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After Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Ouster, We Speak with Her DNC Replacement Mayor Rawlings-Blake

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In Philadelphia, the Democratic National Convention opened only one day after Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned following the release of nearly 20,000 emails revealing how the Democratic Party favored Hillary Clinton and worked behind the scenes to discredit and defeat Bernie Sanders. On Monday morning, protesters booed and heckled Wasserman Schultz at a Florida delegation breakfast. We speak about Wasserman and the DNC’s plans now with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who replaced Wasserman in gaveling open the convention.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to the convention now, to the Democratic convention. You gaveled in the Democratic National Convention—I want to go to that moment—replacing Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I hereby call the 47th quadrennial Democratic National Convention to order.

AMY GOODMAN: So, there you were in front of thousands of people. You were not the original person who was going to do this, but that morning, before her own delegation, the Florida delegation, when she was booed after the revelations of the weekend, the 20,000 emails that came out showing the DNC working to subvert the Bernie Sanders campaign—I don’t know if there’s another way to say it, talking about raising his religion, Judaism, and saying, “Well, is it worse to say he’s a Jew or an atheist?” that kind of thing. Debbie Wasserman Schultz—that weekend, Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned, though they said—the Clinton campaign said she absolutely was going to gavel in the convention. But by Monday, they felt the optics were too threatening to the whole convention, with people booing her, as they promised to do, and you were chosen to replace her. What was that moment like?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: When I was notified or when I did it? Which moment?

AMY GOODMAN: That moment when you got up on the stage. And how did you feel about the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and what the DNC did in taking sides in the presidential primary campaign?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I think it is clear that it was not the entire DNC, that it was members of the staff that exhibited behavior and actions that are inconsistent with the policies and practice of the DNC. As a national officer, I took a pledge of neutrality, and I honored that, and I took it very seriously. There’s no one that works for the DNC, the RNC, any independent political organization, that does not come to their desk every day without their own biases and their opinions about politics. That’s why you take those jobs. But as a professional, you’re required to leave your—your personal views at the door and do the work as an even-handed professional. And when it was very clear that that didn’t happen, the leadership of the DNC took action. And I think that what you saw was not—was a clear effort to be transparent and hold people accountable for what happened.

AMY GOODMAN: Was anyone fired for this?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: This is an ongoing investigation, so, you know—which started right at the beginning of the convention. So, no one was hired nor fired in the days subsequent to that announcement, because we’ve been in the midst of a convention.

AMY GOODMAN: Many were shocked that after all this was exposed, that President Clinton immediately said, with the resignation of Congressmember Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was head of the DNC—many said that—were shocked when Hillary Clinton said, “I’m hiring her immediately, and she’ll head my 50-state outreach,” and said said she’s a dear ,she’s a close friend, which confirmed what many people felt, is that she was extremely close to Hillary Clinton and was doing that very thing at the DNC.

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Again, there’s nobody that comes to that job without their own history, their own relationships, their own opinions. But what was very clear is that the actions of the employees were inconsistent with our policies and with our practices and what our—what we believe our moral obligation is to the party. And whatever decision that the Clinton campaign makes, that’s up to them. But as far as a Democratic officer, I took that pledge very seriously. I’ve been in positions—you know, the former governor of our state was a candidate for a bit of time. We run into each other all the time. We’ve been at events together. I remember specifically going to an event—

AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about Governor O’Malley?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Yes, Governor O’Malley. But I remember thinking that I was going to an event that was just a purely—like a social event, and finding out that it was a political event. And immediately, I was like, this—you know, I cannot participate. You know, I’ve known him since '95. My father—I was very influential in getting him elected, and my father was very influential in getting him elected in ’99. I have, you know, an affinity and a relationship, but I understand, as a national officer, I also have an obligation. That's what all of us have at the DNC. And that, that did not happen.

AMY GOODMAN: I meant to say candidate Hillary Clinton. But how do you think the convention is going?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Oh, it’s amazing. It’s a wonderful—it’s wonderfully produced. I think if you take a look at the—not just the presentations on the stage, but the representation that is in the arena, it is a reflection of the best in our country, unlike what we saw in the Republican convention, where, you know, finding a person of color was like playing “Where’s Waldo?” We have a very diverse group of people from, you know, every part of the country, every race, religion, socioeconomic background. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

AMY GOODMAN: I think there were more African Americans on the stage in the first opening choir than there were delegates in the entire Republican National Convention. I think the number was 18, fewer African-American delegates at the RNC than any time in a century. Finally, I wanted to ask you, Mayor, you announced in the midst of the uprising after the Freddie Gray killing that you would not be running again for mayor. Why not? And what your plans now?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: My plans aren’t public, because I’m very focused on the work of being mayor. And I made the decision because it was very clear to me during the midst of a campaign that was gearing up that I had a choice. I had a choice to uphold the pledge that I had to govern, or I could campaign. I didn’t take a pledge to campaign. I don’t—I’m a person that was raised to believe that public service includes making yourself vulnerable and includes significant sacrifice. And when I took the oath of office, it did not include a promise or a guarantee that I would campaign for another term. What I did commit to was doing the work of being the mayor. And when—you know, I got the same 24 hours in any day that anyone else did in the city, and when it was clear that I needed to focus on the Department of Justice patterns and practice investigation and making sure that we had in place meaningful police reform for our community, that we needed to—that I needed to make sure that the city remained calm and did do the work to ensure that the process of these trials from our end was peaceful and was calm and that we increased community engagement, that was the work that needed to be done. And when it was clear that I couldn’t do both, I made the choice to uphold the pledge that I took.

AMY GOODMAN: If you could change anything about what you did after the death of Freddie Gray, what would it be?

MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I don’t live in that world. You know, we live in a world that does not include hindsight, in a sense that you make the decisions that you make in the moment based on your experience, based on your preparation, based on the information that you have at hand. I don’t think that there’s anything productive about trying to pretend as if you make those decisions with hindsight at the time.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is the mayor of Baltimore and the secretary of the Democratic National Committee. She replaced Congressmember Debbie Wasserman Schultz in opening the Democratic convention.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the Pulitzer Prize-winning economist Joe Stiglitz joins us to talk about the policies of the Democrats and the Republicans. Stay with us.

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