My students have been assigned this brief article written immediately after Joe Biden was chosen as Obama's running mate. The purpose is to initiate a discussion of Biden's colorful history and lack of "wow" appeal, neither of which were disqualifying because Obama didn't really need anything from a running mate. He was doing fine on his own. This contrasts with McCain, who needed a running mate to come on board and save his trainwreck of a campaign. That is, of course, too much to ask of any running mate. Obama had the luxury of picking whoever he wanted without worrying about what it would do to Save his campaign which didn't need saving.

Pretty standard stuff.

Now spend a few minutes reading the comments. I couldn't even get past the first dozen without my jaw locking in a permanently dropped position. It appears that the general public's analytical abilities regarding elections are as good as their math and geography skills. The reaction appears to be evenly split between right-wing fantasy and that overwhelming forced pessimism from liberals that made me want to punch everyone for the last three months of the election. The first comment:

I can't believe Obama made this choice. It is just so dumb. They needed to reach out to working class Whites, OK I accept that. Biden is going to help? I don't see it myself. They needed a hunter, a shooter, a drinker, a fighter and a worker. Who opposed abortion.

Need bold predictions? There were bold predictions:

Biden is a disastrous choice forced on Obama by AIPAC because of Obama's incurable wobbliness on the Israeli-Arab question, as in everything else…As the gaping void behind his JFK image becomes more and more visible to the American public, Obama is reduced to pandering to televangelists and Israel-firsters, thereby cementing his certain defeat.

Not defeat. Certain defeat. Cemented. And cement is indestructible.

He really is the Democrat's Vince Cable. The wrong candidate has been chosen. Prepare for President McCain, the Dumocrats have gon' dun' it' agun.

Those considerations are only relevant should Obama win and at this moment he's trailing McCain. So the immediate task is how to deal with McCain.

Yes, he was formidable! Maybe we need someone with expertise:

I can say as a lifetime American, the things said about Biden in this article are 100% accurate, and were put quite mildly, to say the least. I'm hardly a rabid McCain fan, myself (I'm not even a Republican) — but if these two poor blokes are the best the Democratic Party has to offer, well…it's no wonder they've lost seven of the last ten U.S. presidential elections, with number 8 very possibly on the way.

I feel like I have lowered myself to write a post in which I consider internet comments to be representative of public opinion, but in scanning this thread I found myself instantly transported back to the first week of September. I remember clearly riding an escalator at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston and being told by a colleague that McCain just made his VP choice and…oh boy, Obama was in trouble. His choice of Biden, which had been made a week earlier, was bad. He was losing (or losing "badly" depending on who was speaking) and now McCain harnessed the talents of this young, sexy conservative superstar who was going to win over every Hillary Clinton supporter and help McCain expose Obama's shallow cult of personality and lack of intellectual substance. The sky was falling, President McCain was an inevitability, and one could hardly maintain balance between the gloating conservatives and the liberals looking for a quiet corner in which to commit suicide.

Remember all that? What the fuck was everyone thinking? I know people always view their own behavior more favorably in hindsight, but it would be interesting to make people reconcile their opinions at that time with the events of the subsequent two months.

I can't tell if people really are that dumb or if the emotional rollercoaster of following politics closely simply overwhelms good judgment. Internet comments may be where hope goes to die – hey, at least I didn't use YouTube comments – but I think it serves a purpose here. It can be pretty embarrassing to leave a written record of one's opinions, the wisdom of which will be analyzed after the fact. For most people, forgetting what they say almost immediately functions as a very effective defense mechanism against self-improvement.