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Debbie Dingell: Angst-ridden Superdelegate and Congressional Spouse

If angst of a superdelegate were a portrait, it would look just like Debbie Dingell, the wife of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Debbie Dingell
Debbie Dingell, Washington insider ... and superdelegate. (Scott Garfield for The Washington Post)

Dingell the superdelegate (the blonde one, not the bald one; they're both superdelegates) is losing sleep over the political mess she helped cause in her state by pushing for an early Democratic primary in defiance of national party rules.

"I probably haven't slept since Feb. 4th," says Dingell, vice chair of the General Motors Foundation, maybe only half-jokingly. "Because it does matter. I really care about the people of my state."

Dingell is scrambling to help find a solution so that her people, including hers truly, will have a voice at the Democratic National Committee's nominating convention this summer. When she and other Michigan Democratic insiders pushed so aggressively to buck the DNC's calendar, who knew the stakes would be so high, the race this close, this far beyond Super Tuesday?

"Nobody foresaw this," she says. Certainly not Barack Obama, who, unlike Hillary Rodham Clinton, followed the DNC rules and didn't campaign in Michigan or put his name on the ballot -- a choice made before anyone imagined he'd be the frontrunner after 11 consecutive primary victories.

"He never realized that he'd have support in Michigan," Dingell said, adding with a touch of an "I told you so" tone, "I did beg him to put his name back on the ballot." (Now Dingell is being pummeled by the NAACP and other groups furious that their support for Obama wasn't registered in Michigan.)

Fueling Dingell's angst is the fact that she and her husband are at odds.

Anyone who knows the Dingells knows they are as intertwined and inseparable as celebrity couple icons TomKat, Brangelina, Bennifer (I and II) and, of course, Billary. They are, for all intents and purposes, one person -- "Johbbie Dingell."

But Johbbie is split. John went with Hillary, Debbie stayed neutral in the primary race, refusing to endorse anyone. Usually, it's Congressman Dingell who's begging his socialite wife to keep her mouth shut. Now, perhaps for the first time ever, they're having a reversal of roles.

"I asked him if he would consider staying out of this and he said, 'I've gotta do what I've gotta do,'" the wife says.

She'll just have to work around him. As Dingell herself said on the voice mail greeting she recorded Wednesday morning on her office phone, in a raspy flu-like voice, "We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  February 27, 2008; 6:35 PM ET
 
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Comments

Maybe for once socialite Debbie Dingell should have followed her husband's advice and kept her mouth shut. I always wondered who the dumb fools were who helped move the date of the Michigan primary and now have deprived the voters of Michigan of a say in the nominating process.
Debbie Dingell definitely is a Washington insider. She is clueless to everything except her own perceived self importance.

Posted by: NewEra | February 27, 2008 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Maybe for once socialite Debbie Dingell should have followed her husband's advice and kept her mouth shut. I always wondered who the dumb fools were who helped move the date of the Michigan primary and now have deprived the voters of Michigan of a say in the nominating process.
Debbie Dingell definitely is a Washington insider. She is clueless to everything except her own perceived self importance.

Posted by: NewEra | February 27, 2008 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Hillary only got bent out of shape about Michigan and Florida AFTER Obama was beating her.

She needs to drop out and grow up.

Posted by: Michael | February 27, 2008 7:51 PM | Report abuse

ummm... and exactly WHY is she an appointed superdelegate?

and ummmm... WHY is she a co chair of the General Motors Foundation while hubby rides shotgun for big iron? It wouldnt be to shovel a few hundred thou to the bank, would it?

Posted by: Creepy | February 27, 2008 8:31 PM | Report abuse

I second Creepy. Instead of putting up this non-story on the blog, why not do some actual reporting and look into (1) why Dingell's wife if a superdelegate; and (2) the crazy conflicts of interest that must develop given her position and her husband's.

Posted by: dc | February 27, 2008 9:36 PM | Report abuse

If she were dead like Ann Richards, she'd have no problem supporting Hillary!

Posted by: tom | February 27, 2008 11:14 PM | Report abuse

If she were dead like Ann Richards, she'd have no problem about supporting Hillary!

Posted by: tom | February 27, 2008 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Obama supporters are THUGS that viciously attack anyone who is not "of the body"

Anyone who dares to question Obama's status as a "god" is personally attacked.

This is the real Obama.

