Darryl Rouson should step down from leadership post before he’s taken down

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There is a wonderful scene in “The Late Shift”, the surprisingly interesting account of the power struggle between Jay Leno and David Letterman to succeed Johnny Carson as the “King of Late Night”, where Letterman is on the verge of accepting an offer from CBS to walk from NBC, but not before NBC comes in with an eleventh hour counter-offer.  

Letterman is excited that he’s finally going to be named host of The Tonight Show, until he starts hearing the details, at which point red flags start popping up all over. Even so, he’s still torn over passing up a second shot at a lifelong dream.

Enter Peter Lassally, his executive producer, who forces Letterman to confront the harsh reality of what’s going on around him. “David, you don’t understand … I’m the guy who moved heaven and earth to get you that second chance, and I’m telling you … it’s not right. It’s leftovers. It’s shoddy.”

As the entertainment world quickly found out, Letterman walked away from NBC, pride (mostly) intact.

Surveying what’s going on both behind-the-scenes and in public concerning Representative Darryl Rouson’s leadership of the House Democratic Caucus, it’s time for Rouson to pull a Letterman and step down as incoming House Democratic Leader. And he should do so before next week’s caucus meeting where, after a private filleting of Rouson, he will be publicly shamed by his colleagues.

Now, I am not the guy who moved heaven and earth for Darryl Rouson to get a second chance at public life — that would be Barry Edwards — but I was one of the “producers” of that show, whether it be directly working for Rouson’s campaigns or helping to manage his wife’s bid for the St. Petersburg City Council. And I’m telling you, Darryl … it’s not right. Being in charge of the House Democratic Caucus is leftovers. It’s shoddy.

Face it, at this point, Allison Tant and Co. are not going to let you have control of the checkbook, no matter how much money you raise for the party. Tant is not going to let you hire your own people, including and especially Edwards. 

Even if you remain leader, you’re the leader of what? The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight? 

In other words, Brother Darryl, you can have The Tonight Show … in a year … after NBC tries-out Jay Leno … in the 12:30 a.m. slot. 

If that’s what you want, then beg forgiveness next week and pray that Reps. Mike Clelland and David Richardson don’t have the votes to take you down. 

Or … you can keep what’s left of your pride, step aside “for the good of party unity” and find the Florida political version of CBS to walk towards.

Either way, what you are fighting for — to be leader of the House Democrats — is not the job you signed up for in the beginning.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.