The Seven Biggest Political Blunders of 2008
7) The punditocracy goofs up the Granite State: Because it's not fair to just pick on the politicians, it's worth remembering that this campaign season had an enormous number of twists and turns that proved pundits, pollsters, and "political experts" of all stripes wrong again and again.
The biggest of these foul-ups was in New Hampshire's Democratic primary, which almost everybody thought was going to go Barack Obama's way. That would have been incredibly significant because after his victory in Iowa, a follow-up win in New Hampshire might have convinced Hillary Clinton to bow out early and thereby prevented the months of fratricidal political warfare that followed between the two campaigns.
Instead, the punditocracy blew the call and the world got to see that political "experts" get it wrong just as often as economic "experts," government "experts," and climate "experts."
6) That's not what a state attorney general is supposed to do to a call girl: Even if he has the morals of Bill Clinton, any governor should be leery of using the services of a call girl for very obvious reasons -- and that should have been doubly so for a guy like Eliot Spitzer.
He was a former New York State attorney general who had a reputation for zealously pursuing high-profile prosecutions. So, when you set yourself up as a crusader who loves to get headlines for putting the bad guys away, you can't expect any mercy if you get caught sleeping with a high-dollar prostitute behind your wife's back.
Spitzer may have been the governor of New York, but his former job and his inability to keep his pants up turned his exploits with Ashley Alexandra Dupré into a national scandal.
5) Blago fog-o: Illinois has a reputation for being somewhere between New Jersey and Louisiana on the corruption scale and current Governor Rod Blagojevich lived down to his state's reputation.
Peddling a Senate seat is certainly crooked, but it probably wouldn't have been a huge national scandal had that barely used seat not belonged to President-elect Barack Obama. Suddenly, an Illinois scandal turned into a national game of "what did Obama and his staff know and when did they know it?"
That question hasn't been authoritatively answered as of yet, but America has had its first real reminder of what it means to have a Democrat in office; the president-elect hasn't even taken over yet and he has already been interviewed by prosecutors in a corruption case.
4) I did not have ministerial relations with that man!: Had Barack Obama not been treated with kid gloves on this particular issue by the media, the Clintons, and the McCain campaign because of his race, it could have potentially destroyed his campaign.
Obama spent 20 years going to a virulently anti-white, anti-American church run by a conspiracy mongering lunatic, continued his membership even as he ran for president, and then pointedly branded his own grandmother as a racist in the very same speech in which he refused to denounce Jeremiah Wright.
Believe it or not, Obama did eventually throw Wright under the bus -- not for insulting white people, insulting America, or tossing out lunatic conspiracy theories about AIDS, but for saying something insulting about him.
The way this was handled just highlights the fact that Obama isn't a brilliant politician; he's just a man who happened to be lucky enough to take the Democratic nomination in a year when even George McGovern, Mike Dukakis, or Walter Mondale probably could have cruised to victory.
3) There are two Americas: one where John Edwards is faithful to his wife and the real one: John Edwards cynically exploited his wife's cancer to help his campaign. At one point, the campaign was even "sending fundraising emails out to the people who sent sympathy notes to Elizabeth because of her cancer." Meanwhile, in the background, the National Enquirer was alleging that Edwards had been running around behind his cancer-stricken wife's back.
So, you're one of the most prominent Democrats in the country, you're likely to get a high-profile job if Obama wins, and the Enquirer has started following you around -- what do you do? If you answered, "Tell the woman you're having an affair with to meet you in a hotel room and bring along your love child," your name may be John Edwards.
After the story broke in the Enquirer, Edwards eventually came forward and managed to actually increase the public's interest in the story by telling all sorts of wildly implausible tales about the baby not being his, a supporter paying his mistress without his knowledge -- and by claiming that Elizabeth had known about the affair since 2006.
This whole imbroglio probably cost Edwards a cherry position in the Obama administration and ruined his political career for years to come.
2) Hillary and Sinbad face sniper fire together in Bosnia: Prominent Democrats are used to having the press ignore or even cover up the most egregious lies and distortions, so it probably never occurred to Hillary that she might get called on her lies about Bosnia. However, in this case, the media had already started swooning for Barack Obama and so they gave Hillary the "Republican treatment" to help him out.
Soon, it was revealed that her “dangerous” diplomatic mission had also "included 15-year-old daughter Chelsea, the comedian Sinbad, and singer Sheryl Crow."
To top it all off, Hillary's claim that they "ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base" was refuted by pictures of her being read a poem by an eight-year-old girl on the airport tarmac. It was a particularly humiliating episode and it helped prevent Hillary from making a comeback on Obama.
1) McCain bails out the banks and sinks his campaign: Given how bad the environment was for Republicans in 2008, McCain had to run an outstanding campaign to have a chance to pull out a victory. Contrary to conventional wisdom, which says that he ran a terrible race all along, McCain was actually in good shape right after the GOP convention and had the financial crisis not occurred, it's entirely possible that he would have become the next president of the United States.
However, McCain was awful on the economy and his numbers started to go south after the mortgage crisis hit the news daily. However, it was the way that he handled the bailout that delivered the real coup de grâce to his campaign.
Here's a man who had spent an entire year telling people that he was a financial conservative, that he wasn't another George Bush, and that Barack Obama couldn't handle a crisis.
So, an unpopular bailout comes up for consideration on Capitol Hill and McCain handles the crisis exactly the same way that Obama did, by signing on to George Bush's $700 billion bailout deal that fiscal conservatives hated with a white hot passion.
In other words, in one fell swoop, John McCain managed to alienate conservatives, prove he really was "another Bush," and show the American people that Obama could handle a crisis just as well as he could. It was an extraordinary blunder -- one that literally may have been the deciding factor in the race for the presidency.