Wasserman Schultz Puts Fire on Display

Lessons From Jewish Upringing Help Steer Path for Obama

Convention Kingmaker: Debbie Wasserman Schultz wields the gavel at the Democratic National Convention. Despite some grumbling about her style, the DNC chair has steered a successful path toward the November election.
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Convention Kingmaker: Debbie Wasserman Schultz wields the gavel at the Democratic National Convention. Despite some grumbling about her style, the DNC chair has steered a successful path toward the November election.

By Nathan Guttman

Published September 06, 2012, issue of September 14, 2012.
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Ari Fleischer, who was a White House spokesman for President George W. Bush and a leading Republican Jewish speaker, said that while Wasserman Schultz is successful in firing up the base, she “comes across [as] [terribly ineffective” because she does not meet the requirement of being “reasonable and focused.”

But Wasserman Schultz’s style has reportedly irked some within her party, as well. An e-book published by Politico in August claimed](http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/79867_Page3.html#ixzz25Jg021hU) that officials in the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago feel that Wasserman Schultz “struck too harsh a partisan tone.” It also stated that in an internal focus group examining the effectiveness of Obama surrogates, she was ranked last.

Following this report, the White House said Obama has “absolutely” full confidence in Wasserman Schultz.

In her interview with the Forward, Wasserman Schultz strongly rejected suggestions that she adopt a softer tone and show more willingness to compromise. “I’m the chair of the Democratic Party. That is not in the job description of someone who chairs a political party,” she said.

Fellow Floridian Robert Wexler agreed. The former congressman, who serves as a surrogate for Obama among Jewish voters, said that criticism of Wasserman Schultz is simply a sign of her success. “When you’re very effective, you also get very stern criticism,” he said, “I think it is a badge of honor.”

Back in Charlotte there were no signs at all that the campaign is trying to sideline Wasserman Schultz. The DNC chair hopped from one reception to another panel discussion, from strategy meetings to one-on-ones with donors. Her three children followed her to the convention, watching from the front row as their mother chaired the event.

Four years ago, Wasserman Schultz was given the honor of seconding Obama’s nomination at the 2008 convention. “I thought, wow, this is really the pinnacle, and here I am, four years later,” she said. She will not speculate on where she’ll be four years from now. “I am not thinking beyond the next 63 days,” she said. “We have to get him elected, and I’m running for re-election, and we’ll see what happens.”

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com


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