I was interested in this item from Robert McCartney’s column from the Washington Post today.
“Schurick’s attorney, Peter Zeidenberg, suggested his side’s defense is to blame Henson. He said Schurick, a senior adviser of Ehrlich’s, only found out about the robocalls in late afternoon on Election Day and wasn’t able to vet them. ‘Mr. Schurick and the campaign relied on Mr. Henson’s expertise,’ Zeidenberg said. ‘They didn’t have an opportunity at 4:30 or 4:45 on Election Day to do test marketing.’”
Based on my experience working with him, I can easily believe Schurick did not know about the specifics of the call until the afternoon of Election Day.
Anyone who has ever worked with him can tell you his strengths lie in his creativity and experience rather than his organizational skills. Administrative tasks and routine follow-through activities often overwhelmed him.
Case in point: His State House voice mailbox – dubbed “The Black Hole of Annapolis” by some of us – was often filled with calls he never got around to returning.
I tend to be creatively oriented as well, so I make that point with empathy rather than judgment.
I also believe that the call wasn’t fully or properly vetted before it launched.
As I have written elsewhere, fielding the call makes no practical sense to even the most casual observer. The only reasonable explanation is that it was a strategic misfire resulting from the frenetic, last minute efforts of campaign aides more concerned about doing something instead of ensuring it was the right thing.
Still, I am not sure that the “we never got around to vetting it” excuse is going to work here.
“Test marketing” obviously bad ideas is not necessary. The deficiencies of the robocalls as a campaign strategy would have quickly been revealed had campaign aides asked one question: “What exactly are these calls supposed to accomplish?”
Failing to ask it does not absolve them of the blame for approving it anyway. It only makes their decision seem more reckless.
I don’t think chalking the whole thing up to deferring to Henson’s “expertise” is credible, either.
Henson’s reputation for pulling these racially-divisive kinds of election stunts was well-established when they hired him. They knew exactly what they were getting. And, paying him made them responsible for his eventual successes or failures.
If you hire Charles Manson as your gardener, are you really going to be surprised if he winds up killing your neighbor? And, don’t you bear some of the responsibility for it as well?
In any event, it is going to be interesting to watch how this robo-drama plays out in the criminal court, and the court of public opinion, in the months ahead.