The long knives are out for Debbie Wasserman Schultz

The Democrats know they are in trouble with voters in November and are turning on one another, hoping to find not just scapegoats but actual incompetents whose departure would help them recover in time for 2016. So it is unsurprising to read a long article in Politico, based on many conversations with sources that prefer to remain anonymous, to the effect that DNC Chairwoman and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz may not hold onto her job in the party leadership through 2016.

Possessed of an unusually grating voice, gaffe-prone (my all-time favorite: the charge that Republicans would “literally” drag us back to the stone age), and pathologically ambitious, DWS has made many enemies in the party, something that becomes quite obvious in the piece written by Edward-Isaac Dovere.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is in a behind-the-scenes struggle with the White House, congressional Democrats and Washington insiders who have lost confidence in her as both a unifying leader and reliable party spokesperson at a time when they need her most.

Long-simmering doubts about her have reached a peak after two recent public flubs: criticizing the White House’s handling of the border crisis and comparing the tea party to wife beaters.

But there is nothing at all new about DWS inserting her foot in her mouth.  I, for one, would be sorry to see her removed from her DNC post because she has been one of the most reliable sources of material for mockery. The question is more “how has she lasted this long?” than “why is she facing pressure now?” However, the answers to both are fairly clear. As to the first, Wasserman Schultz has been a prodigious fundraiser for the DNC, and she has spent a lot of time and energy on building the organization.

She has overseen the integration of key elements of the Obama campaigns, including its voter file and data programs. After being left with $25 million in bills from the Obama campaign, the DNC enters the fall with the debt cleared and over $7 million on hand. She’s started new efforts to build relationships with labor and small business leaders and prioritized the DNC’s outreach to female voters.

 But she has feathered her own nest in the process:

In 2012, Wasserman Schultz attempted to get the DNC to pay for her clothing at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, multiple sources say, but was blocked by staff in the committee’s Capitol Hill headquarters and at President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign headquarters in Chicago.

She asked again around Obama’s inauguration in 2013, pushing so hard that Obama senior adviser — and one-time Wasserman Schultz booster — Valerie Jarrett had to call her directly to get her to stop. (Jarrett said she does not recall that conversation.) One more time, according to independent sources with direct knowledge of the conversations, she tried again, asking for the DNC to buy clothing for the 2013 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

This would be a comparatively minor issue if things were going well for Democrats. Nobody really is that offended by self-dealing. But lurking on the tall grass is another problem for DWS, the animosity she has created with Hillary Clinton through her double-dealing. Hillary is not one to forget a slight:

Many expect a nascent Clinton campaign will engineer her ouster. Hurt feelings go back to spring 2008, when while serving as a co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Wasserman Schultz secretly reached out to the Obama campaign to pledge her support once the primary was over, sources say.

But in the Obama camp, her betrayal of Hillary has not won her enduring loyalty.  After initially securing the all-important support of Valerie Jarrett, she has managed to alienate the power behind the throne.

The White House is staring at two years of life under a GOP-controlled House and Senate. The DNC chair, however, isn’t involved in the strategy talks with the president.

They don’t want her there.

For even the occasional Obama briefing by the heads of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, she is not invited. That includes a key session on July 31, the last day the House was in town before the August recess, when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), DCCC Chair Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and DCCC executive director Kelly Ward sat on the couches in the Oval Office running through the political landscape for the president. (snip)

Last summer, Wasserman Schultz and the White House clashed again.

Wasserman Schultz resisted Obama circle favorites Marlon Marshall and Buffy Wicks replacing Patrick Gaspard as executive director. When Jarrett found out that Wasserman Schultz had had her daughter sit in on the interview with Wicks at the end of July 2013, she called to register her dismay, describing Wasserman Schultz’s behavior, according to people familiar with the conversation, as “completely unprofessional and rude.” (snip)

Obama’s team came very close to replacing Wasserman Schultz after the 2012 race.

At the Charlotte convention, Wasserman Schultz’s DNC staffers assembled a collection of perks — entry to her skybox, access to the chairwoman’s lounge — for House members and candidates she was hoping to attract for her leadership run and DNC voting members she would need to retain her DNC post should Obama replace her. She also had her DNC staff explore and plot how she could remain chairwoman if Obama lost the race.

The entire Politico article makes for great reading, if you are interested in the two-scorpions-in-a-bottle nature of party politics. While Wasserman Schultz is a double-dealing, annoying, self-serving, and often embarrassing figure, these factors alone cannot account for the current jeopardy she faces in her fight to retain a party leadership post. The real problem is that Democrats face voter backlash for the incompetence of Obama and the party’s slavish devotion to Obamacare. They are not yet willing to turn on Obama himself, and will remained constrained by the need to keep African-American turnout as high as possible and vote share in the 90% range. 

If and when DWS goes back to being a backbencher from Florida, the party will still be stuck with Obama for another two years. Who else will be in line for a stiletto if that happens?