Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008 | 2:01 a.m.
If you want some insight into how the Clark County Democratic Convention descended into something akin to an Arsenal-Manchester United soccer match, consider a memo written 10 days before the Bally’s tragicomedy.
I am printing the missive, unedited, from convention Chairman Bill Stanley to county party Executive Director Peggy Maze Johnson because it is so illuminating, because it so presages the chaos that followed:
“As Chairmen of the 2008 Clark County Democratic Convention, I am directing you to decease in all activities relating to the convention except those activities in which Chairmen Hunt has assigned specifically to you, namely co-chair of the Convention Programs. You have no other responsibilities to the convention.
“You shall not be involved in any other committee in any capacity, including recruiting or assigning individuals to work on any standing committee. You have never been appointed any spokesman position for the convention and I am insisting that any inquires regarding the convention that you may receive be forwarded to my office.
“Further, do to your disruptive nature, your presence will no longer be needed during the planning sessions that are currently scheduled are that may be scheduled.”
I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. The executive director of the state party that is, the lead, paid staffer is cut out of the convention by the guy handpicked by the chairman, John Hunt, to run the show.
What a dysfunctional nuthouse that county party is and thus, what a dysfunctional nuthouse Bally’s was on Saturday. It does not matter if Maze Johnson, the ex-Citizen Alert boss and lifetime organizer, is as “disruptive” as Stanley says she is and does anyone think she could have made Saturday’s debacle any worse?
This was a prescription for disaster and it was filled Saturday when the Hunt-Stanley team delivered the biggest embarrassment to a political party since I started covering politics in 1986.
Imagine a private-sector analogue: This is tantamount to the chairman of a company telling the chief executive to stay out of all preparations for the annual meeting. Anyone want to buy some of that stock?
This is not just a case of the left hand’s not knowing what the far-left hand is doing. If only this had something to do with Obama vs. Clinton, or universal health care vs. almost-universal health care, or Iraq war authorization vs. Iraq war opposition.
This is about what political parties at this level have been about for much too long not about Roe vs. Wade or Brown vs. Board of Education, but about Stanley vs. Maze Johnson. This is why candidates and elected officials try to stay away from political parties. They are populated by too many has-beens, wannabes and never-wases. They are prototypical amateurs who generally have no idea what they are doing, but what they are doing is almost sure to be unproductive.
Hunt and his team knew the convention hall at Bally’s would not hold the delegates, yet they refused to postpone the event until a larger venue could be found. Hunt and his team knew that the Obama campaign was suspicious of them because they were seen as helping the Clinton campaign, but still they behaved like exclusionary high schoolers in the cool clique. And Hunt and his team, in the aftermath of their excruciating incompetence, now are trying to blame the campaigns, especially the Obama folks, for a cataclysm of their own making.
At least, Maze Johnson must be thinking today, they can’t blame her.
This kind of petty bickering and personality conflicts has been going on inside party organizations since adults began behaving like children. But never before has this occurred here with so much at stake, with Nevada on the national stage and with a presidential race in the balance. Remember that national operatives from both Democratic campaigns were in that ballroom when Hunt declared “It’s all good” as all was going bad.
I spoke to a Republican group Wednesday afternoon and the first question was a gleeful call for me to recount just what happened Saturday. I did, and the audience’s smiles kept getting broader.
My guess is the Republicans are smiling a lot since Saturday. Which raises one more private-sector analogy: What would happen to a chairman of a company and his team if the stock were soaring on Jan. 19 and then crashed on Feb. 23?