Cory Booker: Heroic? Yes. Magic? No

The mayor's quick action helped save a woman's life. He'll need more time to rescue Newark.

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Rush Limbaugh literally dubbed Obama a "magic Negro" when he aired a spoof of the song "Puff the Magic Dragon" to malign the Rev. Al Sharpton. Obama's supporters spoke of him in messianic terms. Since then, whenever President Obama has struggled politically, he has faced bitter criticism on the left and the right for not meeting the absurd standard set by the hype of the 2008 campaign.

In the days after the fire rescue, Mayor Booker demurred when asked about being a hero. Many will no doubt infer an appropriate sense of modesty in his comments. And good home training no doubt explains much of his demonstrated humility. It's also likely, however, that Booker's reluctance to fully embrace his newfound incandescence is a smart attempt to rescue himself from an American public that all too easily burns through its black leaders.

Andra Gillespie is associate professor of political science at Emory University and author of The New Black Politician: Cory Booker, Newark, and Post-Racial America.

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