Campaign Insider Book Argues Mitt Romney Lost Because Of Benghazi

New book presents the least convincing case for Romney loss: Benghazi

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Bad Day on the Romney Campaign

“No single mistake cost Mitt Romney the presidency,” former Romney advisor Gabriel Schoenfeld writes in the opening page of a tell-all book centered on one mistake on a single day in the 2012 campaign: The Republican’s hasty and flawed reaction to the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.

But Schoenfeld argues nonetheless that Romney’s inability to respond cogently to the Benghazi attack was a key component of his defeat. “A man celebrated for his management prowess delegated an immense mount of decision-making power to individuals who failed to carry out successfully that and other basic functions,” writes Schoenfeld, who held the title of senior adviser on the campaign. The author substantiates his critique with a biting assault on Romney’s campaign team, especially campaign guru Stuart Stevens and especially policy director Lanhee Chen.

“Chen was no Henry Kissinger.” Schoenfeld writes, noting that the policy director preferred to be referred to with the honorific of “doctor.” “Indeed, he had once self-deprecatingly boasted in a meeting that he could not find Finland on a map,” Schoenfeld adds. Stevens, he continues, was controlling about cosmetic issues like how to distribute the campaign’s major policy book—bound or on digital USB sticks—but wasn’t concerned by its contents.

Despite his campaign title, Schoenfeld worked mostly outside the candidate’s inner circle. Reporters who covered the Romney campaign publicly wondered who the author was after news broke of his 74-page eBook, A Bad Day On The Romney Campaign: An Insider’s Account.

Much of the book involves the a behind-the-scenes narrative of the Romney campaign on September 11, 2012, when the Cairo embassy came under attack and four Americans were killed in Benghazi. Chen, Stevens and Richard Williamson, a former Bush and Reagan foreign policy official who Schoenfeld writes was a “doer not a thinker,” authored a statement, which was never circulated to foreign policy experts who would have spotted its errors.

The statement got major facts wrong, and used a national tragedy, the death of the Libyan ambassador and two other citizens, as a launching point for a tangential political attack. Pointing to a disavowed U.S. embassy statement from Cairo, which condemned an offensive video that had inflamed regional tensions, Romney blamed the Obama administration for “sympathizing with those who waged the attacks” as Americans were being killed in Benghazi. “The Romney campaign’s statement of September 11, 2012 had left the candidate naked, embarrassed, and disarmed,” Schoenfeld writes. He notes that Romney “dressed down his top advisers” on September 12th following the botched statement.

Other former Romney aides say the premise of the book is flawed. “It’s eight months after the attack and the whole Republican world has been banging on Benghazi trying to capture the imagination,” responded one senior Romney aide, who asked for anonymity. “How’s that working? You can’t make the campaign about something people don’t want the campaign to be about.”

Romney’s inexperience in foreign policy required a seasoned foreign policy hand with him at all times to prevent mistakes, Schoenfeld writes. Instead, it was usually just Chen on the plane coordinating with a host of formal and informal aides and advisers.

At the moment of the Benghazi fumble, Schoenfeld was no longer among those advisers. He joined the Romney operation in 2011 at the behest of Stevens and Chen with the intent on being moved into the chief speechwriter role. Well before the Republican convention, he was “burned through” he writes, and was replaced as a speechwriter by April of 2012. He later worked out of the first floor of Romney headquarters writing op-eds and other copy for the communications department—well away from the discussions that took place on the third floor or on the campaign plane. After the convention, Schoenfeld was one of the Romney aides rewarded with $50,000 bonuses for winning the nomination, money guaranteed to him in his contract with the campaign.

When Richard Grenell, the openly gay former spokesman for the US Mission to the UN, resigned his post as Romney’s foreign policy spokesman due to criticism from the media and social conservatives, Schoenfeld wanted the post — a way back into the inner circle — but was rebuffed, he writes. “After Grenell fell under the bus, I sought to move into the empty position, believing that the campaign sorely needed an experienced hand in this area. I found my way blocked by Chen, so I turned to Stevens for assistance, but he was disinclined to help,” he writes in a footnote.

