Newark Mayor Cory Booker has the right to disagree with Obama

Newark Mayor Cory Booker
Newark Mayor Cory Booker spoke to the media outside a burned house in the city last month.

So what if Newark Mayor Cory Booker went off message?

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, Booker, a supporter of President Obama’s reelection bid, took issue with a recent Obama ad criticizing Mitt Romney’s record at the private-equity firm Bain Capital. In truth, open debate on the issue shouldn’t make Booker “uncomfortable,” as he put it. A key question in this election is whether leveraged buyouts, as practiced by Bain Capital and other companies, tend to produce job growth and efficiency, or layoffs and weakened companies. And even if that question weren’t so important, Romney was the central architect of Bain Capital; it’s the greatest part of his life’s work. It’s hard to imagine an opposing campaign that wouldn’t scrutinize the firm closely, as Romney’s Republican rivals did.

Be that as it may, Booker is entitled to a view that differs from that of the Obama campaign. Later in the day, Booker backtracked a bit, shooting a video in which he tried — not all that convincingly — to reframe his “Meet the Press” comments as a general complaint about campaign negativity. But he’d be wiser to resist pressure toward ideological conformity. A sign of a healthy political system is when there’s disagreement not just between the parties but within them.