McCain Can't Plead Ignorance in the Age of Google — Nobody Can

Senator Obama's response to criticism that he should have known about Johnson's sweetheart mortgage deals was: "[E]verybody . . . who is tangentially related to our campaign, I think, is going to have a whole host of relationships. I would have to hire the vetter to vet the vetters." This is a classic line. If there is justice, "vetter to vet the vetters" will enter pop culture and get screened onto American Apparel basic T's. At least it deserves something on the Colbert Report.

But he does have a point. Johnson's apparently too-cozy Countrywide mortgages came to light (through an article in the Wall Street Journal) only after he was named Chief Vetter.

While there are many things that a campaign ought to know, there are just as many things about supporters that campaigns can't know. And the means for many of these things to come to the fore are firmly entrenched in the landscape. Look no further than sites like Pajamas Media. The only certainty, then, is that things will come to light.

Candidates need to both up their game and prepare for the mistakes they will definitely make. It won't pass muster to say you didn't know something anyone can find out in less than a minute.

But, as former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld pointed out (and for which wisdom he was unfairly ridiculed), there are known unknowns. That is to say, candidates can bet on embarrassing revelations about their supporters, even if they do not yet know, and cannot yet know, what they are.

How will the campaigns respond? Circle the wagons? Or -- perhaps too much to ask from the Candidate of Believable Change or from Camp Straight Talk -- with straightforward candor?

Brad Rourke writes a column on public life called Public Comments, produces a videolog called Taxonomies, is a founder of the Maryland neighborhood blog, Rockville Central, and is in a band called The West End.