It’s hard not to like him, even though the act wears thin. Last Memorial Day weekend I happened to be at Cornell, where rising Democratic star Cory Booker delivered the Convocation address on the Saturday of the weekend-long commencement. There he stood in the cold spring wind inside the football stadium, earnestly and entertainingly thundering away, filling the air with his usual mush: “…your generation will be determined by how you come together as lovers—lovers of peace and lovers of justice”; “the power of the people is always greater than the people in power”; “I immediately reached for some Chubby Hubby”—the last apropos his only superficially friendly feud with Conan O’Brien, who had dissed Newark, New Jersey, on his show and compelled Booker to defend his city. Which he did, via YouTube, speaking to a single camera and flanked by a single U.S. flag in a video that went viral.
It was here that his delivery became prescient, though probably no one outside of Obama Intel picked up on it. If you want to know whether a politician is serious, Booker told his Cornell audience, count the number of flags behind him when he appears on TV. “You saw Obama this week? Eight flags he had behind him, eight flags! I had just one.” Booker, likely to be elected senator next month, doesn’t seem to be the sort of pol who would take his country to war out of a sense of megalomania. Daniel Foster captures him to a T, in the most insightful profile I’ve yet seen of Newark’s outgoing mayor (p. 18). But wouldn’t it be nice if Booker had at least a bit of Tim Scott in him? (p. 4)
At last report, Booker had resigned from a fishy startup that ostensibly would have allowed him to join the U.S. millionaires’ club. There’s much else of that sort of thing in his recent past. Indeed, he was flown up to Cornell in billionaire Andrew Tisch’s private jet. It’s worth mentioning because of a huge double standard in this season’s coverage of such business-as-usual scandals. In Virginia, the Washington Post has singlehandedly derailed the political reputation of Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, drawing attention to his and his wife’s cozy dealings with a single backer involving amounts roughly one-tenth (if that much) the sums that have gone to Booker. McDonnell’s downfall is now threatening to destroy Ken Cuccinelli’s candidacy while leaving Democrat rascal Terry McAuliffe unscathed (see p. 30 and p. 60)—the same McAuliffe whose dubious rise involves dollar numbers that put Booker’s in the category of chump change. Life is unfair, John F. Kennedy famously offered, but does it have to be that unfair?
We’re nearing a huge milestone in Baby Boomers’ lives—the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, an unimaginable political, national, moral disaster like nothing else in my experience. It helped that I was a raw 14 year old at the time, and I don’t know if I ever got beyond the denial stage in its wake. Acceptance, never. How the country would have turned out had it not happened we’ll never know. Those who weren’t alive then may also never grasp what was lost. I very much look forward to the full-bore coverage of the anniversary. We’ve jumped in early, with Ira Stoll (p. 22) capturing many of Kennedy’s conservative aspects and William Murchison (p. 26) essaying his hometown Dallas and the immediate liberal reaction which labeled it a city of hate and blamed the assassination on right-wing extremists, even though the actual assassin was a depraved communist zealot. A half-century later, and liberal irrationality has only hardened. God help us, is all I can think to say.