PHOTO: STAR LEDGER
This is very odd. The Observer—the British newspaper published on Sunday whose daily sister paper is The Guardian—has published a profile of Newark Mayor and New Jersey Democratic Senate candidate Cory Booker that heavily speculates on his "rumor[ed] sexuality" and "alleged former girlfriends."
The Newark mayor—named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world—is a strong gay rights and marriage equality supporter.
"America may not be ready for a commander in chief whose heterosexuality is questioned," wrote Rory Carroll in "Cory Booker: Hope, Hype – and Heir to Barack Obama?"
In an unusual move, President Barack Obama has dispatched key members of his own election team to guide Booker's elevation to Washington. The notion of America's first black president handing the reins to another black man is no longer completely outlandish. Booker has made jokey attempts to deflect comparison. Obama, he told one reporter, is "married to an amazing woman and has two kids, and I have dead plants and fungus growing in my fridge". Thickening the plot, rumours swirl around Booker's sexuality.
[C]ritics claim his courtship of billionaires – Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg contributed $100m to Newark's schools – is a philanthropic veil for fiscal conservatism and kowtowing to corporate interests. Booker supports charter schools and privatisation and called Obama's attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital during last year's presidential election "nauseating".
Whether he can emulate Obama and swiftly vault from the Senate to the Oval Office may partly hinge on his private life. America may not be ready for a commander in chief whose heterosexuality is questioned. Booker talks openly about dating women and alleged former girlfriends have been named, but rumours persist. The recent discovery of a 1992 Stanford newspaper column he wrote confessing youthful homophobia only fuelled the speculation. "So is he gay or what?" asked the feminist blog Jezebel. Aides decline to discuss the issue.
There is also this stinging critique at The Week which echoes most of these points sans the gay-baiting:
The liberal critique of Booker is essentially that he's too chummy with Wall Street bankers and Silicon Valley moguls, is using those connections and his mayoral perch to enrich himself, and tries to hide his elitist and corporatist tendencies by relentlessly and narcissistically promoting himself as a liberal champion of the little guy.
The progressives are basically right, says David Weigel at Slate. "A Booker victory will mean the replacement of a reliable, plodding progressive with a less reliable neoliberal." In fact, Weigel says, "the only progressive argument for Booker" is that he's black and "the long-term interests of a party that depends on huge minority turnout adding to white liberal turnout are served by promoting nonwhite stars."
There is definitely is some meat in both articles—many progressives, including myself, have reservations around charter schools and Booker's relationships with Silicon Valley and Wall Street—but The Observer definitely veered into tabloid territory. It's a bit much to report on "alleged former girlfriends." The virtual outing also serves as a "chilling effect" toward other Black male politicians who are progressive and supportive of LGBT issues.
And it's probably hella premature to speculate that Cory Booker could be a serious contender to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
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