Romney Campaign Insider Says Benghazi Changed Everything

BY Christina Bellantoni  May 27, 2013 at 11:50 AM EST



PBS NewsHour political editor Christina Bellantoni talks with Gabriel Schoenfeld about his new e-book, “A Bad Day on the Romney Campaign.”

Gabriel Schoenfeld says when he sat down to outline flaws that cost former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney the presidential race last fall, he knew he would lose some friends. But he penned “A Bad Day on the Romney Campaign: An Insider’s Account,” released earlier this month as an e-book, because he felt detailing a single day in the race and what went wrong could be instructive for his party.

Schoenfeld pinpointed foreign policy, and specifically Romney’s response to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2012, on the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, as a big moment for when the campaign lost traction.

“Foreign policy seemed to be something that really did have major problems and that did count and that really hasn’t been fully appreciated,” Schoenfeld said.

As a senior adviser and speechwriter for Romney, he wrote a short book in September 2011 about Romney’s plan for jobs and economic work and foreign policy white papers.

In his book, which he dubs a “tell-all,” Schoenfeld presents Romney as dependent on his aides and not as engaged on what was happening abroad.

He argues in the book that Romney should have pressed harder on the Benghazi issue during the debates. “The violence in Benghazi and the murder of our ambassador there held the potential, after all, to be a major political vulnerability for Barack Obama,” he writes.

Schoenfeld introduces the book in the prologue by saying it is an account that is “as accurate and incisive as I can make it.” And former Romney aides told the Boston Globe’s Matt Viser that Schoenfeld’s book exaggerates his role.

From Viser’s piece:

Another adviser said that Schoenfeld was not a “senior adviser,” as he claims, but a “writer in the policy shop.” Another adviser said in an email, “I think he just has stuff he wants to get off his chest. Sigh. Welcome to ebooks.”

So far, Schoenfeld suggests he is not too impressed with the Republican National Committee’s makeover or the potential contenders for the next national contest. But he thinks a Republican who speaks his mind, instead of listening to high-priced consultants, is likely to gain the upper hand for the 2016 race.

I recently talked with the former senior adviser and speechwriter about Benghazi, the debates, criticism from campaign loyalists about his book and whether he will ever return to politics. Watch our conversation in the NewsHour newsroom above.