For the record, it isn’t until the fourth page of the introduction to his new memoir, No Excuses, that Robert Shrum begins making excuses.
On the subject of the “Shrum Curse”—a reference to his zero-for-eight record in White House contests—the now-retired consultant pleads that the first seven strikes against him don’t really count.
He was, he reminds us, a mere speechwriter for George McGovern in 1972 and for Ted Kennedy in 1980, and anyway extenuating circumstances—Nixon dirty tricks in McGovern’s case and the Iran hostage crisis for Mr. Kennedy—killed those campaigns, not Mr. Shrum. Then there was 1988, when he only guided a practically unknown Dick Gephardt to an upset win in the Iowa Caucuses before the laws of nature wiped him out, and 1992, when he parachuted in five weeks before the New Hampshire primary for “a political rescue mission” for the nonetheless doomed Bob Kerrey. And shouldn’t he get credit for, like, half-a-win in 2000, when “I played a big hand in the election of Al Gore as president—then watched his win be stolen away”?
Not that Mr. Shrum won’t man-up when it’s called for. “Then, of course, I lost the White House for John Kerry. I’ll take my share of the blame,” he concedes, although this mea culpa, too, is followed by an excuse: “I also know that voters out there were swayed by the memories and manipulation of 9/11 and the last-weekend Osama bin Laden tape.”
None of this will help his image among his party’s loudest activists.
Mr. Shrum, who now teaches at New York University, has in the last two years become one of the favorite punching bags of frustrated Democrats. And reading his litany of accurate but self-serving explanations early on in the book’s (non-index) 494 pages, one can almost hear the seething contempt of the liberal netroots, among whom he is regarded as the preeminent symbol of the D.C. cocktail-party class of corporatized Democratic consultants who myopically equip their candidates with tired slogans, rehashed rhetoric and neutered messages: Of course the election was stolen from Gore in 2000. But he was only in position to have it stolen from him because of the lousy campaign he–and you!–ran! And any fool could have predicted that George W. Bush would exploit 9/11 in ’04. But why were you so afraid to rough him up at your convention, when the G.O.P. all but called Mr. Kerry a traitor at theirs?