Monday, July 25, 2016

Wasserman Schultz abruptly resigns as DNC chief on eve of convention

- The Washington Times 

PHILADELPHIA — Faced with a near-mutiny on the left, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz abruptly announced her resignation Sunday, injecting a new round of unwelcome drama for Hillary Clinton just as her presidential-coronation convention kicks off.

Ms. Wasserman Schultz said she’ll step down Thursday, at the end of the convention, after emails posted by WikiLeaks showed she and fellow DNC staffers disparaged and plotted to derail Sen. Bernard Sanders, the insurgent candidate who forced Mrs. Clinton far deeper into the primaries than anyone had predicted.

The revelation came on the heels of Mrs. Clinton’s pick this weekend of Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate — a selection that angered progressives hoping for someone more in the mold of Mr. Sanders or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Mr. Sanders said Sunday morning he was personally disappointed with Mrs. Clinton’s running-mate choice, and he again called on Ms. Wasserman Schultz to resign, claiming the party conspired to defeat him throughout the primary process.

Hours later, the DNC chair complied, saying she’d become a distraction. She said she’ll still gavel the convention in and out, but she’d already been stripped of her day-to-day management duties.

Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s resignation could provide the bone for which progressives were looking in the wake of the Kaine pick and the email dump release.

According to reporters at a pro-Sanders rally, chants of “Debbie is done!” and “Debbie resigned!” broke out. And Jeff Weaver, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager, told CNN that “the voices of Bernie Sanders supporters have been heard … this was the last straw, she had to go, and this shows they have been heard and gives us opportunity to move forward toward November — united to deal with the problem of Donald Trump.”

But it also adds to a sense of unease for Democrats, who just last week had gleefully watched Republicans’ convention begin with divisive rules fights.

“The timing couldn’t be worse for the Democrats. Any hope of a convention bump, especially on the heels of a raucous Republican convention, took a hit with the news,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston who studies presidential politics. “The perception of a divided convention, true or not, can overshadow some of the bright spots of the week-long opportunity for positive coverage.”

Democrats had already tried to mollify progressive activists with the most liberal platform in major party history, and by changing party rules for how delegates to the convention are selected in the 2020 race.

Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s resignation could further appease Mr. Sanders’ supporters, though her continued role, albeit minor, could also prove a focal point for their protests.

In a statement Sunday, Mrs. Clinton praised Ms. Wasserman Schultz and said “there’s simply no one better at taking the fight to the Republicans than Debbie,” though she didn’t address the leaked emails. Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told ABC News on Sunday that the party must “get to the bottom of the facts” regarding the email situation, seemingly conceding the messages were inappropriate.

In one of the email messages, DNC Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall suggests getting reporters to ask Mr. Sanders about his religion, with the belief that his answer could hurt him in states such as Kentucky and West Virginia.

“It might [make] no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage,” he said in the email, sent to other DNC officials. “I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”

While Ms. Wasserman Schultz will depart the DNC, Mrs. Clinton said the Florida Democrat will remain a surrogate for the campaign and will be an honorary chair of their state outreach operation.

Ms. Wasserman Schultz is also a sitting congresswoman, and she said she wants to focus on her own re-election bid back home in Florida. She faces a stiff challenge from a liberal Democrat who’s aligned with Mr. Sanders and who is getting impressive backing from progressive groups.

Meanwhile, progressives are deciding whether to try to obstruct the selection of Mr. Kaine on the convention floor this week.

Mr. Kaine, who joined Mrs. Clinton on the campaign trail for the first time Saturday in Miami, shot back against the characterization that he’s too moderate, vowing that he and Mrs. Clinton will pursue a “strong, progressive agenda in the White House.”

But leaders in the progressive movement aren’t convinced. They cite Mr. Kaine’s past support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Sanders oppose, as one reason why he’s an unacceptable choice. The senator now says he’s against the agreement in its current form.

Mr. Kaine last week also signed on to a bipartisan letter calling for pieces of the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform package to be undone, shocking liberals who want to see more aggressive regulation on Wall Street, not less.

Donald Trump is the most dangerous candidate in the history of our country and that’s why we’re working as hard as we can to unite the political revolution with the Democratic Party establishment to defeat him,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the liberal PAC Democracy for America.

“Secretary Clinton’s choice of Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate doesn’t change that goal, but Kaine’s support for fast-track authority for the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership and recent backing of bank deregulation will make our work more difficult,” he said.

Other progressive leaders praised Mr. Kaine’s strong support for debt-free college and other pieces of Mrs. Clinton’s agenda but stressed he must go further on Wall Street reform and other issues.

Even Mr. Sanders expressed disappointment in the choice.

“He’s a very nice guy. His political views are not my political views,” Mr. Sanders told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “Would I have preferred to somebody like an Elizabeth Warren selected by Secretary Clinton? Yes, I would have.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump went further, saying the pick of Mr. Kaine is “a slap in the face to Bernie Sanders” and his liberal supporters.

The billionaire also said the DNC emails prove what he’s said all along about a Democratic Party conspiracy against Mr. Sanders.

“He has been gamed,” Mr. Trump said on “Meet the Press.”

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