How DNC Chair Tom Perez Can Be Trump's Sunday Show Nightmare

It’s time for Democrats to reset with a "Full Perez".
02/28/2017 08:03 am ET Updated Mar 01, 2017

By leveraging a little-known industry gimmick, the first Latino elected as DNC Chair could make TV history and send Donald Trump a message that Democrats are back.

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez speaking with supporters of Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally with U.S. Senator Tim Kaine a
Photo by Gage Skidmore
Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez speaking with supporters of Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally with U.S. Senator Tim Kaine at the Maryvale Community Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Licensed Creative Common by Gage Skidmore.

Last Sunday, the day after he made history as the first Latino elected to serve as the Democratic Party’s top boss, Tom Perez took to the Sunday shows, appearing on State of the Union with Jake Tapper on CNN...

... and Meet the Press with Chuck Todd on NBC.

... and This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC News.

It was a fantastic showing, an epic foreshadowing of the spotlight Perez will be under from here on out as chair of the Democratic National Committee.

As a Hispanic, I couldn’t be prouder to see Tom Perez as the party’s top boss. Along with Vice Chair Maria Elena Durazo and Finance Chair Henry Muñoz, I’m confident that Hispanic and immigrant perspectives will be at the table as never before in the Democratic Party. As DNC’s former media booker, however, I think Tom can do even better in coming weeks.

For example, while it was epic to watch Tom on three top Sunday shows, how great would it have been to watch him sit for a Full Ginsberg, as Paul Ryan did when he became Speaker of the House in 2015? Or even a Full Rubio? Or better yet still, a historic Full Perez.

What is a ‘FULL GINSBURG’?

To understand the power move I’m about to suggest, you must first understand the terminology at play. For this, we have to go way back to Sunday, February 1, 1998, the day Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer, William H. Ginsburg, became the first person to complete what forever became known in TV booking lore as a ‘Full Ginsburg’.

To book a Full Ginsberg means to arrange for a single guest to appear on the five major Sunday politics show, all on the same Sunday. These five shows are:

  • Meet the Press with Chuck Todd on NBC
  • State of the Union with Jake Tapper on CNN
  • This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC
  • Face the Nation with John Dickerson on CBS
  • Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace on FNC

The Ginsburg is reserved for red-hot operators of American political media to prove themselves on the national stage, while at the same time setting the workweek tone in Washington politics. To even be considered for all five shows requires a very specific guest, basically someone who is a national news story or very closely associated with one, as in the case of the original Ginsburg (and frankly was the case for Tom Perez last weekend).

Beyond some outstanding broadcast folks... [Democrats have] offered few new faces... This has to change or the party’s messaging machine will never break through the noise.

The Ginsburg also needs a guest unafraid of embarking on one of TV’s toughest broadcast gauntlets. None of the Sunday show hosts got there by being easy on guests. These are five hard interviews aimed at wringing as much news as possible out of each and every one-on-one interview segment each newsworthy guest. These one-on-one interviews are often then analyzed in the same show by panels of the Beltway’s top reporters so that very little said (or left unsaid) escapes rigorous scrutiny.

The Ginsburg is so grueling that it became the gold standard for political TV booking for the better part of two decades until 2013, when a handsome, young Republican Senator from Florida stepped up to the plate and booked history’s first ‘Full Rubio’.

What is a ‘FULL RUBIO?

The day was Sunday, March 14, 2013, when Marco Rubio made television history by being the first Hispanic to sit for a Full Ginsberg. Rubio also sat for interviews on the two top Spanish-language Sunday politics shows, making his Sunday interview total seven. The top two Sunday shows in Spanish-language political TV are:

  • Al Punto with Jorge Ramos on Univision
  • Enfoque with Jose Diaz-Balart on Telemundo

As the most bilingual political star of a generation, Marco Rubio rolled through the seven Sunday show interviews— five interviews in English, plus two in Spanish; all in a single Sunday—to hype the comprehensive immigration reform package he was working on as part of the bipartisan “Gang of 8”. The feat became known as a Full Rubio.

The maneuver removed all doubt that the freshman, Cuban-American Senator from the Sunshine State had arrived as a national political star for the GOP. Barely three years later, Rubio who still holds the lifetime record for most Full Ginsburgs (3) and the only Full Rubio, but I know Tom can give him a run for his money.

What could a ‘FULL PEREZ’ be?

In a word: Historic.

