Saturday, June 18, 2011

Schurick Doctrine: First Class

The most interesting facet of the robocall indictment pertains to what it calls the “Schurick Doctrine.”

The word “doctrine” causes me to flash back to the times I studied the presidency. Many presidents – Madison, Truman, Clinton, both Bushs – claimed to have one. Generally it refers to some defining principle of their foreign policy.

Paul Schurick is the only non-president I know of who claims to have a doctrine. But his has nothing to do with diplomacy.

According to the indictment, the Schurick Doctrine’s objective was to “promote confusion, emotionalism, and frustration” among black voters. The doctrine was referenced in the voter suppression plan Julius Henson presented to the Ehrlich campaign in summer 2010.

It is also the subject of another document which the grand jury subpoenaed and Schurick failed to provide, resulting in arguably the most serious charge Schurick is facing: obstruction of justice.

When a report called me last week and referenced the Doctrine, I was a little confused. I had never heard that term before. 

But the phrase “confusion, emotionalism, and frustration” reminded me of something that happened during the 2002 campaign.

Anyone who knows Paul Schurick understands that he is a big believer in hiring his friends. So in 2002 Paul brought onboard the campaign a gentleman whose purpose he described as “throwing bags of shit” at the Kathleen Kennedy Townsend campaign. The gentleman in question was a conservative activist who occasionally dabbled in talk radio.

I am not going to use his name here, but might share it with anyone who wants to investigate the anecdote I am going to convey. I checked the Maryland Board of Election’s campaign expenditure database, and he is listed as having drawn a check from the Ehrlich campaign.

Schurick’s pal basically did for the campaign the same thing I was doing: Conceive and write materials aggressively criticizing the other side’s record. Every campaign has such people on staff. This is well within the rules of campaign conduct.

However, Schurick’s Wookie-like friend later engaged in some Election Day monkeyshines which later became the stuff of Ehrlich campaign lore.

It was raining on Election Day 2002, making for an especially bad commute for everyone. Things were especially bad for Schurick’s pal, who had not one, but two “breakdowns” in traffic that day.

The first vehicle mishap occurred in Montgomery County, right at the height of the early morning commute. His misfortune resulted in long backups by motorists whose commute to work, or the polls, was interrupted.    

That evening, “bad luck” struck this unfortunate motorist yet again.

This time, he happened to be on Charles Street in Baltimore City at the height of the evening rush hour. By the time of the second incident, the rain was really coming down, making for an especially miserable and disruptive commute.

When the star-crossed motorist was telling us the story the next day in typical wink and a nod fashion, he took special delight in describing the honking he heard from commuters whose progress he had impeded.

Honking sounds like clear evidence of “confusion, emotionalism, and frustration” to me.

Now, I cannot say that Paul Schurick – or anyone else at the campaign, for that matter –
ordered this individual to do what he did.  But Schurick sure laughed his ass off, and took great pleasure in relaying the news to anyone who would listen.

So did sophomoric Election Day stunts like this evolve over time into a more grandiose and sinister voter suppression strategy? I have no idea.

Often it is said that a revolution starts at home. In this case, a doctrine might have begun with the misadventures of one mischievous commuter.


  1. The entire ehrlich administration promoted "confusion, emotionalism, and frustration” for 4 ex appointee, I watched the lack of coordination and how completely ineffective his advisors were. More concerned with not appearing Republicany then changing ANYTHING in Maryland.

    The accidents are perfect examples of the car crash campaigns that were run.

  2. Excellent postings, Mr. Cross. As another ex appointee who finally moved on from the disasterous campaign and the TKO on election day, this mess is not surprising. I find it somewhat amusing in that I never observed Mr. Schurick actually doing any work while he was Director of Communications. He was the master of delegation-there was always an unlucky Public Information Oficer stuck with the task at the last minute-so when he finally did do something, it got him indicted.

  3. Between homeless men and robocalls, did it ever dawn on anyone in the "inner-circle" that maybe door knocking, lit dropping, phone banking and giving any group regardless of their ethnicity a reason to vote might actually work? This is a big setback, AGAIN, for the GOP in Maryland. Why have electeds been so utterly quiet? Do they think igonoring it won't have ramifications in future years?

  4. Anon 11:14: might I add having the candidate put in an occasional appearance in the relevant jurisdictions to your list of things that might have dawned on them? And yes, you are right, ignoring it will have consequences, particularly in the jurisdictions in question, where the GOP brand is already in pretty bad shape.