Like Mao or Hitler, he has his youth brigade ready to stamp out any dissent.

Obama has created a dangerous "cult of personality"

They use all the standard cult techniques.

That is STALINISM, not Democracy.

Obama's supporters actions prove what kindn of people they really are.

Look beyond Obama's words.

Look at how he runs his campaign.

Look at the way his supporters on this board behave towards anyone with a different point of view!

Is this the "utopia" he speaks of in his rallies?

Or is it just another dictatorship?

Posted by: NoBamaForMe | February 27, 2008 11:55 PM | Report abuse

I haven't seen that from Obama supporters. I've seen a groundswell of positive support for change, gathered behind an articulate, experienced candidate, with 11 years of elective office under his belt.

Posted by: crd203 | February 28, 2008 12:16 AM | Report abuse

Sometime before Pennsylvania (yes, it will go that far regardless of Texas and Ohio; remember Hillary thinks America owes her), it will become apparent that the supers will not save Hillary. Whereupon her Waterloo will be an attempt to make her own rules re. Florida and Michigan. This is really going to get ugly--John Lewis did not even faze her.

Posted by: gmundenat | February 28, 2008 6:01 AM | Report abuse

To: NoBamaForMe:
You are being very silly and outrageous! If Mr. Obama was Hillary of some other Caucasian, you would not speak that of him. He has paid a price for where he is. His approach to people and situation is different from the other candidates. He is a people's person like Mr. Reagan was but better. This Mr. Obama has educated himself to one of the most highest position by studying and laboring for his dream and that is to serve this country. He is willing to put his ability to walk in the ways of the constitution of the united states to where the people can appreciate their country again. He is a christain and an american. It is so sad that americans can verbally destroy people that they refuse to accept because they are either not their party, social status, race, etc.. One thing I want to leave with ALL YOU BLOGGERS! God will have the last say and you had better be careful how you falsely JUDGE people according to your HATEFUL AND PREJUDICE WAYS. You have to PUT UP YOUR JUDGEMENTAL WAYS AND allow people to prove themselves. Every americans have a right to run for whatever position they feel they are qualified for and YOU do not have to vote for them BUT trying to destroy someone you do not know (FROM OTHERS CRITICISM)will put you in the JUDGEMENT OF GOD! Ecclessiates 5:2-3. This scripture will help us at all times. I am praying for you all!

Posted by: Loisp | February 28, 2008 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Get a grip Loisp, if god judges people for their political beliefs we are all in trouble. Especially those of you who voted for GW Bush.

Posted by: TM | February 28, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Another View -

If Michigan had just non chalantly gone along with everyone else, no one would much care about Michigan.

Now everyone is talking about Michigan and how important it might be to the nomination.

If it is close, there will be another primary in Michigan and Florida to settle it.

Then, Michigan and Florida will have counted more than anyone else.

Posted by: True Observer | February 28, 2008 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Debbie Dingell has been very active in the Democratic Party for 30 years, much longer than most of the posters here have been alive, that is why she is a Super-Delegate.

Posted by: Jim Aaron | February 28, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

The Super Delegates don't matter. Michigan and Florida don't matter. As long as it is an Obama/Clinton ticket or a Clinton/Obama ticket--a dream team of the highest order. The Republicans and the war enthusiasts are in total denial about the peoples concerns, needs and wishes and even though they will bring out every dirty carlrovian trick in their repertoire, a Clinton/Obama or an Obama/Clinton ticket will bring a 70-30 or 65-35 victory for the Democrats in November.
The Repubs just don't get it--especially conservative Repubs. Their own lack of vision, stubbornness and selfishness are responsible. The country is sick to death of them, their failed policies and their unscrupulous and immoral swiftboat tactics.
The people will not be fooled again.
The momentum toward a totally new direction is at hand and is overwhelming. Conservative Repubs, (although they will scramble and fight like hell), will be the last to GET IT!
They won't see the inside of the Whitehouse for a quarter century or more, or at least until they finally wake up, (if ever), and grasp the real priorities that are on the minds of everyday working Americans and their families.
It will be a momentous task, but Obama and Hillary will be ready and able on "day one" to take the reins and repair the incomprehensible and shameful damage the Bush administration has sown.
The Dream team will set proper and practical priorities in homeland security, the economy, healthcare, infrastructure, energy, Constitutional liberties and International diplomacy that will usher in a new era of accomplishment we can actually be proud of.
The future is now and the Repubs have missed the boat. Bush and Chaney will retire to their respective pastures to lick their wounds and contemplate their war crimes and won't be heard from again, except as caricatured representatives of incompetence, ignorance, betrayal and anachronistic thinking.
Hope, vision and competence is the future for America and finally we will have two, (not one), exceptionally gifted and decent leaders to guide us there.
Do you sense a little optimism here?
Well, let me tell you. It is more than that. It is our future and it cannot be stopped by small minded, angry, ultranationalist reactionaries, who call themselves conservatives.

