Commentary Magazine


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Re: Fake Outrage About Obama Smears

I agree with both Jonathan and Alana that an ad campaign this year based on Rev. Jeremiah Wright would be a tactical error for the Romney forces and that the outrage on the left is totally synthetic. President Obama was a member of that church for purely local political reasons. As we have seen since he’s been president, he rarely attends church and, anyway, he needs a mirror to see what he truly worships.

But I can’t help but take note of one of the great for-want-of-a-nail moments in American political history. What would have happened had Hillary Clinton’s opposition research team in the 2008 primary campaign found those tapes of Jeremiah Wright before the Iowa caucuses? Had the Clinton campaign simply handed them off to a friendly TV journalist, I’m confident they would have sowed enough doubt about Obama that he would not have finished first in the Iowa caucuses. (The results were Obama 38 percent, John Edwards—whatever happened to him?—30 percent, Clinton 29 percent, Bill Richardson 2 percent, Joe Biden 1 percent.) Without the wind in his sails from his Iowa victory, Obama wouldn’t have fared so well in subsequent primaries, and the Romney campaign today would be trying to figure out how to defeat President Hillary Clinton’s re-election bid.

The 2008 Clinton campaign should certainly have found the tapes. After all, they were uncovered by a reporter who simply walked into the church store and purchased the DVDs. But they surfaced only in April 2008. By that time Obama had a big lead, plenty of momentum, and the mainstream media in his pocket. Still, he fared much worse in the late primaries than he had in the early ones and only stumbled across the finish line first. I think the Wright tapes were a factor in his late fade.

We’ll never know for sure, of course, but a less ideological, more centrist, more competent President Clinton would probably have done far less damage to the country and would be a lot harder to defeat this year.