Steve Schmidt, former senior advisor to the presidential campaign of U.S. Senator John McCain spoke in President Gillette’s class on Tuesday evening. A veteran of numerous campaigns over his career, including the 2004 Bush presidential campaign and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2006 re-election campaign, he shared his unique perspective on current U.S. politics, including the role of the media and the complexities of the electoral process.
Sounding a surprising note of optimism, he told students that despite the difficulties of the present it was still “a time of infinite possibilities.” Lamenting what he termed the current “intellectual stagnation” with respect to policy innovation at the national level, he noted that a new generation of policy innovators was emerging, particularly at the state level, and that this boded well for the future. He commented on the need for “a vision of how the middle class would move up the socio-economic ladder” given that for the first time in history, they had fallen behind in terms of generation-over-generation economic progress.
At a more personal level, he shared the importance of having been an Eagle Scout, noting how it shaped his character and helped him develop resiliency and an understanding of how to “get back up” after defeat. During campaigns, he commented, you “see the strains on people’s character all the time” and although the wins are “more fun” it is the losses “where character is tested.”