A seasoned political consultant would tell senior advisers from a failed presidential campaign to say nothing about anything in public for several months. If the losing staffers do, they inevitably sound defensive and only irritate supporters of the defeated candidate who have managed to move on from the election.
Unfortunately, Mitt Romney’s senior adviser Stuart Stevens didn’t give himself that admonition. (It is noteworthy that Ed Gillespie, who tried to take charge of the campaign late in the game and did make huge strides in steadying the ship, has been silent. He has always been a class act.)
Stevens should have written himself a letter, but instead he penned an op-ed for The Post. Granted, it is loyal to his candidate. Unlike the sleazy McCain presidential campaign (whose aides didn’t even wait for the voting to start before dumping on their ticket), Stevens has nothing but good things to say about his candidate, doling out (warranted) praise for Romney’s debate performance and recognizing he did speak up for the free market. And he does a service to Romney in pointing out that the much-maligned candidate won every income group except those making less than $50,000 and also won younger, white voters. (It is a bit galling, however, for the consultant who was allergic to an idea-driven campaign to praise Romney’s boldness on entitlement reform and effort in “making the moral case” for capitalism.)
But Stevens fails in precisely the way in which the campaign failed: a refusal to acknowledge real and material incompetence by himself and others on the campaign. The piece stubbornly refuses to express regrets or apologies for a campaign that, as evidence has come forth, makes “The Perils of Pauline” look like the Rockettes.
The closest Stevens comes to admitting any responsibility for a campaign with grossly defective polling, weirdly ineffective ad buying and a get-out-the-vote operation that will forever give Orca whales a bad name is this: “In my world, the definition of the better campaign is the one that wins.”
Well, that tautology pretty much sums up the attitude during the campaign, in which “in his world” the press was at fault, Obama was at fault, conservatives were at fault, the other pollsters were at fault and foreign policy hawks were at fault but never the Boston team.
It would be fitting, and certainly less grating, if Stevens included some real acknowledgment that the narrow loss is, in large part, attributable to the errors (we now know) he and his fellow, well-paid advisers made. He writes as if the only thing he didn’t do right was have a winning campaign. Hardly.
Look, if understandably he still wants to keep charging large sums for his services and therefore not openly confess his mistakes, that is fine. But then don’t write a self-serving op-ed.