Why are Democrats so mad at DNC chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz?

Political DC is buzzing about a Politico story quoting critics who claims Democratic National Committee chair Wasserman Schultz put her own ambitions ahead of the party's. Are they looking for a scapegoat for Democrats' likely drubbing in the mid-terms, or is something else at work?

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, shown with Vice President Joe Biden at the DNC's Women's Leadership conference, has come under fire from Democrats this week.

Many top Democrats are upset with Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, apparently. That’s the point of a big Politico piece this week that’s got much of political DC buzzing.

The nut of their objections appears to be that the Florida representative is trying to leverage her DNC spot to promote her own political ambitions at the expense of the party’s fortunes as a whole.

Politico quotes critics to the effect that Representative Wasserman Schultz hits up donors for cash for her own PAC, as opposed to pushing them to donate to party organs; plans her travel schedule to promote her own priorities; and pushes DNC staff to work on her own projects. She’s also tried – and failed – to get the party to pay for her clothes, according to sources.

She’s also made some high-profile verbal gaffes, such as her recent comparison of Republican tea party adherents to wife-beaters. 

“She’s become a liability to the DNC, and even to her own prospects, critics say,” writes Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere.

Nor is Politico alone in dishing on Wasserman Schultz this week. Buzzfeed has a similar story, though it’s not quite as harsh.

That means at least a few top Democrats really do have it out for the DNC leader. Why are they so mad? 

The first and most obvious explanation is that it’s all completely true. We’re just talking hypothetically here – we have no independent knowledge of these alleged shortcomings.

Sometimes frustration with a politician’s leadership grows so acute among staff and contacts that they feel anonymous leaks are their only weapon to deal with their boss.

But let’s face it – self-regard is as common in Washington as smart phones. If you cleared Capitol Hill of every politician guilty of overweening pride and too much focus on their own problems then the halls of Congress would be empty.

Plus, last time we looked, Democratic Party fundraising was going pretty well, and that’s a huge part of the DNC job. Karl Rove complained about that just yesterday.

So a couple of other, more structural, things might be behind the metaphorical knives in the Politico story.

Democrats might need a scapegoat for the drubbing they’re likely going to get in the mid-terms. Chances are they will lose control of the Senate, and they’ll almost certainly lose seats in the House. By pointing their collective finger at Wasserman Schultz the White House and other Democrats can claim it’s not their fault.

Thinking about this has got some Republicans chuckling.

“Really shocking it took the WH this long to throw her under the bus,” tweeted Dana Perino, former press secretary for President George W. Bush, while linking to the Politico piece.

It’s also a time in the political cycle where any DNC chair should probably start to think about when it’s time to resign. Wasserman Schultz is in essence an Obama administration appointee; yet President Obama’s influence in the party is waning as the end of his time in office draws near.

As Philip Bump notes in The Fix blog at the Washington Post, Wasserman Shultz has now served a bit longer than the average tenure of all DNC chairs.

At the same time Hillary Clinton looks like a virtually certain nominee for 2016, unless she decides to stop running. She and her loyalists are looking to extend their own influence in the party structure. 

And as the Politico story notes, Wasserman Schultz and Hillaryland are not exactly on the best of terms.

Maybe top Democrats have tried talking about this transition to Wasserman Schultz, and she’s resisted. How to get her out? Leak a negative story to the press – that’s as classic a Washington power play as exists.

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