Opinion

Cory Booker got it right — and the GOP got it wrong

Photo of Lanny Davis
Lanny Davis
Former Special Counsel to President Clinton
  • See All Articles
  • Subscribe to RSS
  • Bio

      Lanny Davis

      Lanny J. Davis counsels individuals, corporations and government contractors, and those under congressional scrutiny, on crisis management and legal issues by developing legal, media and legislative strategies that are designed to best produce a successful result for the client. He has experience in securities fraud and SEC investigations as well, and has found that utilizing such an integrated legal/media/lobbying approach can lead to quicker and less expensive settlements or even successfully litigated outcomes. Senior officials of public companies have also hired Lanny and his crisis group to defend themselves successfully against "short and distort" attacks and other market manipulations. For 25 years prior to 1996, before his tenure as special counsel to President Clinton, Lanny was a commercial, antitrust, government contracts and False Claims Act litigator (both in defense as well as plaintiff). He has argued numerous appellate cases in the U.S. courts of appeals.

      In June 2005, President Bush appointed Lanny to serve on the five-member Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 2005 Intelligence Reform Act. In that capacity, he received the highest level security clearances so that he could be fully briefed and "read in" to the various anti-terrorist surveillance and financial tracking programs at the highest classified level. From 1996 to 1998, Lanny served as special counsel to the president in the White House and was a spokesperson for the president and the White House on matters concerning campaign finance investigations and other legal issues. Lanny has participated in national, state and local politics for almost 30 years. He has served three terms (1980 to 1992) on the Democratic National Committee representing the state of Maryland, and during that period he served on the DNC Executive Committee and as chairman of the Eastern Region Caucus. In Montgomery County, Maryland, he served as chairman of the Washington Suburban Transit Commission.

      Lanny has authored several books and lectured throughout the United States and Europe on various political issues. Between 1990 and 1996, Lanny was a bimonthly commentator on Maryland politics for WAMU-88.5/FM, a Washington, D.C. local affiliate of National Public Radio. He has been a regular television commentator and has been a political and legal analyst for MSNBC, CNN, Fox Cable, CNBC and network TV news programs. He has published numerous op-ed/analysis pieces in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, he Washington Post and other national publications.

      Lanny graduated from Yale Law School, where he won the prestigious Thurman Arnold Moot Court prize and served on the Yale Law Journal. A graduate of Yale University, Lanny served as chairman of the Yale Daily News.

      Lanny is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Connecticut and before the Supreme Court of the United States and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The attacks on Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker (D) by the more vitriolic liberal commentators for what he said about Bain Capital on this past Sunday’s “Meet the Press” are just as indefensible as the Republican Party’s cynical and dishonest attempt to exploit and distort what the mayor actually said during the program.

In fact, as a “surrogate” for the Obama campaign, Booker strongly supported President Obama’s programs, such as national healthcare, and reminded viewers that under President Obama, “over 90 percent of Americans have seen tax cuts” and that Romney “would have let the auto industry fail.”

Still, liberal commentators expressed outrage when the mayor went “off message” and said there is nothing wrong per se with the private-equity business model followed by Bain Capital. This was so even though several days before, two strong Obama supporters and progressive Democrats, Steven Rattner (who himself runs a successful private equity firm) and former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (Tenn.), made the same point on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Private-equity firms often invest in distressed companies by putting in cash and cutting expenses in order to save a company that is already close to bankruptcy. Sometimes the investment works and the company and jobs are saved. And sometimes, to save the company, jobs need to be cut or wages and benefits reduced.

Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s called the General Motors bailout, widely touted by President Obama and Democrats as a success story, which it was. GM, facing bankruptcy, laid off tens of thousands of workers, reduced wages and benefits among some remaining workers, and the rest is the good news. GM was saved and is now making billions in profits, with most of the “equity” tax dollars having been repaid. Romney opposed that successful “taxpayer” equity investment for reasons that escape me.

The Obama anti-Romney Bain Capital campaign ad focused on a Kansas City steel company, GS Technologies, which was on the verge of bankruptcy when Bain Capital purchased it in 1993 for $80 million. GS went bankrupt in 2001, with several hundred workers losing their jobs. The ad featured several of them blaming Romney and Bain for the lost jobs, but it omitted several facts, such as:

Mitt Romney had left Bain Capital two years before bankruptcy had been declared;

The head of Bain at the time of the GS bankruptcy decision is now a major Obama fundraiser;

Bain invested another $100 million in plant modernization and, four years later, the company reportedly had reached over $1 billion in revenues.

After the company went bankrupt in 2001, the president of the plant’s union didn’t blame Bain, but rather, cheap foreign imports. “We can’t compete against the steel imports that are being sold under cost,” he said.

It’s difficult to argue, even if you are a partisan Obama supporter, as I am, that this ad is not at least somewhat misleading.

You would think the Republicans and the Romney campaign would have been smart enough to follow the rule, “when the other side has made a mistake and is shooting at each other, be quiet and stay out of the way.”

But no — they just couldn’t resist. They took Booker’s “Meet the Press” comments on Bain out of context, omitted his positive comments about President Obama and — voila! — the mayor and the rest of us who were critical of the Bain Capital ad were reminded why it is so important to unite to support President Obama and defeat Mitt Romney.

My own reaction when I saw the Republican National Committee website with a hypocritical petition calling for support of Mayor Booker was to remember the famous line addressed to the demagogic Sen. Joseph McCarthy: “Have you no shame?”

The best closing to this ugly episode in the 2012 presidential campaign was eloquently stated by Booker about the negative food fight that has already begun between the two campaigns:

“Enough is enough.”

Let’s get back to the issues.

My view: Democrats can win this thing on the facts. No need for misleading ads.

Lanny Davis, a Washington, D.C., attorney specializing in legal crisis management, served as Special Counsel to President Bill Clinton in 1996-98 and served as a member of President Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Board in 2006-07. He currently serves as Special Counsel to Dilworth Paxson. He is the author of the forthcoming book, “Crisis Tales – Five Rules for Handling Scandal in Business, Politics and Life,” to be published by Simon & Schuster.