For the DNC, there can be no more important quality in the interim chair than fairness — actual and perceived — after Wasserman Schultz resigned, following WikiLeaks' release of hacked emails with evidence that party officials favored Hillary Clinton in her race against Sanders. While Wasserman Schultz was constantly accused by the Sanders campaign of harboring a pro-Clinton bias, Brazile, a regular presence on CNN during coverage of debates and state primaries, consistently provided impartial analysis.
If Democrats were looking for a leader with a proven ability to speak glowingly about their presumptive nominee without disparaging their runner-up, Brazile — a superdelegate who kept her preference to herself — was a logical pick.
"I met Hillary Clinton when I was a young lady working as an intern, and I can tell you she's been a progressive fighter all her life," Brazile said Feb. 3, between the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. "And Bernie Sanders, I got to know him during campaigns on Capitol Hill, campaigns across this country. These are two wonderful, fighting souls. And I would take Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders over any of the Republicans."
Before a debate in New York on April 14, CNN's Chris Cuomo asked, "Who do you think comes out on top tonight, Donna Brazile? Who do you think has the better debate? Give it to me quick."
"The Democratic Party," Brazile replied, refusing to take the bait.
On May 2, at a time when most political observers had written off Sanders, Wolf Blitzer asked Brazile whether the senator from Vermont still had a credible path to the Democratic nomination.
"It's tough," she answered. "It's really tough. But that doesn't mean that Bernie Sanders has to throw in the towel. He's going to compete for every delegate. He's going to compete for every vote."
Not until Clinton won the California primary on June 7 did Brazile concede publicly that Sanders was finished. Even then, she was highly complimentary.
I've maintained my neutrality, and that's very important to me as an officer, but I want to say how incredibly important his campaign, I think, has been this entire political season.I know when you have contested primaries, you often walk away and — but you know what? At the end of the day, if the family is able to come back together, become stronger, the issues that Bernie Sanders has raised — income inequality, a lack of college affordability, take on minimum [wage], take on criminal justice reform, climate change — these issues are at the heart of the Democratic Party.And I'm glad that his voice has been in the race. I'm glad that he has so many supporters.
The DNC email leak did include a message in which Brazile said she would hypothetically "cuss out the Sanders camp" if she were to share her view of the senator's efforts to place more supporters on convention committees. But the email also served as proof of Brazile's restraint. She had been asked her opinion for a story in The Washington Post, but Brazile informed fellow Democrats that she had "no intentions of touching this."
In another email, Brazile said she thought it was "stupid" for Sanders to endorse Wasserman Schultz's primary opponent in a Florida congressional race. There is a big difference, however, between disagreeing with a particular move by Sanders, as Brazile did, and actively working to undermine his campaign.
The DNC didn't need an interim chair with no opinions — everyone has them, after all. What it needed was someone with a reputation for keeping her opinions in check better than Wasserman Schultz did.
Brazile showed she can do just that over months of campaign coverage on CNN. And if Sanders supporters were watching, they may remember the many nice things she said about their candidate. (Or not.)