Obama’s Costly Campaign Finance Maneuver

23 Jun

Senator Barack Obama’s flip-flop on public financing is deeply troubling. On MTP, Obama proxy Senator Joe Biden explained the rationale for the putative Democratic nominee’s decision not to accept public financing.

“…[T]he purpose was to get big money out of the politics. The irony is, although he has changed his position–I’m not going to color that, he’s changed his position–the fact of the matter is he has 1,400,000 contributors, the vast majority of whom contribute less than a hundred bucks a piece. So the effect of campaign financing is in place, but it’s not campaign financing.”

Mark Shields on the Online Newshour called Obama’s decision a “a flip-flop of epic proportions.”

So what Obama didn’t admit was, up until February of this year, when he told Tim Russert that not only would he aggressively seek an agreement on public financing, that he personally would sit down with John McCain and work it out, then, all of a sudden, they realized that all these small contributions were coming in and he was going to have a financial advantage in the fall against the Republican, and they grabbed it.

On the same program, David Brooks, echoing the editorial line quoted on MTP, again argued hyperbolically:

I do think it’s the low point of the Obama candidacy, and I think it for this reason. His entire career he has put political reform at the center of it. In the Illinois legislature, in the Senate, political reform has been the essence of who he has been. And so for him to betray this, to sell out this issue, what won’t he sell out?

And it really reveals something about his conscience. It reveals that he has this idealistic side, which is a serious policy side, but he also has a tough Machiavellian side, a political hack side, and he wants to win.

And so, in some ways, this is terrible because it’s epic hypocrisy. In some ways, if you want a tough SOB to be your president, he’s shown he is a tough S.O.B.

Andrea Mitchell on MTP laid out the tactical lines Democrats and Republicans are drawing.

MS. MITCHELL: Well, in fact, the campaign is hoping that it is not, that it is the kind of inside-the-Beltway issue that doesn’t resonate. But, as you saw just now with Lindsey Graham and Joe Biden, you saw the outlines of the campaign. That is what, what Lindsey Graham did was to try to say, “You see, he’s not the real deal. He’s not authentic. You don’t really know this guy. He doesn’t represent reform, new politics. He breaks his word. You can’t trust him.” That’s what they will claim, and they’ll use something like his going back on his word on this and try to make it into a big deal. You heard John McCain say, his immediate response when he was out in Iowa, “This is a big deal. This is a big deal.”

Brian Williams brought up a compelling point, that candidates need money for the “ad buy”: “…[W]hen we talk about campaign finance and the big money in politics, this is what the big money buys. Take a look at the map, take a look at the ad buy.” And, what Andrea Mitchell said, “…that 55 percent of [Obama’s] contributors are bigger donors” is presented with these graphics.

I think the campaign finance issue is like the transportation alternative issue. Just as its hard for most suburbanites to get to work with a commitment to use less gas, it’s hard to campaign without media. Stoic pledges to refrain from the trough are unrealistic Obama has done well to increase the percentage of donors under the $200 range, but there’s a wall where physical endurance and corporate-controlled media wait. President Truman in the 1948 presidential campaign against Republican Thomas Dewey undertook an epic whistle-stop tour of the nation, to meet previously untouched voters in rural areas and to marginalize the power of the big newspapers’ editorial sword. Those voters in key states proved to be the margin of victory. Perhaps Obama has updated the train tactic for modern times. However, the real wall Truman fought against, the advantage of key states and media markets in the electoral college, keeps pace against Obama

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