CLEVELAND — To say the prop backfired would be underselling it.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz stood at a lectern in a cramped, fourth-floor conference room downtown on Monday morning, just as the Republican Convention was getting underway here. She wore a charcoal shift dress, sensible flats and a sense of superiority.
Below her microphone, attached to the wooden structure, was a sign of green and white. “BETTER THAN THIS,” it read, in a font that someone astutely remarked on Twitter looked very similar to the one used by LUSH, the vegan soap company.
“THIS” was underlined for emphasis.
The idea behind the message was that the American people can do better than Donald Trump, whose nomination as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate is the reason we’re all in town.
But in practice, it appeared that “THIS” was referring to the person standing behind the sign—Schultz—as well as the two Democratic lawmakers, former Ohio governor and current Senate candidateTed Strickland and Arizona congressman Ruben Gallego, who flanked her.
It felt like the politics equivalent of someone slapping a “DUNCE” sign on Schultz’s back, except she was orchestrating her own humiliation.
Trump could be dangerous or offensive or any of the other things that Schultz and the rest of her party believes he is, but if the DNC can’t even manage the optics at a press conference attended by a handful of reporters, good luck.
And the bad optics were just an addition to the other problem: a DNC diatribe against Trump sounds like a band of Midwestern preschool teachers railing against the vulgarities of Howard Stern.
Schultz promised the Democrats would be waging a counter-convention throughout the week, in an attempt to draw the contrast between their message and Trump’s. So far, the DNC has been remarkably bad at doing this. In all earnestness, they already nicknamed the guy “Dangerous Donald.”
On each reporter’s wooden chair, the DNC provided a faux newspaper, The Trump Times, full of articles about all of the things the soon-to-be GOP nominee has said and done that Democrats deem unacceptable, from promising to “bomb the shit out of ISIS” to running Trump University, which remains the subject of two class action lawsuits in California and a separate suit brought by the Attorney General in New York.
“America is better than the divisive and dangerous vision that Donald Trump is offering us,” Schultz said. “We’re here to tell you that what Donald Trump says about national security is, in fact, not believable at all.”
Tell us something we don’t know, Debbie.