Posted by: Jol | February 28, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

It seems as though there might be some justice in the world after all. It pleases me to discover that this power couple finds themselves marginalized by their own grab for power. Congressman Dingell has been one of the main obstacles to increasing CAFE standards and holding the automakers responsible for the impact their product has on our environment. The less influence he and his wife have on the nomination the better for all of us. The move by MI and FL was state party politics at its worst. I also take pleasure in the knowledge that this whole process has shed light on the inordinate amount of control that party insiders have on the political process. Its bad for the party and worse for the country. It is my hope that after this election cycle there will be reform in the DNC and the state parties. All the better if it sidelines Johbbie!

Posted by: Uberlefty | February 28, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Vice-Chairman of GM -- great job there, too, Ms. Dingell.

Posted by: karensky | February 28, 2008 5:28 PM | Report abuse

The Dingell Berries

Have NO business being super delegates

screw this system. This better be the last primary with superdelegates

Posted by: pissed | February 28, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

As a disenfranchised Michigan voter, I am hot about the way we have been treated. We still need to caucus while there is time.

Posted by: Mark Engle | February 28, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Jol --

Obama - Clinton shouldn't, and isn't, happening.

That's not a dream ticket. What's the bold plan -- Obama gets 8 years, then Hillary gets to run when she's 72?! Or is it that Obama's mission to change the culture of Washington and unite all Americans should be tethered to the wife of a former President, an 'insider' furiously hated by Republicans?

Furthermore, imagine the scenario: Obama as President, Hillary as VP... Bill as second spouse (?!). Can you not foresee the power dynamic problems? The 3-candidate campaign would itself be dizzying.

Or does Hillary help Obama's Plains-States, Southern States and mountain West appeal? (no) Or bolster his national defence credentials? (barely, far less than Wesley Clarke or any number of others)

Hillary-Obama would make some sense, Obama as presumed president-in-waiting, but barring a small miracle Hillary is not getting the nod.

Posted by: Miguel Pakalns | February 28, 2008 6:29 PM | Report abuse

As a MI resident and Democrat, I feel that Ms. Dingell and the elected Democratic officials should be feeling a great deal of angst re: the mess they made. I do not want the MI and FL delegates to determine the results of this election unless repeat primaries can be held and my vote can be counted.

Posted by: MIlady | February 28, 2008 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Debbie Dingell is all that is WRONG with the Democratic party - she is a manipulative, insider that thinks she has the system figured out in order to get her pals in positions of power. Well this time she screwed too many people out of their right to vote for their candidate and her inside track may be coming to a dead end.


Posted by: disenfranchised in Mi | February 28, 2008 7:55 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad to hear ms Dingell isn't sleeping. She doesn't deserve any. It was a freakin messed up thing to do to us Michiganders. I for one would not want to be voting that early even if we weren't being punished. There just isn't time to find out anything about the candidates. Might as well hand the state to the best known candidate, ie incumbent, every time...

The whole upper echelon of Michigan dems needs to go. Then we need to set our primary back where it was.

Posted by: KS Rose | February 28, 2008 8:22 PM | Report abuse

No one should be suprised at the Dingells, they are from Michigan. Look at the state one giant ball of corruption from Lansing (Granholm) to Detroit (Kilpatrick). The democrat party at it's best.

