Failing Upward, GOP Establishment Style

Beneath the radar, drowned out by Benghazi, a splashy murder trial, and an even splashier kidnapping, there was one of those inconsequential “inside baseball” career stories that is normally of interest only to a select few inside the nation’s ruling class. 

In this case, however, there are teachable moments well above and beyond the people involved. It was a tiny event, and yet, it explains so much about how and why Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, as well as how and why the GOP establishment so often does. 

A key Romney aide and spokesperson, who committed one of the biggest blunders of the entire 2012 Presidential Campaign, was recently hired by a big Obama supporter to handle communications for a liberal propaganda group. According to Politico:

Andrea Saul, the press secretary for Mitt Romney's 2012 Presidential campaign, has been hired by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg as communications director for Sandberg’s "Lean In" project, an organization "committed to offering women the ongoing inspiration and support to help them achieve their goals."

To refresh your memory, when the Obama campaign was pushing the dark fairy tale that Romney killed a woman--who had never worked for him--through the abominable Priorities USA “cancer ad,” it was Saul who responded with the embarrassing remark that “if (she) had been in Massachusetts under Governor Romney’s health care plan, they would have had health care.”

This was a "See, we can be good liberals too" type response typical of the campaign and only reinforced the meme that Romney was the godfather of ObamaCare. That Saul was totally oblivious to the fact that her statement would neuter the impact of ObamaCare on the election is astonishing, and speaks to her tone deafness regarding what should have been the major Republican issue of the entire campaign.

That Romney did not fire her on the spot speaks to the fact that this tone deafness and incompetence went right to the top of the campaign. Either that, or Mitt was so spooked by the so-called “binders full of women” comment and other assorted non-issues that he was afraid to fire a woman. There’s no excuse regardless. This was an utter failure on the part of the campaign. Saul’s resumé should have been jettisoned from the binder.

What is so frustrating is that any reasonable assessment of Saul’s career prior to the Romney Campaign would have foretold such a disastrous performance. As the Politico article states, she had worked for two of the most isolated and out of touch Republican campaigns in modern history: the recent spectacular failures of Charlie Crist and John McCain. She has also worked for Orrin Hatch and Carly Fiorina.

Prior to participating in those catastrophes, Saul graduated from a girls boarding school and then from liberal-leaning Vanderbilt. From there, she went on to short stints with NBC and a lobbying/PR firm in Washington before getting into campaign work. It isn't suprising that she would know nothing of the real world, having never spent any time in it. 

And she is not alone. Her path is very characteristic of those who now populate the nepotistic and incompetent world of the GOP consultant class. These creatures of Washington, D.C. very often move from academia straight to some job related to or in government and remain clueless to just how clueless they are about anything real and substantive. 

And why shouldn’t they be? Washington is booming. These cool kids orbit the D.C bubble and make easy money while dispensing with their absurd advice. They bounce from non-profits to media outlets to congressional staffs to think tanks to campaigns, and never pay a price for failure. In fact, their resumes swell, just as government does. And the RNC just can’t wait to pay them big bucks every even-year cycle.

You can bet Saul made good money in 2012 and will be easily employed in 2014. In fact, she may already have her gig lined up. And in the meantime, not being familiar with why conservatism works and liberalism fails, Saul will of course fit right in with Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” project. 

How perfect. Mitt’s worst advisor and spokesperson’s latest career move is to work on a project named after MSNBC’s latest positioning slogan. Welcome to the fail upward world of establishment consulting. And they think we are the problem. 

C. Edmund Wright is author of the recent book "WTF? How Karl Rove and the Establishment Lost Again."


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