patrons were pleased; they had come within reach of their goal to capture a large, majority Black city in the shadow of New York, the nation’s media and financial capital. Through their sophisticated propaganda network – euphemistically called public relations or public information offices – the Right network kept Booker’s name in the media during the four years in which he held no public office. With eerie uniformity of content and style, articles and personality profiles regularly appeared in various media grouping Booker with luminaries like Barack Obama and Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., the “New Black Leaders.” Yet the totality of Booker’s public life experience amounted to only four years as a city councilman who produced no meaningful legislation.

In November 2004, the out-of-office Booker remained a corporate media star. An article in the influential Washington Monthly spent almost as much time on Booker as its purported subject, Barack Obama. Titled “The Great Black Hope,” the piece began with Cory Booker’s name (“Cory Booker was feeling good… .”) and catalogued the media’s central role in the 2002 campaign:

A fever was building. Time profiled Booker; “CBS Evening News” did, too. Though Booker was still only a councilman in America's 63rd largest city, Democratic fundraisers and operatives were also talking about a future White House bid; The New York Times said he was “regularly referred to as someone who will end up the first black President of the United States.”

Of course, the Washington Monthly was itself contributing to the media “fever” over Booker.

Booker was defeated because, in the last weeks of the race, Mayor James finally found ways to express what BC had been saying all along: that Booker is a wholly-owned property of the Right, a walking, breathing political lie who masquerades as an urban reformer while serving masters in corporate suites; a total cynic who relies on his youth to promise a fresh breeze in African American politics, but is in reality in league with Black folks’ oldest and most implacable foes.

The corporate media were alerted to Booker’s connections. Just two-and-half weeks after BC began operations, the New York Times quoted Co-Publisher Glen Ford’s indictment of the candidate in a front page profile of Booker, April 24, 2002:

[Ford] says Mr. Booker is allied with conservatives seeking to dismantle public education, destroy affirmative action and gain an urban foothold for their views. He points to a speech Mr. Booker gave to the conservative Manhattan Institute two years ago and a recent column by conservative writer George F. Will that ridiculed Mr. James and lionized Mr. Booker. “He’s totally cynical, careerist and mercenary,” Mr. Ford said. “They’re backing him so they can claim a black elected official from a black city.”

It’s the same game, this time around, with only the slightest alterations. Although the New York Times quoted Glen Ford in 2002, the paper never brought its reportorial powers to bear on the specific connections revealed in BC’s investigative work. The rest of the corporate media – print, TV and radio – pretended that BC’s and the Mayor’s charges were silly or, in most instances, ignored them altogether.

But the people of Newark got the word, despite most of the media’s performance as extensions of Booker’s campaign. Sen. Ron Rice is fighting furiously to resist Booker’s anointment, on May 9 – to ward off a tragedy of enormous national as well as local proportions for the Black polity. Rice has smoked Booker out on his support for private school vouchers – the Right’s main wedge issue to woo Black America – finally catching the attention of the New York Times, April 27:

In a recent interview, Mr. Rice called Mr. Booker a proxy for "ultra-white, ultra-conservative" outsiders seeking to privatize the schools in a Democratic city that is more than 80 percent African-American and Hispanic. He charged that Mr. Booker was seeking to turn Newark into another Milwaukee, where a voucher program has been in place since 1990, with mixed results in terms of student achievement… .

Booker tried to wiggle, as usual, but he was caught. “My determination is to reform the public school system, but I will never oppose programs that help children," Mr. Booker said in a recent interview in his 21st-story law office downtown. "And if it doesn't hurt my main goal, my principal goal of empowering public schools, I support that."

Booker’s benefactors, the Walton Family and Bradley Foundations and the rest of the rightwing constellation in which he travels, are unalterably committed to wholesale privatization of education and everything else in the public sector they can lay their hands on. That’s what Booker doesn’t want the Black public to know.

It’s hard to fight the white ruling class, even on ghetto turf – especially when it puts on blackface. But we have entered a new and perilous era. Cory Booker personifies the danger: the Black Trojan Horse, more likely a nominal Democrat than a Republican, to better subvert from within the Historical Black Consensus that has made African Americans the soul and backbone of progressivism in the United States.

It is true that Booker is part of a new breed – a crop of stealthy Black political assassins in the service of rich gangsters. The hit on Black Newark is scheduled for May 9. Everyplace else, is next.

BC Co-Publishers Glen Ford and Peter Gamble are writing a book to be titled, Barack Obama and the Crisis in Black Leadership.



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