His name: Antonio Villaraigosa.
Like Eastwood arguing onstage with an empty chair at the GOP convention, Villaraigosa provided an unscripted moment that led to mockery and political trouble.
Specifically, the Democratic convention chairman messed up a political no-brainer: rewording the party platform to reinsert a reference to God and another concerning Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The language got in the platform.
But it took three chaotic voice votes, all called by a flat-footed Villaraigosa — the mayor of Los Angeles — who was caught grinning in confusion after a surprising number of Democratic delegates repeatedly shouted “No!” on the convention floor as TV cameras rolled.
Suddenly, a pro-forma vote that normally garners relatively little negative attention turned into drama. Lots of drama. It was satirized roundly on the liberal-leaning The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
A needless and unforced error, it was a gift to Republicans. Just as Eastwood’s performance allowed Democrats to try to cast the GOP as a party of angry old white guys, the Jerusalem issue allowed Republicans to try to cast the Democrats as too hostile to Israel.
Like his fellow Californian Eastwood, Villaraigosa refused to acknowledge any error. “Not one person objected. It’s more a media concern than a delegate concern. I can tell you this — the president of the United States said, ‘Wow.’ The president said, ‘You showed why you were speaker of the California Assembly,’” Villaraigosa later told The Los Angeles Times. “The president, the vice president, Mrs. Obama, all of them acknowledged the decisive way I handled that.”
Did the president say “Wow!” or “Wow?”
The way Villaraigosa managed the situation gives an indication of why California is so messed up. And if Obama thought he did a great job, it speaks volumes about Illinois and the Democratic Party in general — especially when it comes to handling Jewish voters.
At the least, the incident underscores the needless political risk the party took in omitting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.