N.Y. Democratic Committeeman: ‘Trump Is George Wallace With Twitter’

The media mavens, moguls and boldface names spotted today at Michael's.

lunch at michaelsPolitics were on the menu at Michael’s today. In the wake of last night’s Democratic debate, we heard plenty of talk about the stark contrast between the tone of the Democratic showdown and the Republican smackdowns. “It’s heartening to know there’s still some civility among some politicians,” observed one media maven who watched the CNN broadcast hosted by Anderson Cooper (who seems to have garnered universal praise for keeping things moving). Another one quipped: “The best part of the whole thing was there was absolutely no sign, at least physically, of Donald Trump.”

I was excited to sit down with longtime Democratic boosters Joan Gelman and Robert Zimmerman to get their take on the debate. Both have successful, busy careers—Joan is a writer-producer who is currently working on a series of projects in Canada and Robert is co-founder and partner of Zimmerman/Edelson, a Long Island-based public relations/advertising firm specializing in national and international media relations, branding communications and crisis management. Yet he still somehow manages to devote an incredible amount of time and energy to volunteer on Democratic campaigns. “My focus is my firm, but I’ve always had a great passion for political activism and have been fortunate to have an advocacy role in the Democratic national agenda.” Robert will be traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire for the caucuses.

Diane Clehane and Ross Ellis
Robert Zimmerman, Diane Clehane and Joan Gelman

Joan has hosted several Democratic fundraisers, most recently a swanky shindig in the Hamptons for Anna Throne-Holst, who, if elected, would be Suffolk County’s first ever congresswoman. Robert is a Democratic National Committeeman from New York and an in-demand political commentator who can be regularly seen on all the cable networks as a passionate and articulate (not to mention incredibly well-dressed) spokesperson for his party.

Fresh off this morning’s appearance on MSNBC with Tamron Hall, Robert summed up last night’s debate this way: “It was a turning point for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. [The candidates] demonstrated a great contrast to the Republican debate that looked like an infomercial for anger management therapy. Hillary certainly articulated a message and an agenda that expanded her base and showed presidential stature.” We all agreed she made the right call by eschewing the clichéd red power suit for I-mean-business-black.

When I asked him about Bernie Sanders‘ comments that blew up Twitter, in which he remarked that the American people “are sick and tired of hearing about Hillary Clinton‘s damn emails.” Robert explained Sanders wasn’t giving her a pass. “That was a strategic play to elevate him. The Democratic party has no tolerance for Republican talking points.”

In addition to his spots on MSNBC and CNN, Robert will be sharing more of his insights during the campaign with regular appearances on Megyn Kelly‘s show on Fox News.

As for the other candidates’ performances, Joan observed: “[Martin] O’Malley is running for vice president and Sanders is the new Ralph Nader.”

When lunch arrived we digressed from all the political talk to dish on a whole host of off the record topics (Sorry!) and trade theater reviews. Fresh off her annual trip to London, where she always sees five plays in five days, Joan was raving about Imelda Staunton‘s performance as Mamma Rose in Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre. “She is absolutely amazing and is going win all the awards. She probably won’t do it here because (the producers) are only interested in movie stars.” Closer to home, Joan recommends seeing Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones in The Gin Game on Broadway. “They have to deliver all that dialog and put the right card down at the right time. It’s fabulous.”

By the time our plate of chocolate chip cookies arrived, the conversation had veered back to politics and I had to ask Robert what his thought were on Donald Trump‘s campaign. He had plenty to say. “There’s a big difference between getting hits on Twitter and getting votes and I don’t think Trump understands that.”