[Correction: The local DNC apologist to whom I referred actually is not a high level Dem operative here]
We’ve now seen two acts of blithering incompetence on the part of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee.
DWS, who as party chair is ethically obligated to remain neutral in the Democratic nomination process, is thought by many progressives to be working to rig the process to favor Clinton. Progressives point to at least two actions as evidence of DWS’ bias:
- The decisions to hold few debates, and to schedule several of those few debates at times viewers would be least likely to tune in. The scheduling of last night’s debate on the Saturday before Christmas was Exhibit A on this front.
- The decision to lock the Sanders’ campaign out of its own database as “punishment” for a staffer peeking at Clinton campaign data when the DNC’s vendor, NGP Van, screwed up and dropped a firewall for 40 minutes. The action was a blatant breach of contract by the DNC, so much so that it capitulated within hours of being hit with a lawsuit by the Sanders’ campaign.
Put allegations of bias aside, however, and consider only the incompetence of these actions.
Logically, a political party would seek to maximize the number of viewers of its presidential debate. When Debbie Wasserman-Schultz did just the opposite, she sent the clear message, wittingly or unwittingly, that the DNC did not want Americans to watch the Democratic debate. Which of course begs two questions: First, why? Second, who gets to tell us why?
On the second question, the Republicans obviously do. There’s no explanation from the DNC that would be believable as the real reason for this. So, the Republicans and other Trump supporters are licensed to suggest what the unspoken real reason is. Paula Pennypacker has 5,000 Facebook followers. Here’s her guess:
What a stupid time for Democrats to hold a debate. A Saturday evening the week of Christmas! We were at a holiday party! I’m beginning to think the Democrats debate schedule is by design so Americans can’t see, first hand, how far left the party has drifted.
Put your loyalty aside and consider the effectiveness of Paula’s dig. It’s not so much that she characterized as far left, but that the Party appears embarrassed by it.
How about my first question: Why? It doesn’t matter, does it, in light of the answer to the second question?
How about Wasserman-Shultz’s imbecilic reaction to the data breach? Here’s Bill Curry at Salon:
On Thursday, the DNC told the press a contractor inadvertently breached a firewall in a software program exposing data files of presidential campaigns and that a Bernie Sanders staffer (Josh Uretsky, with the campaign three months) took the opportunity to sneak a peek at Hillary Clinton’s files. Sanders’ campaign instantly sacked the staffer but Schultz still cut off its access to data, a punishment she seems to have made up on the spot, thus bringing crucial outreach and fundraising efforts to a halt. Schultz didn’t even nod to due process, pronouncing the death penalty without so much as reading Sanders his Miranda rights.
On Friday, Sanders’ campaign filed a federal lawsuit alleging breach of contract. It sought a restraining order and money damages that, assuming the facts set forth in the complaint, exceed a million dollars a day. It was a strong case. Uretsky may have behaved unethically but there was no malice aforethought– the forbidden fruit fell in his lap—and from the moment the campaign learned of his possible malfeasance, it acted honorably and swiftly. Schultz, conversely, appears to have acted without color of authority under law, contract or party rule.
The contract required written notice of termination and a 10-day grace period to cure any alleged default. Clearly the DNC was in violation, not Sanders. Because the contract put the onus for securing data on the DNC, it was liable for the breach as well. But the issue was bigger than mere contract law or political dirty tricks. In suspending the vital operations of a presidential campaign, Schultz trespassed on the right of all citizens to free and fair elections. Democrats could ill afford to be seen condoning her actions. Nor could they afford to pay her bills. If she acted without authority she’d be liable for damages, but only if the party was as swift and honorable in dealing with her as Sanders was in dealing with Uretsky. The party also had to ponder the sworn depositions Sanders might now take regarding such delicate matters as who Schultz spoke to about her decision to impale him.
Even if DWS is unbiased as she’s supposed to be, she blew it. By forcing Sanders to sue the DNC in a situation where she’d have no choice but to instantly capitulate, she sent the message loud and clear: “I’ll make my own rules unless you force me not to.” That engenders bitterness. It tells Sanders’ supporters that having them feel their candidate was treated fairly is not much of a priority to her. That’s just not how you win general elections.
