Meet John Feehery, Perhaps the Worst GOP Establishment Consultant Ever
Before this week, I figured that the race to the intellectual bottom for Republican consultants would have been a doggoned close contest. For years I’ve written many columns -- and a book -- that laid bare the cognitive dissonance and record of embarrassing losses of such wizards as Karl Rove, Haley (and Henry) Barbour, Rick Tyler, Andrea Saul, Charlie Black, Steve Schmidt, Matt Rhodes, Nicole Wallace and others. I’ve even established a pretty good record of demonstrating the fallacy of using the Frank Luntz type focus group as a means for testing campaign messaging.
Somehow, though, the worst of them all had escaped my notice until a couple months ago. Allow me to introduce to you John Feehery, a consultant whose instincts are utterly tone deaf and as such is a serial loser in the game. But at least he appears to lack principles and be a student of revisionist history.
Thus he remains perpetually hired in the smarmy nepotistic world of establishment consulting. It is important to mention that this domain overlaps heavily with staffers and lobbyists. And it is demonstrably both smarmy and nepotistic -- observations I have made over a couple of decades from both the inside and outside planet Washington. In all frankness, this is a population that is collectively unimpressive and yet insufferably arrogant. They are staggeringly ignorant of the country and voter base they proclaim to understand like no one else. They are prisoners of predictable infantile formulas that they spout off while acting like they have said something brilliant.
So why would the aforementioned Mr. Feehery stand out in this race to the lowest of Dante’s circles? Well let’s start with his track record. He started working for Bob Michel, the Illinois Congressman whose tenure as House Minority Leader saw Republicans get clobbered in every cycle. When Newt led the Contract with America revolution in 1994, Michel was ushered to the backbench.
Feehery was just getting started however. He later worked for Denny Hastert when the mushy Illinois Congressman was Speaker. Hastert lost the House after being a rubber stamp for W. Bush’s worst agenda items for six years. Naturally Feehery also backed Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, insisting that Toomey could never win in Pennsylvania. Predictably, he supported Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio in Florida. In case you missed it, Specter and Crist are now both Democrats, albeit post mortem for Arlen. Perhaps Feehery should officially join them in the party.
According to Red State, Feehery also supported moderate losers Rick Berg and Danny Rehberg in states Mitt Romney carried by 19 and 14 points respectively. Who knew it was possible to run squishier campaigns that Mitt Romney? (His record is worse than Wake Forest football, where Crist played quarterback ironically.)
Then of course, after Dave Brat dispatched of Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the primary this year, incoming Majority Whip Steve Scalise instantly tapped Feehery as a senior consultant in charge of staffing the Whip office.
The record of losses aside, let’s further delve into the strange misguided mind of Mr. Feehery. In February 2009 he took to the pages of Politico in order to slam Rush Limbaugh with an infantile rant that was excruciatingly shallow and formulaic.
Ten days after Feehery’s piece, Rush, along with Matt Drudge, introduced the nation to a CNBC analyst from Chicago named Rick Santelli and his idea of a “tea party on Lake Michigan.” Within two days, the whole country was talking tea and the rest is history -- a history that certainly doesn’t favor Feehery’s vision over that of Rush, or the entire conservative base for that matter.
But like all good consultants, Feehery never fails to misread the tealeaves after every one of his embarrassing defeats. Recently he tried to re-write the history of his failed tenures by insisting this:
“The coach (Hastert) survived as Speaker for four complete terms because he kept expectations in check and consistently delivered for his conference. Conversely, while the Contract with America gets a lot of ink in the history books, it essentially was an exercise in overpromising and under-delivering. The result? Bill Clinton easily won reelection in 1996.”
With logic like that, Feehery should be a shoe-in for an MSNBC gig. The only reason the Contract didn’t help remove Clinton from office is that consultants like Feehery advised the Dole-Kemp ticket in 1996 not to mention it, allowing Clinton to take credit for the great things the Contract legislation accomplished. And keep in mind, consultants like Feehery never contemplate that the Contract did great things for Americans outside the beltway! Success was only that Hastert kept the Speakership. Inside Washington, they don’t even know we’re all out here -- and certainly don’t care.
“Republicans should take some chances to make their brand more popular with non-Republicans. They should pass immigration reform, pronto. They should extend the Voting Rights Act. They should consider making birth control over the counter.”
Allow me to translate: I have no idea what persuasion is, let alone principles, so let’s make Republicans more like Democrats so they’ll be more popular.
Amazing. And has he not seen immigration polls? But there’s more:
“President Obama is no longer the enemy: Republicans will gain more for their brand by proving they can govern than they will in continuing to oppose the president. Hastert worked with Clinton on spending bills and on the New Markets Initiative and, in the process, restored the Republican brand to such an extent the party could win the White House in 2000. For Republicans to be able to win back the White House in 2016, they have to prove they can run the country in 2014 — and they can only do that with the cooperation of President Obama.”
This is pure unadulterated and self-serving delusion. He lives in a world where Denny Hastert, with fearless Feehery at his side, bravely brought the GOP into popularity by morphing into Bill Clinton. The truth is the GOP won big by running squarely against Clinton in 1994 and Obama in 2010. Clinton kept winning because he took credit for Contract successes. No one called him on it. They still haven’t, as Clinton delivered the Convention speech in 2012, taking credit again and saying that Obama would govern the same way.
That endorsement worked because Clinton has always been the master obfuscator -- blurring the differences between the parties -- and because the GOP consultant class also does the same thing. History indicates that when the battle lines are clearly drawn, as in 80,84, 94 and 2010, Republicans win big. When they are especially vague, as in 92, 96, 06, 08 and 12, Democrats win big. When the ideological chasm is neither very clear nor totally blurred, elections can go either way.
In four tries, the GOP never ran hard against Clinton or Obama in a Presidential cycle, and got their clocks cleaned. Twice they ran hard against them in midterms, and won historic landslides.
History. Truth. Common sense. Human nature. Logic. Is it too much to expect the highly paid GOP sorcerers like Feehery to understand? Apparently, yes -- which is why it’s important that we know who these people are and know how vapid and vacant they are. Because like Mr. Feehery, they continue to insist we follow their misguided path.
John Feehery: the worst of a bad, bad bunch.
The author is contributor to American Thinker, Newsmax TV, Talk Radio Network and author of WTF? How Karl Rove and the Establishment Lost…Again.