Thursday, April 18, 2019 | 11:30 p.m.
Cory Booker, in his second presidential campaign visit to Nevada in the two and a half months after his declaration of candidacy, spoke to a room of UNLV students and Las Vegans on Thursday.
Booker’s talk touched on issues including political tribalism, infrastructure, the border and criminal justice. Before the event, the U.S. senator from New Jersey spoke on the Mueller report released earlier in the say, saying the findings were concerning, but he hadn’t finished reading it.
“I think we’re seeing clearly that this report is not reflective of the spin that our attorney general tried to put on that report,” he said, referring to Attorney General William Barr’s summation of the report and news conference before the release.
Booker said he was not on board with impeachment, however, saying the investigation needs to continue and that he would like Special Counsel Robert Mueller to explain some of his findings before Congress.
The crowd of around 40 seemed in sync with Booker, whose mother lives in the Las Vegas area.
“My hope is that some of you will decide to follow my mom. She’s the first person who committed to caucus for me,” he said.
Booker criticized American actions in the Middle East, such as backing Israeli actions he sees as detrimental to a two-state solution and the funding of the war in Yemen. Under his presidency, he said, America would take a more moral approach.
“I believe fundamentally in the two-state solution. I believe in the right of self-determination of peoples,” he said. “I believe in Israel’s right to exist.”
He also forcefully went after the National Rifle Association, saying he wouldn’t detail every step he would take against the organization publicly so as not to show his hand and criticizing lawmakers who offer “thoughts and prayers” after a mass shooting.
“The lack of urgency we have (in fixing the gun violence problem) is unacceptable,” he said. “Every day we wait, dozens of people die.”
Booker said that he would push the fight for clean air, water and soil, and would rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, statements which pleased Andre Henderson, a Nevada Conservation League organizer and undecided voter.
“I was very happy with his answer,” he said. He said he heard his opinion on climate change and thought, “This guy right here, I think he’s got it.”
Shannon Churchwell, the chair of the United Black Democratic Caucus, said she liked Booker because of his ability to work across the aisle and to deal with difficult political campaigns.
“If we look at how he won Newark, he’s used to dealing with tough opponents.”
Churchwell asked about the situation at the border, which she called a humanitarian crisis. Booker agreed, complaining that the country had gone away from its asylum-granting roots, roots which we triggered, he said, by the aftermath of World War II and the realization that turning away Jewish refugees had effectively signed their death warrants.
Churchwell said the Democratic Party will need a fighter in the upcoming election.
“This isn’t peacetime in the country,” she said. “This is going to be a political battle.”
Booker has not shied away from clashing with opponents but said he won’t spar with Trump on his level.
“You can’t campaign wrong and think you’re going to govern right,” he said.
Booker cited Nevada’s early caucus as a measure of the state’s political power, saying earlier states can help forge the national conversation.
“You all have tremendous power in shaping the trajectory of this election,” he said.