Cory Booker Has a Performative Streak

New Jersey Democrat has put on a show since he was a city councilman in Newark

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., threatens to release committee confidential documents during the start of Day 3 of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing on Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Cory Booker amped up the drama around Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings Thursday when he passionately defended his decision to release confidential documents about the judge’s record.

Booker said he understood the consequences could be expulsion from the Senate.

Booker’s political career is marked by making performative gestures that attract attention going back to his time as a city council member in Newark.

For supporters, he is seen as someone who makes principled stands in public to generate public discussion.

Watch: Booker Battled With Republicans Over Release of Bush-Era Kavanaugh Emails

But his critics — even among fellow Democrats — see a political opportunist who promotes himself and his own brand as he seeks higher office as a potential Democratic candidate for president in 2020.

Here are some of Booker’s biggest hits:

  • As a city councilman, Booker went on a a 10-day hunger strike and camped out in crime-ridden areas to draw attention to open-air drug dealing.
  • When Booker was elected mayor of Newark, he developed an image as being a very hands-on mayor, doing things like shoveling a driveway for a constituent and being in the right place at the right time as he rescued someone from a burning building. 
  • While he was mayor, he also went on food stamps to show the difficulty that many low-income people face.

Booker continued to make waves in the Senate in ways that many see as setting himself up for a presidential run, especially against President Donald Trump.

Booker has positioned himself as a reliably progressive Democrat if he chooses to run for president by introducing legislation to support the legalization of marijuana that would also give people convicted of marijuana possession the opportunity to have their records expunged. He also supports a federal jobs guarantee program.

After being an enthusiastic surrogate for Hillary Clinton in 2016, he co-sponsored Sen. Bernie Sanders’ single-payer health care legislation.

After being criticized for money he received from the pharmaceutical industry, he joined Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and others in rejecting corporate PAC money.

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