Politics

Composite candidate Cory Booker slides in the polls

Composite candidate Cory Booker slides in the polls

Disclaimer: I’ve always liked Newark mayor Cory Booker.  I disagree with him about nearly everything, wouldn’t vote for him, and find his actual record as mayor rather depressing, but I just plain like the guy.  His hands-on adventures with helping constituents have been worthy of celebration… to the extent that they’re true.

And that’s the big problem with Cory Booker.  He’s a phony.  He makes up stories and spends years insisting they’re true, to the point where he’s either stunningly dishonest, or maybe could benefit from time spent with a therapist.  Neither scenario bodes well for someone who wants to serve in the United States Senate.  (Which is not to say he’d be the only odd character in the Senate, of course.  But we’ve already got the likes of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accusing people of tax evasion based on what his imaginary friends told him.)

Michael Gartland at the New York Post recently produced a rundown of Booker mythology, ranging from embellished stories built out of real incidents to the most notorious Booker fib, a longtime drug-dealing friend from the wrong side of the tracks called “T-bone,” whose existence no one except Cory Booker can verify:

A street hustler named T-Bone has been a mainstay of the Booker mythology.

“I said hello to this guy, and I’ll never forget he leaped off the steps where he was standing and looked at me and threatened my life,” Booker told a rapt audience at The New School in 2007. “I later got to know this guy, and his name was T-Bone.”

Booker described how the drug dealer broke down crying in his car.

“He looks at me hard and begins to tell me about his life story. And some of what shocked me and silenced me is that he told me the exact same life story, up until the age of 12 or 13, as my father.”

But both a Booker confidant and a neighborhood fixture dispute T-Bone’s existence.

“There was never a T-Bone,” said a 32-year-old former resident of Brick Towers, the former housing complex where Booker lived and where “T-Bone” supposedly plied his drug trade.

“There was a T, and there was a Bone from Prince Street,” he recalled. “T was in Brick Towers.”

T was bloodthirsty, his acquaintance recalled. “Booker and T didn’t have no run-in. If they did, Booker wouldn’t be walking around now,” he said.

Booker’s mentor, Rutgers history professor Clement Price, said he learned during a “tough conversation” with Booker in 2008 that T-Bone was a “composite” character, the National Review reported on Aug. 29.

“I disapproved of his inventing such a person,” Price was quoted as saying. “There was no pushback. He agreed that was a mistake.”

That’s apparently a private agreement of error between Booker and Price, because in public Booker refuses to admit T-Bone isn’t real.

Some of the other dicey elements of Booker mythology fall under the now-familiar rubric of the media allowing Democrats to edit essentially true stories to their advantage, by leaving out inconvenient details.  A prime example is a woman Booker hand-delivered Pamper to during a snowstorm, an incident hailed as evidence of his hands-on compassion for his constituents.  The part of the story that never gets told is that the woman thinks Booker is a lousy mayor, and blames him for bungling his official duties to the point where she couldn’t get the Pampers for herself:

Barbara Byers confirmed to The Post that Booker, in one of the more colorful accounts of his heroic, hands-on approach to governing, delivered Pampers to her home. But the press never questioned how she felt about it.

“I always found it weird that no one asked me about what happened,” she said. “It wasn’t that I didn’t have diapers because I didn’t go shopping. It was two days later and nobody cleared our street.

“He’s a very nice man, but he isn’t a good mayor,” she added. “If he would have done his job, I would have been able to do for myself and gone out. It took three days for someone to come by with a plow the first time.”

An article on Booker’s recent 20-point poll drop at NJ.com tactfully suggests that his creative biographical skills might have caught up with Booker, although he’s still 12 points ahead of Republican Steve Lonegan in the race to fill the seat vacated by the death of longtime Senator Frank Lautenberg:

Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, speculated that the numbers could be driven by a spike in violent crime in Newark and negative news stories about Booker’s business interests, as well as Lonegan’s charges that Booker’s celebrity is based on talk and not substance.

“Maybe that ‘show horse vs. work horse’ charge from Republican Steve Lonegan is having an impact,” Carroll said in a statement.

Nevertheless, Carroll is not predicting an upset.

“If it’s not a blow-out, it still looks like a comfortable lead for Booker,” he said. “New Jersey is a blue state and it hasn’t elected a Republican senator – let alone a conservative one – since Sen. Clifford Case in 1972.”

Nothing wrong with that.  Decades of one-party machine politics have worked out swimmingly in places like Chicago and Detroit.

Even by the usual standards of resigned cynicism voters apply to politicians, it seems like the standards for honesty have been relaxed throughout the current generation.  Creative biographies are all the rage, at least for Democrats, whose phony stories and refusals to disclose information – like, say, their college transcripts – are cheerfully accepted by the same media that creates week-long firestorms over the writing on ancient rocks found on remote patches of Texas property, if said property was ever owned by the family of a Republican candidate.  The people who freaked out over Mitt Romney supposedly cutting another boy’s hair 40 years ago won’t much care if T-Bone is a figment of Cory Booker’s imagination, or a “composite” of several real people cobbled together so Booker can tell politically useful stories.

Because if a story is politically useful to a liberal, who cares if it’s true?  Just ask the Swiss shopkeeper falsely accused of racism by Oprah Winfrey, for no reason other than Winfrey’s desire to create a punchy anecdote she could use on a talk show to push a movie that wasn’t true, either.

Update: Booker will look smashing seated next to fake Indian Senator Elizabeth Warren, won’t he?  It’s funny how Democrat voters used to flatter themselves as “the reality-based community.”  These days they make little pretense of being interested in reality – a distant land from which their candidates occasionally receive postcards.

On the other hand, if you happen to be a Republican politician, every microsecond of your biography is a matter of urgent media interest, particularly your college years.

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