It is totally understandable that hard core conservatives would like nothing more than for Andrew Breitbart’s shocking death to have some sort of larger meaning. The fulfillment of his promise that college tapes of Barack Obama will insure that he will finally be “vetted” during the 2012 election would certainly achieve that desire.
The videos Breitbart promised are now being released, but as someone who not long ago knew Andrew and his playbook as well as any of his many friends and associates, I am quite confident that they will have zero impact on the election and may even help Obama.
First of all, since he has already been president for four years, there is nothing that Obama could possibly have said in college that the mainstream media will deem remotely relevant, no matter how “explosive” the tapes may be. We all know that the media is absurdly protective of him to begin with and comments from college years can be far too easily dismissed as the “experimentations of youth.”
Anything which exposes Obama as a legitimate socialist/radical (frankly, I think we already have enough information to conclude that), may have helped in 2008 when the American public didn’t know him, but it will have zero effect in 2012 when he has been president for four years and is perceived mostly a having governed as a moderate liberal.
Now, I will admit that Breitbart’s death has certainly insured that this effort will at least get attention on the right (for instance, his final column, “The Vetting, Part 1” was linked at Drudge when it never would have been before his death), but having Sean Hannity’s audience further convinced that Obama was a radical while at Harvard is going to have far less influence on what happens in November than whether it rains in key precincts in Ohio and Virginia.
Andrew’s greatest skill was instinctively realizing exactly how stories would play in the media and how to manipulate them to serve his purposes. He was almost a savant in this area (especially when he was working for the Drudge Report and could leverage the ability to link to stories there in his relationship with news reporters) and if he really had the “goods” in this situation he would have acted very differently than he did.
If you take a look at Breitbart’s “greatest hits,” he rarely ever hinted with any specificity that something like this was about to come down and certainly was never so blatant and public about it as he was at CPAC this year. The only time he did that was when he was purely in “promotion” mode and was trying to create buzz/anticipation for something which he was concerned might get ignored (like, for instance, the start of a new web site). If the first, incredibly lame, video is any indication, Breitbart was correctly worried about that happening to his "vetting series."
It was very revealing the way in which Breitbart teased these tapes at CPAC. When you read the words they seem quite dramatic, but when you watch what he said it is clear that he was throwing this out almost as an aside and did so without a lot of conviction. If he really had something amazing he would not likely have spoken about it at all for fear of getting scooped (especially since it appears these tapes were readily available) and, if he had chosen to go public, he would have been far more confident and calculating about how he did so.
It is obvious to me that Breitbart’s videos are the type which conservatives would look at and say, “See, we told you so!” while the rest of the world would, rightly, just shrug and say, “So?”
Knowing this, Breitbart brilliantly concluded that by teasing the CPAC audience he would at least get him some coverage down the line on Fox News and maybe Drudge, which to him, as a businessman first, meant that the endeavor would be a success. Again, if you have something really powerful, there is no need to create buzz and sap your story of its shock value. No one knew this better than Andrew Breitbart. Of course, he never expected that his death would create too much buzz for them and result in a needless embarrassment for his entire organization.
There is one other important element to this story about which I am probably the only living person who has full knowledge of it and the guts/stupidity to tell it.
I found it fascinating that Breitbart said at CPAC that, thanks to these tapes, Obama would finally be “vetted” in 2012 and that his web site is now starting a “vetting series.” Not only have I made the only major movie about how Obama was indeed not properly reported on in 2008, but I had many communications at that time with Breitbart about how his attempts to foster that examination were blocked, shockingly, by none other than alleged conservative Matt Drudge (for whom I used to fill in on his old radio show).
It became very clear to me during the 2008 primary season that, for whatever reason, the Drudge Report was completely in the tank for the Obama campaign. When I addressed this concern with Breitbart, he readily agreed and admitted great frustration at what was happening. He even revealed that on several occasions he had tried to post prominent “negative” stories about Obama on the site but had seen Drudge take the highly unusual step of not only moving them down the page but also taking them off the site completely.
On some occasions, Andrew told me that Drudge even totally cut off his ability to update the web page and completely stopped linking to Breitbart’s site (which he interpreted as Drudge’s way of reminding him who the boss was).
There were many examples of this remarkable pro-Obama bias, but I will offer up just a few here as proof (you can have fun finding more on your own at the easily accessible Drudge archives on the bottom right hand portion of his site).
On February 18, 2008, Michelle Obama famously told two different crowds that Barack’s success running for president was the first time in her “adult life” that she was “really proud” of her country. When Breitbart ended his shift that evening the story dramatically led the Drudge Report. However, just a few minutes later when Drudge himself stepped in, the link (along with two others charging Obama with plagiarism) was suddenly nowhere to be found. The story quickly died and never reached the level of “common knowledge.”
Then, on March 13, 2008, ABC’s Good Morning America “broke” the story of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s controversial sermons and close ties to Obama. Almost exactly twenty fours later, while most of the media was feverishly building a firestorm which would require Obama to do three emergency damage-control network interviews that night, the story was somehow completely absent from Drudge’s incredibly influential news site. Instead, the headline was inexplicably about how the Super Delegates were starting to break towards Obama.
This was not some sort of fluke. The Rev. Wright story was barely ever seen on Drudge and, on the rare occasions when it did get posted, it was astonishingly muted. Andrew and I both felt strongly at the time that Drudge was providing “cover” for the mainstream media to downplay this bombshell. After all, if even the “right wing” narrative maker Drudge felt the story wasn’t a big deal, then why should they aggressively cover a story for which they clearly had no appetite?
Any doubt that Drudge was heavily favoring Obama ended in May around the critical Indiana primary.
The week before, on May 1st, Obama was tanking in the polls there thanks to Rev. Wright’s explosive National Press Club event. I sent Andrew a link to a story on this phenomenon (moments after he had sent me an article about how Drudge “hearts” Obama) and he linked it on Drudge. Literally moments, later Drudge stepped into the website and took the link off the page, keeping its extremely pro-Obama narrative strong. (For the record, this exchange is documented in one of many instant message sessions with Andrew, which I kept at that time because I was starting to sense the profound implications of what was happening here.)
When Obama ended up losing a very tight race in Indiana (despite the best efforts of Gary Indiana’s pro-Obama mayor who, as the Drudge archive indicates, did his very best to pretend that Obama may have actually won the crucial state until deep into the night), Drudge declared the future president to be “The Nominee” just hours later. The mainstream media quickly followed suit, and the rest is obviously history.
Breitbart never really knew why Drudge took this obvious pro-Obama position (interestingly, he told me they had only spoken twice in the approximately ten years he had help run the site at that point). He theorized that perhaps Drudge had become too “Europeanized,” but I personally concluded that Drudge simply knew that having Obama around would be fantastic for business. Breitbart never wanted to divulge any of this publicly out of respect for (and fear of) of Drudge, but the Andrew I knew would have wanted people to know about this after he was gone.
This entire episode created enormous tension between me and Breitbart (I allude to it generally in my movie, but without the details out of respect for my friendship with Andrew) and sowed the seeds for its ultimate demise. I know that Andrew felt an awful lot of quilt or regret for what happened during this period and I am confident he thought these new tapes may help him rewrite history.
Sadly, that is not going to happen and conservatives should understand the full reality of this situation, not only to comprehend the past, but to realize what we are up against in the future.