cory booker 2

Dear Mayor Booker –

Wowee, life has thrown you a curve this week, hasn’t it? You didn’t see this thing coming from a mile away.

The question is, what are you going to do with it?

Let’s review. You got a great opportunity with an appearance on Meet The Press this weekend. You get the chance to speak on the national stage, showcase your reasoned approach to governing and speak your truth. It’s that last part that got you hung up, though. Private equity, oh my. No matter how many times you expressed agreement with President Obama on significant issues, all the media has focused on is this passionate comment you made after host David Gregory played an Obama campaign ad calling out Bain Capital.

“I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity … This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright. This stuff has got to stop because what it does is it undermines what this country should be focused on. It’s a distraction from the real issues. It’s either going to be a small campaign about this crap or it’s going to be a big campaign, in my opinion, about the issues the American public cares about.”

Even worse in your mind, though, is what you expressed to Rachel Maddow through near-gritted teeth. You not only have to deal with your own party’s wrath, but the GOP is using your words to fundraise for Republican candidate Mitt Romney with the catchy phrase “I stand with Cory”. Ouch.

I’ll leave it to the pundits on both sides to go apoplectic over this. I’m here to talk to you, Mr. Mayor. This is your test, your challenge, your time to either buckle under or strengthen your character. Relinquishing control with grace is rarely easy, but there is power in it.

You’re used to doing your thing, your way, and it’s worked pretty well up to this point. I don’t imagine you asked the person whose snow you shoveled whether or not they vote “D” or “R” when the curtain is closed. Nor the woman who you saved from her burning home. That now-viral video you made with Governor Christie was a good-natured poke at your whole Superman vibe.

You know what happens to super heroes, right? They have to keep getting into trouble so we can all see their powers and be impressed by them over and over again. How is Batman going to get out of this one? That Joker sure has him on the ropes.

You are on the ropes, Mr. Mayor. What are you going to do?

Your spiritual well is deep. The biggest villain in this scenario is not some campaign strategist who’s just doing his job sensationalizing something from the news cycle. It’s your ego. Step back, watch yourself talking to Maddow, and try to see yourself objectively.

You are clearly a self-aware, principled man who is angry that you have little or no control over how your words are being used. I get that. But you need to own that you said something you believed, with much conviction, and that there is risk in that. You did exactly what has made you so popular all along – you spoke your truth. Stand in it. That is what will continue to make you appealing across a broad spectrum.

It’s less about what you think of private equity and more about straying from the party line. Most of the nation hates talking points. They can spot them a mile away. They like that rare feeling that an elected figure is shooting from the hip. You’ve done that. Don’t ruin it by backing off. Clarify, sure. Augment, OK. Pundits will continue to argue over whether you’ve been taken out to the woodshed, so to speak, but that reinforces your reputation as an independent spirit; it doesn’t diminish it.

Ironically, the power of your words has forced a more thoughtful explanation from the Obama camp on what it feels is a major difference between the president and Romney. Isn’t that the idea of free expression? To get others thinking and even rethinking? Wasn’t it the vice president going off talking points on the very same show that finally got the president to express his support for gay marriage?

I say it again, Mr. Mayor – stand tall in this. You said something. You meant it. The fact that most people believe you meant it is actually a testament to your character. Say what? Cory Booker is calling out what he sees as pettiness in his own party? How refreshing. You mean the world isn’t black and white? Blessed be.

More importantly, let the people in this country see what it’s like when someone is gutsy enough to be real. Your Twitter feed is typically filled with inspiring quotes. How you choose to stare this down could inspire more people than all those quotes combined.

Lead by example, Mr. Mayor. Own your truth. People now get to see who you are.

Nancy Colasurdo

This post originally appeared as a Game Plan column on