Although the title of this post is, “2008, The Year That Was,” this is not going to be an actual review of what all of us have already experienced but a look at the stories which brought surprise in the context of the whole year as opposed to headlines of the moment. 2008 did bring surprises that almost no one predicted.
The largest of these has to be the Presidential election. At the beginning of 2008 there were two candidates who led in the polls and had the prediction of nearly all analysts of easy wins both in the Republican and Democrat Primary races. What is most surprising is that both of the first of the year leaders failed to make it to the General Election in November with one actually dropping out very early.
As 2008 was ushered in Republicans found Rudi Giuliani in the lead and Democrats had Hillary. Both were considered the favorites by wide margins and looked to easily win the nomination of their respective parties. Then came the actual Primaries and the failure of Giuliani to campaign. As the early part of the year progressed the candidate whose nomination it was to lose did just that. Giuliani rolled over and basically quit campaigning.
He stopped making public appearances, he pulled out of several of the early States. In fact by the South Carolina Primary in early February the presumptive nominee had lost his lead and his following and began to drift into obscurity as the GOP began looking elsewhere for a candidate. Hillary on the other hand was all but running away with the nomination for the Democrats.
Then an unexpected endorsement began a series of endorsements and the Democrats turned their sights from Hillary the ,”destined,” nominee to Barack Obama the unknown candidate. Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg announced her endorsement of Obama in January. This did not have an immediate effect on the nomination but her placing the Kennedy name behind Obama and soon after followed by her Uncle Ted, started a series of high profile endorsements of Obama that caused the party to turn away from Hillary.
This combined with a general Clinton fatigue with Democrats pushed Obama to the front and after a considerable amount of party infighting the Summer brought Obama the nomination. On the GOP side of the coin with Rudi out of the picture a horse race began between McCain, Romney and Huckabee. Then surprisingly the candidate whose White House run was struggling to the point that he had to take a commercial airline flight to the New Hampshire Primary began pulling ahead and John McCain eventually came out on top.
The Conventions then took place and Obama picked a dud in Joe Biden as his running mate but still gained some ground until McCain shocked the world by picking conservative Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate which solidified a shaky base and gave McCain a strong lead going into the final weeks of the election. It looked as if nothing could derail McCain in his White House bid until Wall Street stepped in and the mortgage collapse.
At the beginning of 2008 the economy was strong and growing with unemployment still holding at record low levels. Yet underneath there was brewing a cancer in the financial markets that had taken years to build under close Democrat assistance with a little GOP on the side. The sub-prime mortgage market was building a bubble that was bound to burst and it did in mid September taking with it the economy and the candidacy of John McCain.
While the blame for the crisis that ensued stretched back as far as the Carter Presidency and especially with changes made during the later Clinton years, Democrats in Congress who had defended the risky lending practices forced by the Clinton changes to allow those who would not have been eligible to purchase homes to get in WAY over their heads, used the opportunity to blame the Bush administration which in turn bled over to the McCain campaign and assisted greatly in electing Barack Obama as the 44th President.
The crisis also sparked a surprising and ridiculous bailout spasm in Washington that has yet to find an end and is actually looking to expand as the Obama administration prepares to take the reigns and looking for ways to , “spark,” the economy with stimulus that is destined to fail and bailouts that reward failed companies.
Of course the financial crisis was not the only cause that gave Obama the Presidency. McCain ran one of the weakest and poorly run Presidential campaigns in United States history. The one opportunity he had in overcoming the crisis was the popularity and hard hitting conservative style of Sarah Palin, but the campaign chose instead to hold her back and as a result finished second to a nearly flawless campaign run by Obama.
There were many other stories that made headlines in 2008 that are worthy of mentioning. The Hurricanes which destroyed the Texas Coast, Madoff’s 50 billion dollar Ponzi scheme, the tremendous success of the surge in Iraq and the historic agreements to insure a secure and free Iraq. Michael Phelps and eights gold medals, the Balgoyevich scandal, and of course Obama picking Hillary as Secretary of State.
But none of these stories brought the surprise and the impact to 2008 and beyond as the election of the unknown Barack Obama to the Presidency and the financial crisis which spread from Wall Street to the entire world. Both will influence 2009 and future history for years to come which made ,”2008, The Year That Was !”
Ken Taylor http://theliberalslies.blogspot.com