Should Mitt Romney buy what Tom Rath is selling

The Washington Post reports that Mitt Romney plans to fortify his communications and messaging team by adding some veteran operatives. However, Romney apparently has no plans to change his inner circle.

As longtime senior Romney senior aide Tom Rath put it:

I don’t sense any panic. I don’t sense that any heads are going to roll. The idea that this guy at this point having gone through what he’s gone through is going to somehow scramble the eggs on the team — they don’t know Mitt Romney. The idea that somebody other than Beth Myers, Eric Fehrnstrom, Matt Rhoades, Stuart Stevens and Peter Flaherty are going to call the shots, it’s just plain wrong.

I have no reason to believe that the heads of Myers, Rhoades, Stevens, Flaherty, or even Fehrnstrom should roll. But I wouldn’t mind seeing Rath himself expelled from Romney’s inner circle. It won’t happen of course, but here’s why I think it should.

Rath was instrumental in David Souter’s elevation to the Supreme Court. The two men are close friends, dating back to their time together in the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office during the 1970s. When Souter became the Attorney General, he made Rath his deputy. When Souter became a judge, Rath succeeded him as Attorney General.

Rath returned the favor when the first President Bush was looking for a Supreme Court nominee. As former New Hampshire Senator Gordon Humphrey has said, Rath worked with Warren Rudman, who was New Hampshire’s Attorney General before Souter, to persuade former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu (Bush’s top adviser) to push for the elevation of Souter to the Supreme Court.

Because Souter had very little record as a judge (he was called a stealth candidate), the word of his former colleagues in New Hampshire was crucial to reaching the conclusion that Souter was good choice from a conservative perspective. Rath vouched for Souter. He then helped navigate Souter through the confirmation process.

Souter, of course, turned out to be a terrible choice from a conservative perspective. To be sure, anyone can make a mistake. But Rath’s own words show that he didn’t make a mistake. Instead, as demonstrated below, he promoted Souter for the Supreme Court knowing full well what kind of Justice his old friend would be.

Right up through Souter’s retirement, Rath continued to praise his pal’s jurisprudence. Moreover, in an interview at the time of that retirment, Rath said that as a Supreme Court Justice, Souter “turned out exactly what we thought he would be” and “did exactly what I always expected him to to.” For example, Rath characterized Souter’s vote to reaffirm Roe v. Wade as “classically David Souter.”

Although Souter’s reliably liberal voting record came as no suprise to Rath, it shocked conservatives. Had Rath honestly informed the Bush administration what he “thought [Souter] would be,” it is inconceivable that Souter would have made it through the vetting process.

Rath, in short, sold the Bush administration a bill of goods in David Souter. He also reportedly tried to sell (some would say strongarm) Republican Senators into supporting the nomination of Harriet Miers.

What will he sell Mitt Romney?


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