If in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama had refused to release his tax returns, we would not currently be in a run-up to President Obama’s re-election, because there would not be a President Obama.
Even if we control for the rise in cynicism in politics over the last three and a half years, the differences in the degrees to which Romney is being vetted — by both the official and “unofficial” online media, versus the degree to which candidate Obama was vetted in 2007 and 2008, are incomparable.
To be sure, there are blogs and television segments and stories dedicated to “Mitt’s mendacity” — and the sheer volume of his political miscues and misdirection will become the stuff of electoral legend. But it is Obama – as both as a candidate and now as commander-in-chief, who is afforded no pass by the media, and certainly not by his political opponents, when it comes to answering for his background.
Much of the voting populace assumes (correctly, I think) that religion is more of an issue on the right than it is on the left in American politics. So in 2008 it might have made some sense that so many of candidate Barack Obama’s political opponents (and even some of his allies) helped to transform clips from Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s sermons into a national phenomenon.
Even though Obama’s membership in Wright’s church in Chicago proved his bona-fides as a Christian – thus undermining the (continuing) assertions and beliefs by many Republicans that he is a Muslim – Wright’s performance of “black liberation theology” forever etched the phrase in the teleprompters of some news networks and in the minds of those Americans who continue to grope for anything that will help them to establish the then-Senator as anything other than American.
Every aspect of Obama’s faith, his religion, where he has worshiped, who mentored, advised, or directed him along his spiritual journey — all of it was grist for the political-media mill in 2008 and beyond.