Victor Davis Hanson

What should we not expect during next summer's presidential campaign, given what was put off-limits in 2008 and later?

There is much talk about what some are perceiving as the fringe religiosity of possible Republican primary candidates such as Michele Bachman and Rick Perry. But the media established the precedent four years ago that no candidate can be held responsible for his church. Barack Obama's pastor of more than 20 years, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was an unapologetic racist and anti-Semite, and a raving conspiracy theorist whose parishioners gave him standing ovations for his hate-filled "G-d damn America" rants.

Prior education and college preparation should not be 2012 issues either. Recent articles have referred to a leaked Texas A&M undergraduate transcript of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, showing some dismal grades and thus apparent proof that Perry was not much of a past student -- or current thinker. But in this regard, Obama has never released either his Occidental or Columbia transcripts. In response, the media in 2008 shrugged and chose not to pursue the matter the way it had with the C-grade records of George W. Bush, Al Gore and John Kerry. Apparently Obama has established another wise precedent that long-ago college transcripts, like churchgoing, are irrelevant.

Civility is off the table, too. Candidate Obama once called sitting president Bush "unpatriotic" for borrowing $4 trillion in eight years -- a sum he matched in less than three. He advised Latinos to "punish our enemies" and mocked opponents for wanting to put "alligators and moats" on the border. Obama's advisors reportedly promised to "Kill Romney." So civility is out the window, and 2012 will once again be a typically American no-holds-barred slugfest of anything goes from both sides.

Public campaign financing won't come up either. Both sides will raise obscene amounts of money. You see, in 2008, Obama set another election precedent: He was the first president in the history of public campaign financing laws to shun federal money and oversight in the general election, largely because he wanted -- and got -- a record level of private cash, much of it from Wall Street.

The old bogeyman George W. Bush won't matter much either by 2012. Since 2008, Obama has blamed Bush for chronic high unemployment, record annual deficits, massive national debt, the erratic stock market, credit downgrading, a continuing housing slump and near nonexistent growth. But even the president's supporters confess that Obama finally now "owns" the economy, especially given the newly elected president's boast in early 2009 that if he didn't fix things in three years, he would not deserve re-election.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.