I suspect there were probably a few minutes late yesterday afternoon when Obama campaign officials felt a little nervous. It was the day before a big debate, which is nerve-racking enough, and all of a sudden, there's a flurry of attention -- prominent right-wing provocateurs claimed to have a controversial video of Obama making racially-charged remarks.
I also suspect, a few hours later, those same Obama campaign officials exhaled so loudly they could probably be heard outside the building. The new, explosive video that was going to change the election wasn't new, wasn't explosive, and wasn't even interesting.
The whole mess just reeked of desperation. At issue was a speech Obama delivered in 2007, as a presidential candidate, not at some secret fundraiser, but in front of a large audience at Hampton University. Reporters covered the speech, which wasn't seen as especially controversial, and all the major networks told the public about Obama's remarks at the time.
In other words, Drudge, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Hannity formed a strange sort of triumvirate to hype a five-year-old video that everyone already knew about, and which doesn't include anything interesting anyway.
Perhaps my favorite part of this silliness came when Carlson proudly boasted to Hannity on the air last night, "People will say this has already been reported. Well, actually, it hasn't been reported. And I know because I reported on it the first time."
Let that quote roll around in your head for a minute.
I'm not even sure what it is, exactly, the right finds so noteworthy about the 2007 speech. Obama criticized the government's response to Katrina? His speech used a cadence Drudge found overtly racial? Obama mentioned his former pastor?
I was also amazed when I saw one conservative last night insist that Obama never speaks this way "in public" -- as if a presidential candidate speaking to a large audience with reporters and cameras on hand somehow counts as "private."
In the larger context, I'm also struck by the extent to which the president's more unhinged detractors seem to sincerely believe they'll defeat him with old videos. Conservatives are apparently convinced the key to crushing Obama is to overlook his performance in the White House, and focus instead on his tone and cherry-picked quotes from speeches he delivered before taking office.
I'm not sure whether to be annoyed (by the ugly, racially-charged tactics), insulted (they're treating Americans like fools), or feel sorry for them.