Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the DNC, has two big PR problems. The first is that she speaks almost exclusively in what sounds like focus-group-tested sound bites. The second is that she's no good at it, either because she lacks a certain common touch or because her sound bites are not, in fact, focus-group-tested.
It's hard to tell whether these problems are most exacerbated when confronted with a semicritical interviewer like ABC's George Stephanopoulos or when confronted with a fawning devotee like Rachel Maddow -- a very smart gal who can do so much better than she did in this segment with Wasserman Schultz, in which Maddow's easy questions allowed the congresswoman to rattle on like an unthinking politibot.
Voters [in Republican-led states] are becoming disturbed by the extreme radical policies that are coming out of these state legislatures and out of these governors. This is not what the voters signed up for... The direction the Republicans would take us, really, right off the deep end, essentially waging war on the unemployed, as if somehow them being out of the job is their fault, and rewarding businesses. Really, it's like reverse Robin Hood-ism. It's really shocking, and I think voters are really taken aback.
Really, Debbie? Do you really think the best reelection strategy is to pretend the public agrees with you? To hope that the power of suggestion will compel them to forget that, just ten minutes ago, they were calling you a Comminazi feminist? And after all your noble noises in January about raising the level of discourse, is it really wise to start using martial metaphors to describe your political opponents?
Convince us of your positions, Debbie! Present an argument! Don't pretend the argument's already been won! It just makes you look cynical.
The Maddow interview was bad, but it's probably better than the Stephanopoulos one from yesterday. That was a wide-ranging interview in which the following subjects came under discussion: controversy over the White House's hosting of a performance by poet/rapper/actor Common; Sarah Palin's assessment of the political implications of the Bin Laden killing; Mitt Romney's presidential prospects; and Gabbie Giffords' health. Wasserman Schultz actually deigned to answer questions about exactly one of these subjects. The rest she sidestepped.
A paraphrase of the discussion:
George: Do you think Common's critics are racists, or do they have a point?
Debbie: The White House likes to celebrate art.
George: Sarah Palin doesn't think the assassination of Bin Laden will help Obama's reelection chances next year. Is she right?
Debbie: Bin Laden was a bad man.
George: Of the putative Republican candidates, Mitt Romney's polling the strongest. Is he the one who scares you?
Debbie: Romney has no integrity. He's twisting himself into a pretzel to defend his health care policies in Massachusetts. He has no principles. He's not honest. He has no convictions. We don't know who he is.
George: So then. You are scared of him.
Debbie: No. But just to reiterate: Romney has no integrity. He's twisting himself into a pretzel to defend his health care policies in Massachusetts. He has no principles. He's not honest. He has no convictions. We don't know who he is.
George: How's Gabbie Giffords?
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The tragedy here is that Wasserman Schultz looks like she's a partisan posturer precisely because she's so uncomfortable with partisan posturing. It's the slick ones you've gotta worry about.