Posted by: klassy | February 28, 2008 9:08 PM | Report abuse

To "klassy" [misnomer there]--Michigan is no more corrupt than any other state in this country, so lay off. Sure, Detroit sucks, but what about Cincinatti or Saint Louis or Philadelphia or any other decaying industrial town?
The real tragedy of this whole thing isn't that Michigan moved up its primary [ultimately, who cares about the date for a primary?]. It's that the concerns of Michigan voters don't register with national politicians. This state has been ignored and ignored and ignored by national officials time and time again, all while our jobs are non-existent, our economy is tanking, our people are sinking into massive debt, and our lakes are drying up thanks to bottled water plants and irrigation ditches for Illinois and Iowa. And what do the Presidential candidates say? Richardson wants to steal our water so his constituents can have swimming pools, and Romney wants to bail out the Big 3 when it was the Big 3 who screwed over Michigan in the first place.
My advice to Michigan is to raise a middle finger to the rest of America and beg Ottawa to let us join Canada. Maybe then we'd get the respect we deserve--hell, we'd make up a third of Canada's population, so we'd better.

Posted by: Adam Mitts | February 28, 2008 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Miguel,
I think their personalities complement each other but equally important is the matter of drawing votes. With Obama/Hillary or Hillary/Obama, there is less of a chance that the disappointed side would turn to McCain or not vote because both sides would be pretty satisfied that their man or woman is involved, as the polls consistently demonstrate. The hard core misogynistic Hillary haters will remain Hillary haters no matter what. Who needs them? It is the women who will vote for Hillary as well as the women who don't particularly want her and have turned to Obama that will count the most. The misogynists, Bush devotees and racists will turn to the Republicans per usual so what would be lost except the ones who would go there anyhow. (I am not suggesting that McCain is a misogynist or racist any more than Farrakhan's endorsement makes Barack a racist.) I also see a moderate number of dissatisfied Republicans possibly turning to Obama. They don't talk about it much, but they are there. George Bush's policies and the Conservatives have pretty much shaken the foundation of the Republican party and that wing will cause them severe damage in the general election, not to mention the ones who won't vote at all. The Democratic turnout has dwarfed the Republican turnout in the primaries which I believe is symptomatic of their situation and won't change much in November. The Independents are likely to be evenly split between Obama and McCain.
As far as Bill goes they could shuttle him off as a good will ambassador or something of that sort. That is not to say that there won't be steamy debates and some thrashing and bashing over policy but is that so bad?
I believe that Wesley Clark would be wasted as VP but would make a fine Secretary of Defense.
If Hillary loses the nomination I don't see her running in 2016. By then, much will be different and who knows what brilliant woman might emerge. Maybe the little green lizard, Geico, will give it a shot.

Posted by: Jol | February 28, 2008 11:12 PM | Report abuse

An egregious misstatement was made in the newsprint version of this article.

In the fifth paragraph above, where Ms. Dingell claims that "Nobody foresaw this...", the writer adds "Certainly not Barack Obama, who, unlike Clinton, followed the DNC rules and didn't campaign in Michigan or put his name on the ballot." That's the accurate version.

But in print, it reads "... who, unlike Clinton, didn't even put his name on the Michigan ballot".

Hello! We need a correction in the print version. "Didn't EVEN put his name"? The inference is that Obama shrugged and said "We're not concerned about Michigan anyway".

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Obama's withdrawal from the Michigan and Florida ballots was an ethical sacrifice. We've known since the beginning of the year that this race would be a scramble for delegates. But this is fundamentally an issue of party discipline.

It's significant -- and ironic -- that "Old Dem" Hillary was the one to spurn party discipline, while "New Dem" Obama is the one obeying the DNC's rules even to his own detriment.

The language change in this blog version does correct this error of fact, but it also renders the paragraph essentially meaningless. The real story is that Obama followed the rules and Clinton ignored them. This has nothing to do with who "imagined they'd be the frontrunner" at that time, so the writer's point is irrelevant.

But the factual error in the print Post demands a printed correction in the Post.

Posted by: loco hussein moco | February 29, 2008 6:13 AM | Report abuse

Anyone But Hillary 2008
www.antonebuthillary2008.com

Posted by: Larry | March 3, 2008 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Barack Obama followed party rules,Hillary did not..I'm a 61 year old white man if that makes a difference to anyone.No way in HELL is Hillary and her gang highjacking Michigan delegates.Can't sleep at night ? I should hope not.....

Posted by: recall Jennifer G. | March 6, 2008 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Wonder whether MI super-dems will thumb their noses at the DNC for the 2012 presidential primary? I hope they've learned their lesson that voting early is not the only way to have more of an influence in the nomination process. Don't reward them or FL with a redo... delegates are free agents, and no one will be disenfranchised in Denver. Should be entertaining, to say the least.

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