But to govern is to choose, and between his words before and during the 2008 campaign and once in office, Obama now has a substantial paper trail — several trillions of dollars worth, as the above clip tacitly highlights– and more importantly, as Moe writes, a video trail as well. If you’re a politician whose promises invariably come with expiration dates, YouTube and its competitors present a problem:
It never goes away.
This is a problem because politicians have been operating under the paradigm that you can make inconvenient things from your past go away, if you really, really need to. And I’m not talking about the big things, like a dead girl in your bed or a federal conviction for racketeering; I’m talking about embarrassing statements from the past, flip-flops that you don’t want to dwell on, inconvenient votes, or just taking out your bad day on somebody who happened to be in range at the wrong moment. In short, anything that looks bad in a campaign commercial; but before February of 2005 it was a lot harder to show that sort of thing to people without the assistance of a professional video editor. And even then there were set media channels for that sort of thing, that typically cost money to get on, and you had to pick a time to air it, and…
Well, you see where this is going: we are now living in an universe where those assumptions are not only false, but they’re kind of naive. This is, of course, a self-correcting ‘problem:’ in 2010 we saw how viral footage and instantly accessible records somewhat dramatically resulted in requiring a startlingly large number of politicians to seek a second career as lobbyists. And that will happen in 2012 as well (2014, to a lesser extent); the easy targets will be hammered most powerfully.
The problem for the President? He’s one of those easy targets, as the above video shows. It was not a good idea to yell about the debt incurred by your predecessor when you’re going to end up beating his record in half the time; but Barack Obama is very much an old-style politician – and, at that, one not used to being called on his record (this is where a lack of re-election campaign experience hurts). He’s thus got four to six years of potential gaffes to explain away… and the worst bit (for him)? Everybody has access to those gaffes.
You can’t always come back, baby — because YouTube never forgets.