The Masters of Disaster

Somewhere, there should be a Hall of Fame honoring profoundly stupid Democratic Party campaign ideas.

Among the featured exhibits would be Michael Dukakis's 1988 tank ride and John Kerry's 2004 Ohio duck-hunting trip. ("Can I get me a hunting license here?") The important thing to remember about such classic campaign blunders, however, is that Democrats didn't realize their disastrous potential until it was too late to prevent them.

Whether it's George McGovern's choice of Thomas Eagleton as his 1972 running mate or Fritz Mondale's promise to raise taxes in 1984, for some reason there's never anybody around Democrat HQ with the foresight to shout an advance warning.

If Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign melts down this year, however, the Democrats won't have that excuse. This time, there was plenty of warning:

* Writing at the Huffington Post, Hillary Clinton supporter Larry Johnson declared on Feb. 16 that Obama's association with former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers "will be Barack Obama's Willie Horton."

* On March 13, ABC News was the first major media outlet to report on the anti-American rants of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the pastor of Obama's Trinty Church in Chicago, igniting a controversy that continued to make headlines for weeks.

* On April 7, Christopher Hitchens noted that Obama had named a radical Catholic priest, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, among his religious "mentors," and that Pfleger had defended Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. On May 25, Pfleger preached a bizarre sermon at Trinity church, mocking Hillary as an advocate of "white entitlement," resulting in a YouTube video clip that quickly went viral -- like the plague -- on the Internet.

* Obama's connection to corrupt Chicago Democratic fund-raiser Tony Rezko was widely reported by major media. In January, for example, ABC News reported that Rezko and his associates had "contributed more than $120,000 to Obama's 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate, much of it at a time when Rezko was the target of an FBI investigation."

His scandalous associations didn't stop Obama from squeaking past Hillary to clinch the Democratic nomination, but his responses to these controversies so far -- such as first "distancing" himself from Wright, then finally quitting the Trinity congregation -- are unlikely to immunize him from further scrutiny in the general-election campaign.

ONLY ONCE DURING a Democratic debate, in Philadelphia on April 16, was Obama asked to respond to questions about these controversies. His staunchest supporters admitted that Obama fared very poorly in that debate, and he then refused subsequent debate invitations -- an option he won't have this fall.

Even the manner in which Obama won the nomination suggests that he may prove an unusually weak candidate in the general election.