Wasserman Schultz drama overshadows Dem convention
© Greg Nash

The Democratic National Convention is off to a rocky start — and it hasn’t even officially begun.

Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation the day before the convention opens is the big news Monday morning.

It followed the release of embarrassing emails between DNC officials that appear to confirm the suspicions Bernie SandersBernie SandersPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia US launches second Somalia strike in week MORE supporters that Wasserman Schultz and the DNC tipped the scales during the party’s primary in favor of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Shontel Brown gaining ground against Nina Turner in Ohio: poll Biden hits trail for McAuliffe in test of his political brand MORE, the presumptive nominee.

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The resignation, which Wasserman Schultz said would happen after the convention, overtook Clinton's planned rollout of running mate Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenate GOP likely to nix plan Schumer feels pressure from all sides on spending strategy Manchin signals he'll be team player on spending deal MORE and crowded out a highly anticipated joint interview with "60 Minutes" on Sunday night. It also raises new questions about how unified the Democratic Party can be in November.

The good news for Clinton is that Wasserman Schultz resigned. By the end of the week, the Clinton campaign can only hope that the news about the embattled chairwoman has faded.

One Clinton ally said Wasserman Schultz meant well but that “she turned out to be the ultimate pain in the ass.”

“Every single time the campaign started to gain their footing, she would do something else to set us back,” the Clinton ally told The Hill on Sunday. “And it wasn't helpful. It became an annoyance.

“Her mere presence would have been a thorn in the side,” the ally continued. “So this is helpful for all sides.”

Frustration over Wasserman Schultz and the DNC boiled over earlier this summer, when there were rumblings that she could be dumped before the convention in the name of party unity.

Sanders supporters have been angry with Wasserman Schultz and the DNC for some time, believing she has repeatedly undermined or slighted their candidate, who ran an unexpectedly strong campaign against Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

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Wasserman Schultz pushed back against the rumors, and it appeared she would survive — until last Friday, when Wikileaks released its emails, including one in which DNC staffers seemed to discuss using questions about Sanders’s faith against him.

Sanders welcomed Wasserman Schultz’s resignation on Sunday, which came after he again called for her to quit during interviews on Sunday's political talk shows.

He called her resignation “the right decision for the future of the Democratic Party.” 

Nina Turner, a top spokeswoman for the campaign, separately cheered the selection of longtime Democratic strategist and DNC vice chairwoman Donna Brazile as interim chairwoman.

Brazile was widely praised by Sanders supporters as a fair and steadying presence during the primaries.

“We believe in you,” Turner tweeted. “Thanks for being fair and transparent!”

All eyes will be on Sanders on Monday night, when he is scheduled to speak to delegates.

And eyes will also be on Wasserman Schultz, who has said she will not formally quit until after the convention. The Florida lawmaker also plans to open and close the convention as scheduled and says she will speak to delegates at some point this week.

That risks a divisive and embarrassing scene like the one that unfolded at the Republican National Convention last week when Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia next week Here's evidence the Senate confirmation process is broken MORE (Texas) was booed off the stage.

“It’s shocking to me that she would still be speaking,” said Democracy For America spokesman Neil Sroka, who supported Sanders during the primaries. “That’s not helpful for unity. When you resign, you resign.”

Sanders supporters also say Wasserman Schultz’s resignation should be only a starting point.

They say the Wikileaks scandal revealed deeply ingrained institutional problems within the national party that won’t be resolved overnight.

“My concern is that those leaks fundamentally undermine the integrity of the party,” said Jacob Limon, the Texas state director for Sanders’s campaign. 

“If you’re a Democratic candidate and you want to run for office, you’re assuming you’ll get a fair deal and that Democrats will facilitate even-handed elections,” he said. “If her resignation will start healing the Democratic Party, I’m all for it, but we still have to restore the integrity of the party.”

The hashtag #DNCleak was being used Sunday night by Sanders supporters to call for more changes at the DNC, including the removal of staffers. 

The Clinton and Sanders campaigns have been working for months to come to terms on an alliance that would embrace Sanders’s progressive priorities and encourage his fervent base of grassroots liberals and young voters to throw their support behind Clinton.

Before the email leak, there were signs of progress. Now the question is whether the latest episode will tear that band-aid off.

Sroka called Wasserman Schultz’s resignation the “first step in a long process.”

“This was the only acceptable response to those revelations,” he said. “It was helpful to demonstrate that the party understands the importance of bringing in 13 million folks who supported Bernie Sanders into the Democratic Party and will help bring the party closer to unity and to enthusiasm and the fight ahead.”

One Democratic strategist predicted that Wasserman Schultz’s resignation would help the party unify.  

“There will still be a little bit of messiness,” the strategist said. “But she might have been the greatest contribution to party unity in the end.”