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In Defense of Debbie Wasserman Schultz

It’s not often that I feel the urge to defend Debbie Wasserman Schultz. But this criticism of her in Politico struck me as a little ridiculous:

Many of Obama’s advisers have quietly begun questioning whether they should have picked Wasserman Schultz, an outspoken Florida congresswoman, as his DNC chairwoman. She has clashed with Chicago over her choice of staff and air-time on national TV shows — and they think she comes across as too partisan over the airwaves.

Obama’s brain trust secretly commissioned pollster David Binder to conduct an internal focus study of the popularity of top Obama campaign surrogates. Number one was former press secretary Robert Gibbs, followed by Cutter. Traveling press secretary Jen Psaki, who was added to a second study, was third. Axelrod, Plouffe and current White House press secretary Jay Carney were bunched in the middle. Wasserman Schultz ranked at the bottom.

This seems hard to believe. Conservatives can find plenty to complain about when it comes to Wasserman Schultz, but on the partisan hackery scale, is she really any worse than Gibbs, Carney, Cutter, et al.?

Apparently that’s what some members of the Obama campaign want us to believe. Back in February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Obama advisors made a concerted effort to get DWS to “tone it down”:

Obama advisers have occasionally told [Wasserman Schultz] to “tone it down” and “back off a smidgen,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz says. She agreed with them to enlist two seasoned Democratic female pros, Anita Dunn and Hilary Rosen, to begin giving her occasional political advice and media training, advisers say. “I’m glad to get constructive criticism,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz says.

The media pros prepped her for an important Jan. 13 appearance on the “Bill Maher Show”—from her tone to her clothes (they know better than to suggest she blow out her curly hair, advisers say). Ms. Wasserman Schultz had lots of “don’t” instructions: Don’t make news, don’t try to be funny, don’t laugh at the comedian’s jokes, don’t use your hands (although she balled her fists at one point and did “karate chops” when making her points). Her biggest “do:” Attack Mitt Romney, which she managed to do despite the topic of discussion: Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.

So according to the Journal, the Obama campaign’s problems with Wasserman Schultz had nothing to do with the partisanship. The campaign liked her partisanship. Here’s what they didn’t like, according to the article: the loud clothes, the curly hair, the hand gestures, her laugh. Are you getting the hint here?

Gibbs and Axelrod are celebrated for being obnoxious loudmouths. Cutter and Psaki can spin and unfairly attack Republicans on TV all they want. But Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the pushy Jewish woman with the Long Island accent, is apparently the one who needs to “tone it down.” Here’s a question: Would she be getting the same grief from Chicago if she wasn’t a woman? How about if she had straighter hair and was born in Atlanta instead of Forest Hills?

Maybe these anonymous Obama advisors trashing her to Politico and the WSJ are right that she’s not a great fit for the position. But I can’t see how she’s any more partisan or more aggressive or more obnoxious than the others. As far as I can tell, all of them are equally adherent to the party dogma, and Wasserman Schultz should not change a thing about her hair.



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