Politico tries to figure out why a political operative would commit career suicide. The subject is Steve Schmidt, who seems to be willing to trade any chance to work on a future presidential campaign (perhaps any prominent GOP campaign) for the opportunity to bash the former vice-presidential candidate whom he helped select. He’s been on a tear, even before the campaign ended, to berate and insult Sarah Palin. His behavior is all the stranger because she, of course, happens to be, while a lightning rod outside the party, quite popular within it. This makes his attack on her the equivalent of a “Don’t Hire Me!” sign. And then there’s the crassness, the disloyalty, and the sheer lowness of savaging someone with whom you served as a campaign adviser. So why do it?
Paul Begala is all for it: “He played a real role in putting Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency. I wonder if he feels bad about it.”
But then, Clintonistas aren’t known for loyalty, so it probably doesn’t strike any discordant tone that Schmidt would go after his former client. Still, Begala has a point (by way of Palin-bashing): if we believe Schmidt that Palin was such a horrible choice, then he’s a horrible campaign strategist and should not have aided and abetted John McCain in selecting her.
John Ziegler comes back to the inevitable result of Schmidt’s vendetta: “Why would anyone hire Steve Schmidt? He’s tried to torpedo the most popular Republican that there is after running a horrendous presidential campaign.” Well, yes. But maybe Schmidt just can’t help himself. He was the man, after all, who practically burst into flames when — heaven forbid! — the New York Times treated his candidate harshly. He doesn’t seem like someone who knows when he’s being counterproductive or when to curb his anger. Or maybe he’s following the Scott McClellan route, as Ziegler suggests: “I think he’s trying to create a media career, and there is no easier way to do that then by being a Republican who is willing to bash other Republicans.”
Whatever the reason, it’s a reminder that bad campaign advisers can make problematic candidates worse. And a really rotten one will haunt you for years to come.