The Democratic National Committee is making a fine spectacle of itself these days as two vice chairmen are accusing DNC chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz of lying about consulting the rest of the committee about the debates.
Wasserman Schultz insists she got input for the committee regarding the debates, but Vice Chairman Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who was unceremoniously “disinvited” from the debate for criticizing the chairman, says that’s “flat out not true.” And another vice chairman, former mayor of Minneapolis R.T. Rybak, is questioning whether Wasserman Schultz is qualified to lead the party into the 2016 election.
Of two dozen Democratic insiders with whom I spoke this week, including several DNC vice chairs, not one defended Wasserman Schultz’s treatment of Gabbard. Most called it ridiculous, outrageous, or worse. Many argued, further, that the debate plan enacted by the chairwoman is badly flawed—an assessment shared by many party activists, left-bent supporters of Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, and those candidates themselves, all of whom see it as a naked effort to aid and comfort Hillary Clinton. And they maintained that the plan was a clear reflection of Wasserman Schultz’s management style, which many of them see as endangering Democratic prospects in 2016 and beyond.
ne top Democrat who feels precisely this way is DNC Vice Chair R.T. Rybak, a former mayor of Minneapolis who, along with Gabbard, has publicly called for more debates. But Rybak’s indictment of Wasserman Schultz is more sweeping—and pointed—than that. “In the days before and after the debate I kept my mouth shut,” Rybak told me by phone on Thursday. “But I’ve begun to deeply question whether she has the leadership skills to get us through the election. This is not just about how many debates we have. This is one of a series of long-running events in which the chair has not shown the political judgment that is needed.”
I asked Rybak if he was calling for Wasserman Schultz to resign.
“I’m coming really close,” he replied. “I’m not quite doing that yet, but unless I see some significant shift in the way she’s going to operate and see that she has some ability to reach out and include people who disagree with her, then I seriously question whether she’s the right person to lead us.”
Rybak and other Democratic critics of Wasserman Schultz have been holding their tongues about what they see as her deficiencies for years. But the dispute over debates has proven sufficiently contentious that it is suddenly causing those tongues to loosen.
Wasserman Schultz isn’t going anywhere — for the moment. She has been a loyal minion to the leader of the party, President Obama, and her current assignment — to see Hillary Clinton nominated — is still on track despite some bumps in the road for the candidate.
But there is no doubt trouble is a-brewin’, especially among down-ballot candidates who fear Wasserman Schultz is a liability with some vital party constituencies. She is a gaffe-tastic asset to Republicans — her most recent idiocy was last week when she said that Republicans wanted to “kick women out of the country.” And she has created enemies on the DNC over the years with her overbearing style of leadership.
But what might finally do Debbie Wasserman Schultz in is the DNC’s miserable performance in raising cash. The RNC consistently takes in more donations than the DNC and since this is where the rubber meets the road in politics, it may be the final nail in the coffin for Wasserman Schultz.