Hey, a politician exaggerated about something. Surprised? Probably not. And that is more or less par for the course. We expect politicians to bullshit us, at least a little bit. Reality can be so disappointing or just monotonous – a little spice in a story from a public official can get people interested in an issue and that’s not so bad, right? Well, Cory Booker may be proving there is a considerable downside to serial fabrication.

It all started with “T-Bone”, a story Booker told about a drug dealer who first threatened Booker’s life only to later breakdown crying and asking Booker for help in turning his own life around. The problem? By all accounts there is no T-Bone. No steak name-sake exists.

… Newark historian Clement Price, who said the mayor confessed to him that T-Bone was a tall tale. In an interview with The Star-Ledger Thursday, Price again said Booker’s story was made-up. “Cory realized that he had erred,” Price said of his 2008 conversation with the mayor. “He told me that my criticism of his invention of T-Bone made perfect sense to him and he had made a mistake.”

“T-Bone” was apparently an amalgamation of different characters Booker encountered in Newark, not one specific person. Of course anyone hearing the story would have thought different and Booker retold the story constantly to build street credibility and as a demonstration of what kind of leadership he would bring to Newark.

Then came questions about another one of Booker’s standard go to stories. A story he even told in his Stanford commencement speech. A story that really gets the tears (and campaign donations) flowing – the story of Wazn Miller.

As Booker tells the story:

Shots ring out and I see children fee fleeing from between two buildings. I sprint through the children and stand there as a kid stumbles backwards into my arms, and I look over his shoulder and I see his shirt filling up with deep red blood. And I lay him on the ground and just start screaming at people to call an ambulance. Putting my hand onto his chest. And this is not a movie. There’s nothing pretty. Foamy blood pouring from his mouth and nostrils, gagging until he just lays motionless and lifeless, screaming for  someone to get somebody there. Ripping at this boy’s chest, trying to figure out where the blood was coming from, and it was everywhere. Seemed like hours, and the ambulance coming and pushing me aside and ripping open his shirt and seeing three bullet holes in his chest and one in his side.

Well, not so much.

According to the police report and eye witnesses Booker was indeed on the scene but was not in any kind of starring role. And Booker’s claim that Miller “stumbled backwards into” then died in his arms is false as Miller died later not to mention he was only shot once not four times. You would think Booker would know the difference between one and four shots given his graphic and vivid detailing of the event.

Though some claim Booker’s behavior at the scene of the shooting was anything but heroic.

Wazn Miller didn’t die in Booker’s arms — and while the then-34-year-old pol was there, he may have made matters worse. A woman was cradling the prone Miller when Miller’s friend David Estrada, 14 at the time, arrived. “He came over and picked him up,” said Estrada, now 23. “A lot of people said, ‘You’re not supposed to move somebody after they get shot.’ The bullets might start moving around.”

Gilez Smith, 27, said he saw Miller struggling to live and described Booker’s heroics as a “ploy.”“I told him, ‘Just leave him alone!’ ” Smith recalled. “He was like, ‘Breathe, breathe,’ smacking him all in the face . . . It was a big act.”

In any case, the cause of death listed on the coroner’s report was one gunshot wound to the chest.

There are other examples, but the question that remains is why? Why go so big on the exaggerations? Might the answer be a weak record of achievement?

The Newark Cory Booker is leaving behind as he heads into the US Senate is near identical to the Newark he took over in 2006. The reforms never happened, the flowery rhetoric and grand promises proved empty. All that’s left is the hype. All that’s left is the fantasy.

Photo by Bbsrock under Creative Commons license.