Here in Arizona, and I suspect everywhere else as well, the local Dem establishment types are reacting to these blatant screw-ups as clumsily and offensively as their role models at the national level. A high-level Dem operative and DNC apologist showed up on my Facebook thread to “educate” me. Here’s how it evolved:
Me: Regarding Datagate, what does it say when a party that is sued, in this case the DNC, capitulates within hours of the suit being filed? Whatever wrongs the Sanders campaign may have committed are at this point completely overshadowed by the DNC’s corrupt action. When it capitulated so quickly, it implicitly acknowledged “Yes, we seized on the situation to inflict damage to the Sanders’ campaign.”
Him: To me, it says they are smart and want this episode to have a speedy end.
Me: It’s obvious they wanted this episode to have a speedy end, so that didn’t have to be framed as your opinion. Whether they’re smart or not is of course an open question. But the “smart” and the “wanting a speedy end” here likely are not connected. The desire for a speedy end arose from their lawyers telling them they were going to get clobbered if they tried to defend. Nobody capitulates within hours of being sued unless the legal advice they’re getting is compelling them to do so.
Him: ..or if they got what they wanted.
Me: What you’re implying with your last comment is that DWS would have capitulated even if the Sanders campaign didn’t sue…. you don’t capitulate within hours of being sued because you “got what you wanted.” You do it for exactly the opposite reason — that is, you got what you didn’t want.
Him: At the risk of being Clinton-esque, I would say when you (as in the DNC) find yourself in a hole…quit digging. That is what they seemed to do [Note the change in tone?]
Him (next day): Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton showed some class night at the debate when Bernie apologized for the actions of his staff. We were all a bit horrified by the actions of the DNC…but the Sanders campaign brought it on themselves. Lesson learned, let’s move on
Me: Really? The DNC hired a contractor that is and has been notoriously incompetent, then it blatantly breached its contract and got itself sued, while the Sanders’ campaign reacted immediately to fire an overzealous staffer, and you conclude the Sanders’ campaign brought this on itself? I can understand if you want to charge a candidate for failing to respond to an ethical lapse of its young staffer, but don’t you think it’s too high a standard to say the candidate has to prevent any such lapses from occurring in the first place? And isn’t the 10 day cure period in the contract that the DNC didn’t honor there for exactly this purpose — to give a campaign the chance to rectify the misstep of an underling? I appreciate the change in your tone from when you first commented, but it would be even more refreshing if you simply said “I got it wrong.”
Him: This was pretty much proof, “I got it right.”
Me: Well, you started out by characterizing the DNC’s actions as “smart” then ended by saying they were “horrifying,” so exactly how did you “get it right?”
Him: Tone is a bit difficult to convey on posts, in emails….the DNC’s actions were smart and a bit harsh. Bernie’s tone in his apology was unmistakeable and pitch-perfect, so let’s just leave it at that.
Me: So, it was “smart” for the DNC to act in a way that have us ALL horrified, as you said? It was smart to breach a contract so badly that it got its ass sued and had to capitulate within hours? It was smart to, as you said, dig itself into a hole? Why do we need to leave it at your platitudinous observation and move on? Why not leave it at the DNC acted atrociously and if we don’t want to keep losing elections heads should roll?
On that same thread, a national Dem operative explained how DWS had just “suspended” the Sanders’ campaign, with the intention to restore the privileges. Here’s how that went down:
Me: Did they have a contractual right to do that, or are you just theorizing?
Him: Haven’t seen the contract, no, though I think we know (?) the NGP contract was with the DNC.
At that point, I sent him a link to Curry’s piece and pointed him to the paragraphs I quoted above.
On another thread, I raised the problem created by giving Trump supporters license to fill in the blanks as to why the debate was scheduled at the time it was least likely to be viewed. One apologist questioned why I would repost something from Paula Pennypacker, since she’s “crazy.” To make a point. That’s why.
Another apologist explained that beating Trump was what was important. Thanks for that, but doesn’t that mean we want the best leadership possible at the DNC to achieve that result? If you want so badly to beat Trump, do you want to install competent leadership now, or wait until after you lose the election?
What I’ve yet to see is anyone in the Dem establishment own up to the incompetence. There are now petitions with something like half a million signatures demanding Wasserman-Schultz’s resignation. Will the reaction be continued condescension? So far, yes. Progressives are being told it’s just time to put this all behind us and move on. Until when, the next DWS screw-up? Obviously, yes. But here’s the thing: There’s a good chance that next screw-up will result in President Trump or President Cruz. Is that what our Democratic establishment wants?