The author traces a history of foreign policy dustups, including another premature Romney statement in April 2012 about U.S. assistance to Chinese human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng, his comments questioning security at the London Olympics, and his assertion that Palestinian culture was responsible for lesser economic progress.

After winning the first debate, Schoenfeld blames Benghazi for Romney failing to rise to occasion in the final two, causing him to stall out weeks before Election Day. In the town hall debate where Romney was corrected by CNN’s Candy Crowley for asserting that Obama did not call the attack an act of terror from the start, he writes that Romney was focusing on the less important issue and not on the security and intelligence failures at the consulate. In the third debate focused on foreign policy, Schoenfeld takes the candidate to task for his “insipid” and timid response to the opening question about Benghazi, blaming the flawed statement on September 11 for scaring him off the issue.

“A central lesson from this chain of folly, almost too obvious to state, is that foreign policy matters,” Schoenfeld writes. “It was a strategic mistake—political malpractice—on the part of Romney and his lieutenants to try to downplay its significance, and action they took early on the basis of an almost mechanical interpretation of poll data and the belief that President Obama possessed too many advantages in that area.”

Voters of all stripes gave Obama high marks on foreign policy following the killing of Osama bin Laden. Obama’s get-out-the-vote operation was superior, his messaging—particularly on social issues immigration reform — mobilized a youth army and gave him a record victory among minority voters. Romney’s singular focus on the economy may have been misguided, but Schoenfeld can’t substantiate the claim that a stronger focus on foreign policy or Benghazi would have won the day.

As another senior Romney aide said, after requesting anonymity, “[Of the] million reasons why we lost, this is just not one on my list.”

“Obama turned out to be not as unpopular as we thought it was, the economy wasn’t as bad,” the aide continued. “There were unseen demographic changes under our feet. A candidate who would have been a great president but wasn’t the greatest retail politician. They had five years to build a machine, which we started building in May after we stumbled out of the primaries. Foreign policy just didn’t matter.”

Schoenfeld writes that he “decided to decided to subordinate discretion and friendship—undoubtedly, in some cases, to sacrifice friendship—to provide an account of what happened that is as accurate and incisive as I can make it.”

The ebook, which was given to TIME by the publisher, is scheduled to go on sale May 14.

UPDATE 3:38 pm: After publication, deputy campaign manager Katie Packer Gage emailed to say “the notion that Gabe was a “senior advisor” to Mitt Romney is ridiculous.”

“If he had any specific expertise it was so overshadowed by his inability to work with people that it made it impossible to utilize him,” she added.

UPDATE 6:30 pm: Schoenfeld writes that he was indeed a senior adviser on the campaign and forwarded his pay-stub to prove it. It lists him as a “senior adviser/writer” in the communications department.

Unfortunately, the statement provided to you by Romney deputy campaign manager Katie Packer Gage was incorrect. She said “the notion that Gabe was a ‘senior advisor’ to Mitt Romney is ridiculous.”

The fact that the deputy campaign manager has stooped to misrepresenting the very job title the campaign gave me—“senior adviser”—a title they put on their own employment documents, shows just how desperate some are to hide the truth.

Correction: A prior version of this post misquoted Schoenfeld that he had been “burnt out” as a speechwriter. He wrote he was “burned through.”

34 comments
ArmandWinter
ArmandWinter

Mitt lost because of Clinton's speech at the DNC... all the Republicans had was Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair.

MADinNM
MADinNM

Or maybe 47% of America couldn't identify with him

alexvallas6
alexvallas6

You have got to be kidding.   The list would be too long to give the reasons why Romney lost.  Benghazi is probably way down in the list. 

AfGuy
AfGuy

What?? 

And here I thought it was because he came across on more than one occasion during the campaign as a horse's a** and world-class pr*ck...

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

This is the funniest thing I have read today. Romney lost because he was an unlikeable candidate who was a poor manager, especially in the area of IT and polling, which is where the Obama campaign pulled out the win. The Republicans threw a ton of money at the problem, and tried to launch a new software system that was untested, and whose potential users were untrained on the eve of the campaign.

gysgt213
gysgt213

An insider account by someone who worked outside the inner circle?  And despite the bungle I don't buy that any voters were thinking of  Benghazi in any significant way when they went to vote.

