Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has spent her time at the Democratic National Convention here much the same way she has since becoming chair of the party last year: With a spirited defense of President Barack Obama, sharp barbs aimed at Republicans and a splash or two of controversy along the way, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.
Appearing before the Florida delegation’s breakfast Wednesday, Wasserman Schultz was hailed as a home-state success story. She drew a hearty applause when she took the platform; delegates later stood near the stage to get better pictures of her with mobile devices or posed with her outside the ballroom where the breakfast was held. And for her part, Schultz returned the praise.
“Thank you so much for lifting me up, for having my back, for being there for me every step of the way,” she said. “And it just makes me so proud to have been asked by President Obama to watch his back and help bring him across the finish line and be a Florida girl … representing our state and being the political voice of our president and our party.”
And she played to type, ripping the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week as a “special interest-funded” confab complete with “backroom deals” and “smoke-filled rooms.” She raised the stakes on the election while acknowledging that party officials often do.
“This one really is the most important election of our lives,” she said.
And she took questions afterwards on a pair of controversies related to a topic on which the South Florida congresswoman is a valuable surrogate for Obama: Israel.
Wasserman Schultz brushed away criticisms of the party platform by Republicans for omitting a statement that the contested city of Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. (The website Buzzfeed reported that the GOP deleted a similar statement from its party document, adopted last week.) Schultz said the Democratic platform clearly endorsed the United States’ role as a close ally of the Jewish state and that it ruled out allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.
“It’s words and deeds that matter, and our platform reflects in word and deed President Obama and Democrats’ commitment to a strong U.S.-Israel relationship,” she said.
But Wasserman Schultz also faced questions about a back-and-forth between her and the Washington Examiner, a conservative newspaper that posted online a report in which she seemed to suggest that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren said Republicans were endangering Israel.
“I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel,” Wasserman Schultz said, according a recording of the remarks later posted on the Examiner’s site. “They’re undermining Israel’s security by suggesting that the United States and Israel don’t have anything other than a unique and close and special relationship.”
The original story quoted the first sentence, then included some of the context several paragraphs later. Wasserman Schultz originally denied saying it. She later said the effect was to distort her remarks to suggest a frontal assault on Republicans that Oren had by then denied.
“They ripped one line out of what I said and left the rest [out], so it appeared as though I was saying something that I wasn’t,” Schultz told reporters. “In fact, that line is the opposite of what I always say, which is — and I will say again — is that it is dangerous to turn Israel into a political football as the Republicans are trying to do.”
But Karen Harrington, a long-shot Republican candidate opposing Wasserman Schultz in the general election for a second time, slammed the comments in a statement issued by her campaign Wednesday morning.
“This desperate attempt to demonize Republicans by telling an intolerable lie is shameful and utterly reprehensible,” Harrington said. “This is just another example of why Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz and her extremist ideology must be defeated this November.”