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Bob Graham tells Florida delegates Debbie Wasserman Schultz ‘deserves our recognition’

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Cory Booker is one of the most dynamic speakers in American politics. But the appearance of soon-to-be-departing Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz at the Florida delegation breakfast at the Marriott in Philadelphia Monday was an impossible act to follow. Despite his passionate and funny delivery, the room was still abuzz over the massive disruption Wasserman Schultz had provoked in Bernie Sanders delegates in particular at the breakfast, angry with her for the perception she wasn’t playing fair in handling the Democratic presidential primary campaign with Hillary Clinton.

If Booker had a hard time breaking through, the rest of the scheduled speakers were also going to fall short in comparison on the excitement meter.

Bob Graham followed Booker, and a few minutes into his short address he gave a shout out of encouragement to the beleaguered Wasserman Schultz, who is engaged in a competitive primary election next month against FIU professor Tim Canova.

“I want to confess I’m a friend of Debbie Wasserman Schultz,” he said to cheers from the delegation audience, “since the time I first came to know her as a student at the University of Florida. I think she has served this party well for five years,” he said, referring to her role in helping Barack Obama get re-elected in 2012, and, he predicts, will contribute to getting Hillary Clinton over the top this fall.

“I think she deserves our recognition as Floridians who have provided that kind of leadership to America,” he concluded.

Of course, critics say she’s done more than simply help Clinton win the nomination fairly, but Graham quickly moved on from there.

The former Florida governor and U.S. senator also told the delegation it needed to come together quickly to make sure Donald Trump doesn’t get access to the nuclear codes. He brought a little historical perspective to the proceedings, referring to how John F. Kennedy did not have the necessary delegates to win the nomination when he came to Los Angeles in 1960 for the Democratic Convention.

Of course, Kennedy ultimately chose a man he some major differences with — Texas Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson — and the rest was history, as that ticket was able to knock out Richard Nixon in an extremely close general election.

“Those two men came together, and they led us to an unexpected victory in 1960. And what a difference it would have made if Richard Nixon was sitting on the nuclear button during the Cuban Missile Crisis and not Jack Kennedy,” Graham said. “That’s the kind of decisions that we’re going to be making” in this year’s election.

Graham also mentioned how he’d known Bill and Hillary Clinton since 1978, when both men were elected governor of their respective states (that would be Arkansas for Clinton, if you’ve forgotten). He said Hillary Clinton was a woman of “remarkable abilities,” and was an intelligent, kind and gentle person — and that he hopes that comes across this week at the convention.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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