The Ugly Truth

Revelations about the Clinton campaign's "un-American" ideas reveal more than just a penchant for nasty politics.

Clinton declined most of Penn’s advice, but she signed off on an attempt to portray Obama as a power-hungry fanatic by dredging up a paper he wrote in kindergarten titled, “I Want to be President.” How petty can you get?

This is all fascinating stuff, and could offer John McCain a roadmap for a negative blitz. But I’m more interested in what these revelations—along with John Edwards’ carefully crafted confession last week about his unfaithfulness—say about how close the country came to selecting a leader whose public image is totally at odds with her or his actual personality.

Clinton based her campaign on the idea that her experience made her ready to lead on day one. It’s now pretty obvious that she does not have the chops to manage a large organization effectively.

Edwards projected the image of a heroic battler for the underdog, whose passion was exemplified by his loyalty to his cancer-victim wife. It turns out, he’s a cad.

All of us should breathe a sigh of relief that we found out about these candidates’ flaws when we did. Had the truth about either of them emerged after they won the nomination, the Republicans would likely have cruised into the White House. If we had learned the facts after they entered the White House, it would have been a disaster.

We must always be on guard.

One of these days there may be comparable leaks about Obama’s campaign, telling us things about him we never imagined.

We’ll find out what he really felt about Jeremiah Wright’s cantankerous performance at the National Press Club and McCain’s comical but effective TV spots likening the Illinois senator to Charleton Heston’s Moses parting the Red Sea. We’ll understand more why he made cynical political moves like reversing himself on Bush’s FISA bill and off-shore drilling.

We’ll be able to see more clearly the steely ambition and cynical compromises that lifted him out of obscurity to being only one step away from becoming the most powerful man in the world in a remarkably short time.

Lord knows, not everything we will learn about Obama is going to be pretty. No politician ever lives up to our expectations, and he will be no exception.