Consider: Tom Perez has the interview chops for a Full Rubio. I saw it myself last March at the Univision/Washington Post debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. In sweltering mid-summer night heat in southern Florida, I saw Tom eagerly do over a dozen interviews, one right after another, with English and Spanish outlets camped on media row outside of the debate venue at Miami Dade College.

Here we are after his segments were over and every camera crew had walked away satisfied that they’d gotten the soundbites they needed from a top bilingual Democrat:

Tom & Pablo in Miami, 2016
Tom & Pablo in Miami, 2016

Given that Perez is bilingual, a Full Rubio is well within his capability. A Full Perez, however, would need to (at least) one-up a Full Rubio with eight top Sunday show interviews on a single Sunday. So to review, booking a Full Rubio means sitting for seven grueling politics interviews on the following top political shows:

  • Meet the Press with Chuck Todd on NBC
  • State of the Union with Jake Tapper on CNN
  • This Week with George Stephanopoulos on ABC
  • Face the Nation with John Dickerson on CBS
  • Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace on Fox
  • Al Punto with Jorge Ramos on Univision
  • Enfoque with José Díaz-Balart on Telemundo

The good news for Tom Perez and the DNC is that since the historic Sunday in 2013 when Marco completed history’s first and only Full Rubio, a new show launched on the Fox News Channel that has been rising on Sunday programming market ever since.

Launched in 2014, Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo is hard-hitting, entertaining, and sincere. It is also, to my knowledge, the only top Sunday show on major cable or network TV that is anchored by a woman. If Tom Perez sat for a Full Rubio plus Sunday Morning Futures, all on the same Sunday, he’d make history. And by history, I mean a few good media bloggers who appreciate the Ginsburg’s novelty would write it up and someone would eventually edit a line or two about it into Wikipedia. Democrats will have raised the top bar for excellence in political TV booking from the Full Rubio to Full Perez, sure, but there’s even more at stake here than concretizing Tom’s national profile as the DNC chair for the Resistance Era demands, or stoking vanity of fist bumps among industry insiders.

Beyond Vanity, Why is a ‘FULL PEREZ’ Important?

First, unless they read this blog, a Full Perez would surely catch Republicans by surprise right where Trump is most-dominant, broadcasting on American political airwaves. Given the relative absence of on-air Democrats in the months since the election, it’s not unreasonable to assume the opposition would never see a Full Perez coming.

Second, since Trump himself will probably be watching, the Full Perez is Tom’s time to get in the President’s head, at least for an entire Sunday. After a Full Perez, our TV-obsessed president would be unable to glance at virtually any political show in America without seeing Tom on the attack. Coverage of the Sunday show interviews would spill over into Monday’s media cycle, as Tom’s interviews were chopped up and rebroadcast for punditry on both sides to dissect. For once Democrats, not Trump, would earn political America’s attention span long enough to deploy our messages and maybe even proactively win a day’s media cycle, rather than just sitting around waiting for Trump and his team to implode on their own lies and gibberish. This passive approach hasn’t worked so far. It’s time for Democrats to reset with a Full Perez.

Given the relative absence of on-air Democrats in the months since the election, it’s not unreasonable to assume the opposition would never see a Full Perez coming.

Remember that our new President is obsessed with television. Where Obama won two presidential elections, in large part, by pioneering new ways to leverage the Internet, Trump launched his campaign by leveraging daily TV spectacle to keep himself at the center of the national coverage of both news and entertainment. As ongoing national coverage of anger and spectacle tend to filter down to repetitive, local blowhards on regional airwaves, so too did Trump’s message of hatred and fear throughout the campaign.

In the two years since Trump launched his campaign, not much has changed. He still dominates all coverage of American politics the same way, but from the White House where his administration has a growing army of nationally recognizable television spokespersons (think: Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, Stephen Miller, Omarosa, and so on), as well as unofficial defenders on the airwaves (think: Katrina Pierson, David Wohl, Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany and so on). Trump has offered audiences fresh new faces to defend and serve audiences the angry, bitter, daily messages of the loudest blowhard on earth, President Trump himself.

As Democrats, we’re really far behind. Beyond some outstanding broadcast folks I’ll mention in future posts (think: Symone Sanders on CNN), we’ve offered few new faces and certainly no comparable household names in our TV arsenal. This has to change or the party’s messaging machine will never break through the noise. To this end, Democrats need to think big, be unpredictable, and attack hard with new people. Booking Tom for a historic Full Perez would accomplish this. It would also send just the right message with the party needs it most, that Democrats are finally back on the national political stage.

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