The Myth of Obama's "Brilliant Campaign"

Despite their political differences with Obama, many conservatives and conservative pundits are reinforcing the liberals’ idea that Barack Obama ran an “almost flawless,” “brilliant,” “error-free,” or in (Steve Forbe’s words) “miraculous campaign.” Part of resistance to Obama should be deconstructing this aura of infallibility that even some conservatives are granting him.

The point of a campaign is to win, obviously–so Obama’s campaign was successful on that score. But brilliant? Flawless? Perfect? Please.

Obama managed to defeat McCain by 7 points after outspending him by hundreds of millions of dollars. McCain, meanwhile, captured a percentage of the vote 20% higher than George Bush’s approval rating. Considering the shroud of media-silence and naked cheerleading enjoyed by Obama, and McCain’s massive disadvantages in both money and the current political climate, McCain’s campaign was arguably the one that most surpassed expectations.

Using baseball as an analogy, here is how Obama’s campaign was perfect: the home plate umpire (the media), calls all of your pitches strikes. Even those pitches that hit the dirt, that role over home plate, that sail over the batter’s head, or knock the Cracker Jacks out of somebody’s hands sitting three rows up behind third base. Every gaffe, inconsistency, or outright falsehood perpetuated by the Obama campaign was either explained away or ignored. Meanwhile, those from McCain or Palin were magnified, attacked, and interpreted as evidence of a campaign in disarray.

The McCain campaign would have lambasted, ridiculed, and attacked had they promised to accept public financing and then managed to outspend Obama by hundreds of millions of dollars. Can anyone doubt it?

When Sarah Palin said that she’d paid for $35 for her wedding ring, multiple reporters were on the case–calling her friends, associates, and family members to “verify” this information. Meanwhile, entire years of Obama’s life were never investigated, or were actively covered up. McCain would never have gotten away with a speech like Obama’s Jeremiah Wright “race speech,” in which he said he could no longer disavow Wright than his own grandmother. Much less would he have seen such a speech praised as equal to or surpassing the Gettysburg Address. And he certainly wouldn’t survived reversing himself weeks later when he finally tossed Wright under the bus. A Republican candidate behaving like Obama did throughout the campaign would have been destroyed.

The story of the 2008 presidential campaign is one of the media providing protective cover and dragging a deeply flawed candidate over the finish line. It’s a story of creating, maintaining, and refusing to puncture a MYTH.

Obama succeeded simply because he was not PERMITTED to fail, and calling this “perfection” is simply to extend the harmful myth of Obama’s infallibility. A myth which ultimately does no favors to Obama, because building him up that high only leaves him farther to fall. It will be impossible to sustain this illusion once its accompanied by the responsibilities of power–although the media will no doubt try.