SharonK
SharonK

Yet... Romney was correct. It WAS a terrorist attack. The admin blamed as the 'proximate cause' a video, which we know wasn't the case. Media backed the admin, excoriated Romney. PS- this consultant to Romney is the one who was lousy.

Romney might not have been the best President, but I'd have much preferred he won. He didn't and we move on. However, it would be pleasant if for once, the truth of this situation was actually reported.

Styve1
Styve1

Amazing carelessness in the editing of this piece.  

Almost seems fitting given the subject matter, but do we really need "sens-urround" effects to appreciate that Romney is/was and empty vessel, and an idiot, surrounded by idiots, to boot?!

Styve

AZWI
AZWI

Romney lost because of himself and John McCain. Romney got himself caught in too many lies. and he had the biggest warmonger in the country campaigning for him. spreading his war thirty and war hungry views. People were afraid too if Romney had won he's appoint warmonger McCain Sec of Defense or Sec of State in either office McCain wasn't qualified and has too much of a lush for wars. 

grape_crush
grape_crush

The whole Romney campaign was a comedy of errors. Willard's botched Benghazi statement was just one of his many Fails.

brendoneash
brendoneash

OK so let me get this straight?  Mitt Romney criticizes the handling of the Benghazi TERROR ATTACK, and based on the testimonies of the people "whistleblowing" the whole thing he is right; and this moron says he was flawed?  He was the only one who was right.  The morons out there who voted for Obama and take everything he says at face value are the ones who were wrong.  Romney was not flawed in his interpretation of the attack.  He acted as a PRESIDENT should.  Obama is and always will be a coward.  This is why community organizers do not get real jobs.  They crumble under pressure. 

cuchulain999
cuchulain999

It should be astounding, but it's not, that someone in Romney's campaign could still be so wrong at such a late date.  Benghazi was never a major issue to anyone but the Right.  To think that someone would think this was THE major failure is revealing of how the Romney people could continue to believe in demonstrably wrong 'facts' despite all the evidence; much like their belief in their 'lead' in the race right until election night.

CindyBP
CindyBP

Well, once again TIME demonstrates while they are nearly bankrupt.

EricaMathis
EricaMathis

97% of the public and 94% of voters had/have no clue what a Benghazi is. It played NO part in the election. This book peddler is giving the plebs WAY too much credit. Extreme political ignorance it the norm.

drudown
drudown

It is rather telling that 99.9% of the most vocal GOP critics of Benghazi seem utterly disinterested in the two most important superseding considerations: (1) bringing the people that perpetrated the murders to justice and (2) ensuring that our official response does not induce "copycat" attacks on US Embassies. 

Then again, that is the worst part of the Rovian Era of partisan politics. What the special interests want is a partisan distraction so the GOP can advance economic, fiscal and diplomatic policies against the People's pecuniary interests.

Tell me, if the GOP members of Congress spent as much time making our borders were safe, that immigration laws were enforced and that consumers were ingesting safe goods/potable water...the US would be a better place. 

"Wrong must not win on technicalities." - the Eumenides

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

Romney lost because Obama won.

Simple.  The majority saw through Willard and that little twerp VP candidate.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

I'm surprised the finger pointing took this long.

A "74-page eBook"may not be the most serious way to make your case but first is first. And heck the man will need a job in 3 years, best to establish the blame now.

sacredh
sacredh

Romney lost because he couldn't stop being Mitt Romney. He had to say and do things to placate the Tea Party so that could win the primary battle and that only highlighted the fact that Mitt was a man who would say and do anything.

DREGstudios
DREGstudios

The true shame in the Far Right’s obsession with this tragedy is the effect on the families of the victims.  This entire process is being instrumented as a ruse to attempt to shame Hillary Clinton and our President.  Our Republican Congressmen spend their days trying to Bamboozle Obama instead of doing what they are paid for by representing their constituents.  See what kind of job they’ve done applying the blackface to the POTUS at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/10/bamboozling-obama.html  Their hands are sticking to this tar baby as the public is becoming increasing impatient with the nonsense and waste of taxpayer money.  

