Cory Booker finally got his shot at Joe Biden on Wednesday night, and the New Jersey senator landed a few haymakers.
The confrontation has been weeks in the making and can be traced back to June, when Booker was the first of Biden’s many Democratic rivals to criticize him for bragging about working with segregationist senators. The tension increased ahead of Wednesday’s debate, with both Democrats hitting the other for their records on criminal justice issues. Booker called Biden an “architect of mass incarceration,” and Biden said Booker’s past is “not quite so good.”
Roughly an hour into Wednesday’s debate, Biden and Booker got their chance to square off. Booker called out Biden’s criminal justice-reform plan as an attempt to put out a house fire that he’d set himself. But Biden came with his own opposition file prepared, hitting Booker for “hiring Rudy Giuliani’s guy” when he was mayor of Newark and increasing stop-and-frisk practices.
Booker’s best moments came not when defending himself on the substance, but when he deployed some crowd-pleasing lines.
First, he was incredulous that Biden even wanted to have this debate.
Then, when Biden pressed Booker further on stop-and-frisk, Booker shot back with, “Mr. Vice-President, there’s a saying in my community — you’re dipping into the Kool-Aid when you don’t even know the flavor.”
Booker also benefited from a Biden slip-up. The former vice-president accidentally called Booker the president, then jokingly called him the “future president.”
Another notable moment came earlier in the debate, when Booker called out Biden’s selective riding of President Obama’s coattails. After Bill de Blasio pushed Biden on his role in deportations during the Obama administration, Booker responded.
“Mr. Vice-President, you can’t have it both ways. You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not.”