Spin Cycle

03.18.13

Fire All The GOP Consultants?

That's the rage these days--but it's little more than scapegoating

As the Republican Party continues its orgy of finger-pointing, a new group is getting kicked around.

When the speakers at the CPAC gabfest weren’t taking obligatory shots at the media, many of them were training their fire on political consultants.

That’s right, it’s not bad candidates or lousy messages or alienating Hispanics. It’s the fault of the hired guns.

“Furlough the consultants,” Sarah Palin said.

There was even a panel called “Should We Shoot All the Consultants Now?”

So much for having a judge and jury.

As John Fund notes at National Review, Washington consultants and lobbyists are, according to onetime Jimmy Carter strategist Pat Caddell, “a self-serving, interlocked network of Beltway bandits for whom success in securing large fees trumps achieving political victories.”

I’m not going to form a Consultants’ Defense Fund, since these folks make plenty of money for advice that may or may not work, and for placing all those attack ads on TV. But I do feel obliged to point out the following:

It’s the candidates who hire the consultants, stupid.

And the candidates who pay them staggering sums.

And the candidates who choose to follow their counsel.

In a recent interview, Stuart Stevens, who was Mitt Romney’s chief strategist, said it was fine for people to blame him for the loss to Barack Obama. That was magnanimous of him, but what about Romney? No consultant told him to denigrate 47 percent of the country.

These days, of course, the onetime backroom operatives are celebrities, more likely to jump from campaign hackery to cable news punditry. Karl Rove, James Carville, Mary Matalin, David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs and on and on.

In fact, for a candidate trying to establish his seriousness and fundraising prowess early on, landing a big-name consultant is treated as a sign of success.

When a party has as bad a year as the GOP did in 2012, it’s human nature to look for scapegoats. And the consultants didn’t cover themselves with glory. But the ultimate responsibility lies with those who sign their paychecks.