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

I get the impression that the point isn't that Benghazi was the reason Romney lost but rather symptomatic of why they lost - it was a focus on the wrong issue with a leap in a direction they shouldn't have taken with gigantic errors because they didn't consult with appropriate experts and a belief that it was far bigger than it actually was on the presumption that Obama would be inherently weakened.  If you went through most of Romney's problems, you would've found most of that in his mistakes.

judg2101
judg2101

It was Romney that had 4 years to build his campaign machine! He knew he was going to run again, and he didn't even have a job during that time. What was he doing for 4 years while the president had a full time job on his hands dealing with the Great Recession, 2 wars left to him, the oil spill, natural disasters, and on & on. Romney's campaign likes to say they didn't get started until after the primaries in April '12 and if that's true, no wonder he lost. A campaign is always a reflection of the candidate and Romney consistently showed poor judgement.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

“No single mistake cost Mitt Romney the presidency....”

I agree. Flip-floppery, Bain Capital, tax returns, Etch-A-Sketch, wooing women voters (NOT), British pre-Olympics tour, "you people", the list goes on and on and on and on....


Jlln
Jlln

@SharonK 

President Obama was correct, too - "No acts of TERROR will ever shake the resolve of this great nation"  - Remarks by the President, September 12, 2012, WhiteHouse.Gov transcript, 1 day after the attack.

" 'There is a connection between this attack and the protests that have been happening in Cairo," (Abdel-Monen) Al-Hurr (spokesman for Libya's Supreme Security Committee, part of the Interior Ministry of Libya, as in Libyan Government official) said.  'They are trying to take advantage of the security situation in Libya and cause more instability in the country.' " - Reuters, September 11, 2012.  Note to you: the "happening" in Cairo was, according to many witnesses, sparked from Muslim outrage over the video posted on Youtube, so again, it was a Libyan official first making a connection between the attack in  Libya and the protests over the video.

"First of all, very importantly, as you discussed with the President, there is an INVESTIGATION that the United States government will launch led by the FBI, that has begun and-- They are not on the ground yet, but they have already begun looking at all sorts of evidence of-- of various sorts already available to them and to us. And they will get on the ground and continue the investigation. So we'll want to see the results of that investigation to draw any definitive conclusions ... I mean I think it's clear that there were extremist elements that joined in and escalated the violence. Whether they were al Qaeda affiliates, whether they were Libyan-based extremists or al Qaeda itself I think is one of the things we'll have to determine" - UN Ambassador Susan Rice, CBS' "Face the Nation," September 16, 2012.  

Capitalization of words are mine to point out, again, the word "terror" being used by the President one day after the attack, and Susan Rice making clear an investigation needed to be conducted to determine what occurred at the consulate.  Look it up - governments, police, investigators, etc. all mention the need to wait for the results of investigations (early reports have often been proven false, as in the Boston Marathon attack, Benghazi assault, and hundreds of other incidents.)

And bad timing on your part  - news in the last few days include the stock market reaching record highs, the number of foreclosures falling to the lowest number in years, companies' earning reports beating expectations, the auto industry thriving - all pointing to President Obama having accomplished stabilizing the US economy,  while trade partners in Europe have sunk back into recessions.  We are very lucky he was re-elected.



DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@brendoneash "He (Romney) acted as a president should"???? 

OMG, that's the funniest thing I've read today!  Yeah, a president should take a tragedy, completely misconstrue the facts and twist it to their own political gain, then make a fool of himself before the entire nation.  No wonder you guys on the right are having issues withing your own party.  That twisting of the facts is what messes you up.  You can't ever agree on what they ARE to begin with, so each and every one of you gets them wrong to some degree.

Comes from listening to Fox News, I guess.  Those bozos can't get their facts right, and their lengthy corrections lists are ignored by everyone because they don't see them later.  All the viewers remember is what they were told the first time.

Well, given that righties use fear-based decision making, I suppose it's not unexpected that when each is allowed to make up the facts (or believe only the ones that were misrepresented to them in the first place), they're going to have issues like yours.

