Saturday, February 16, 2008

Taking Public Money


The Washington Post attacks Barack Obama for retreating (through a spokesman) from a pledge to forego private funding for the general election if his opponent did the same. Don't the anonymous editors who wrote the column read their own paper? They don't need to be quoting spokespersons:
Obama said in Milwaukee: "If I am the nominee, then I will make sure that our people talk to John McCain's people to find out if we are willing to abide by the same rules and regulations in respect to the general election." But, he added, "it would be presumptuous of me to start saying now that I'm locking myself into something when I don't even know if the other side is going to agree to it, and I'm not the nominee."
Obama denies that his inquiry constituted a pledge.
Last year, Mr. Obama sought an advisory ruling with the Federal Election Commission to see whether the campaign could opt out of public financing in the primary and accept it in the general election. It was merely an inquiry, he said, not a pledge to accept the financing.
Why all this negativity toward Obama, with an added dig at Hillary Clinton, but the kid gloves treatment of John McCain?
But this kind of backtracking and parsing isn't what the millions of voters who have been inspired by Mr. Obama are looking for. It's not befitting Mr. Obama's well-earned image as a champion of reform. Instead of waffling, Mr. Obama should be pushing Ms. Clinton to go beyond her spokesman's statements that she would "definitely consider" forgoing public financing.
Why not a word of criticism for John McCain, whose flip-flopping and manipulations on the issue of public financing are a matter of record?

McCain's present statements suggest that he 'll go back to his original commitment to use federal funds, but only if Obama makes that commitment first. The difference being, McCain actually signed on the dotted line to receive federal funds. Why is Mr. Straight-Talk excused from his abrogation of his signed and delivered application for federal funds, while Obama is excoriated for a non-binding commitment made in response to a questionnaire?

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Addendum: I found the candidate's statements to the Midwest Democracy Network.
In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain (r-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.
While Obama makes a strong commitment to public financing in elections, the Post elides the reference to John McCain and Obama's understanding of McCain's pledge. (A fair understanding, given that McCain actually applied for public funds.)

I wouldn't mind seeing Obama stay true to his beliefs, but let's not pretend that John "McCain-Feingold" is holding to his own commitments. If he weren't playing the "Despite what I said before, I'm not going to stick with my word unless Obama makes a binding commitment to use public financing" game, I would be much less forgiving of Obama. But he's doing just that.

3 comments:

  1. http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/politics/5531997.html

    McCain already has said he won't stick to his pledge, and now he has the perfect smokescreen

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  2. More on McCain's loans, and how he manipulated the situation to make it plausible (if not exactly ethical) to apply for, reject, then possibly again apply for federal funds.

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