Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Popularity Takes a Nosedive
Around the State
They say the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee has embarrassed many high-ranking party leaders with shoot-from-the-hip misstatements, downright inaccuracies and even a charge of thuggery.
Chief among Wasserman Schultz's problems are three issues: her claims pertaining to Israel, the Republicans' platform and her personal threats to the head of the Susan G. Komen Foundation over Planned Parenthood.
"Wasserman Schultz has given the Democrats a major black eye," political consultant A. Ferris Guiletti told Sunshine State News on Thursday. "She's done it by reacting badly under fire, and building a yawning credibility gap between herself and both the national media and some important Democratic donors.
"She's blowing her status with her own party, that's the buzz, and she just might have blundered herself into trouble for her re-election campaign back home in South Florida," he said.
Problems for the DNC chair began the week of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. In a fundraising letter Wasserman Schultz claimed that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney had directly intervened in the writing of the party’s platform on policies regarding abortion.
The letter quotes its source as the Los Angeles Times, but as many media outlets and fact checkers have since pointed out, the supporting claims were misquoted and misrepresented in the article to which Wasserman Schultz was referring.
“Do you at least acknowledge that the quote you gave from the L.A. Times is completely incorrect?” asked CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Aug. 23, pressing the DNC chair on her assertions that Romney’s campaign directly wrote the GOP platform.
“No, I don’t acknowledge that. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter,” Wasserman Schultz replied. She avoided further answering the question or admitting to any fault in the quote.
Cheryl Stern, former legislative aide to Sen. Mel Martinez and now a Washington consultant for Republican clients, claims Wasserman Schultz might have survived the Anderson Cooper encounter with minimal damage if -- during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte -- she hadn't told a Democratic audience that the ambassador to Israel had voiced his own concerns on Republicans’ attitude to Israel.
"Bad timing for Wasserman Schultz to wander off the reservation," said Stern. "The Democratic Party had just taken a ton of heat for initially omitting references to 'God' and 'Jerusalem' in its platform."
What the DNC chairwoman said is this: “We know, and I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel.” Her comment was reported by the Washington Examiner newspaper -- though Wasserman Schultz denied it over and over, on CNN and to Politico.
“I will reiterate that they did deliberately misquote me,” she told CNN’s Don Lemon on Sept. 8.
But Wasserman Schultz was caught red-handed again. The Washington Post and PolitiFact, run by the Tampa Bay Times, appropriately gave her four “Pinocchios” (Post) and a “pants on fire” (Times) rating for her denial. It even caused the Israeli ambassador to publicly distance himself from Wasserman Schultz’s statements.
“I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel. Bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle,” the ambassador said in a written statement.
The congresswoman was similarly criticized after she claimed that omitted references to God and Jerusalem in the Democratic Party platform were on account of “technical errors,” she told a CNN panel. She later added that there was “no dissent” on the delegate floor when the issue came to a vote. Unfortunately for Wasserman Schultz, there was video.
Said Stern, "Can you blame Anderson Cooper for saying on air that Wasserman Schultz is 'living in an alternate universe'?"
Guiletti said that in the middle of the Israel kerfuffle, Karen Handel, a former Susan G. Komen Foundation executive released a book alleging that Wasserman Schultz is a “schoolyard thug” after her personal interventions over decisions to pull funding from Planned Parenthood last year. Handel claims that Wasserman Schultz made threatening calls, saying the organization would ultimately “regret the decision” to pull funding from the women’s health organization. The foundation is also partially funded by the government.
Wasserman Schultz did not return Sunshine State News' phone calls on Thursday.
Karen Harrington, Wasserman Schulz's opponent in the 23rd Congressional District, has jumped all over the congresswoman's recent performance, producing campaign ads and making speeches that refer to it as "lies."
At a Republican Jewish Coalition rally Monday in Boca Raton, Harrington reportedly chided the incumbent -- to cheers and laughter: "Does a liberal know it’s a lie if they believe it to be true? (Wasserman Schultz) said Ambassador Oren said that Republicans are dangerous for America. Then she lied and said she never said that; and after listening to her own recording once again, she lied and said, ‘I never said that.”
Said Guiletti, "Harrington started out as a long shot against Debbie. At this point, she's still behind. But Debbie is closing the gap for Karen all by herself."
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.