You don't want to be set straight, dude.  You want to defiantly cling to your beliefs in the glare of the facts to the contrary because your AFRAID OF THE TRUTH.  And the truth is, there are fewer and fewer people who think like you, so there will be fewer and fewer people who vote like you.  More people are realizing the depths of the lies they've been told and are beginning to at least start to look for the real story.  That doesn't make them "liberals", nor will it make them vote for liberal ideology.  But is sure as hell drives them away from rightist propaganda, lies and policies based on those lies.

Cling to your myths if you wish.  That's your right as an American.  But realize, too, that as you, and those like you, grow fewer and fewer in number, your political voice grows weaker and weaker until it is lost in the background noise of political radicals everywhere.

Tero
Tero

@brendoneash

"OK so let me get this straight?"

LOL you then go on to misinterpret and misrepresent everything the author said... Reading is fundamental...

ny88
ny88

I agree. I think there were many other factors and problems much greater then his response to Benghazi. There was the tape from his fund raiser where he insulted half the country. I think he also suffered from the fallout caused by ignorant remarks from GOP members towards women. The horrible treatment of that young woman who went before Congress to testify to the varied uses of birth control pills that had nothing to do with preventing a pregnancy is one example. I know of one elderly Republican woman who voted for the President and that was one of the main reasons. She was prescribed birth control pills while in her early 50's to help with menopause. When she heard the insults directed at that young woman she felt as though those insults were also directed towards her and announced she would never again vote for any Republican. While I'm sure that in time she will again most likely vote for Republicans I do know that last year she voted for President Obama. Although I do have to say that the nasty smirk he had on his face as he walked away from the podium after making his Benghazi statement was just vile!!!  He mentioned in the fund raising tape something about if the opportunity presented itself he would take full advantage of any type of terrorist attack and I guess he meant it.

Sue_N
Sue_N

Willard lost because he is Willard. And there's just no fix for that.

Sparrow55
Sparrow55

@Paul,nnto In spite of all the postmortems and calls for new messaging the GOP has been cranking out, the fact remains the structural dysfunction caused by the Tea Party is not going away anytime soon.  Anyone within the GOP that is trying to position themselves as either a candidate or an operative for the 2016 campaign doesn't stand a chance unless they can placate the crazies on the far right.   

brianc2221
brianc2221

Very true. No one ever spent so much time and personal fortune ($50+ million) and screwed up so badly once he gained the nomination. Conservatives cannot be blames because the entire Romney team was comprised of establishment GOP consultants (Stu Stevens, Mike Murphy, Kevin Madden, Alex Castallanos, Mr Rtch-a-Sketch, Andrea Saul) - people who lost so many previous campaigns.

Sparrow55
Sparrow55

@judg2101 I think Romney didn't bother putting together a campaign machine sooner was because he just assumed he was going to win the election no matter what happened.  Romney came across as someone who truly believed he would win because everyone had been telling him since he was a boy he would someday become president.  He seemed annoyed by the fact he had to "apply" for the job instead of just having it handed to him like everything else in his life.     

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

I don't disagree.

But as far as rearend covering that I think is the real point of the book check out the update.

Sue_N
Sue_N

As Ann said once, "It's his turn." They believed that. It was a sense of entitlement of the highest order.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@Paul,nnto That – the anointing of the heir apparent – certainly used to be the case with the GOP, but I think, as with so much else, the Tea Party has upended that system. Certainly, the current civil war within the party will make the "crowning" of an Establishment favorite more difficult, if not impossible.

But Ryan is kind of a special case. He straddles both worlds – Tea Party and Establishment – so he may well have a foot in the door. But I think the TPers will insist on someone like Cruz, or possibly Rubio, if the immigration thing doesn't damage him in their eyes.

There really is no predicting crazy.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

It's interesting how often it is the case that it is (x's) turn when it comes to the republican nomination.

 After 1976 it was Reagan's turn. After Reagan it was Bush's turn. After Bush's loss Dole was repaid for his longtime party service in 1996.

Not sure how Bush the even lesser works in my narrative but McCain's situation was similar to Dole's and Willard was next in line.

If that continues look for Paul Ryan next cycle.