Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Friday, June 20th, 2008.

The Financing Flap


I have a hard time imagining the current flap over how Barack Obama has “destroyed” public financing of elections will actually get much traction from voters. Obama supporters are OK with it. McCain supporters will feign outrage, even though they never liked public financing. Everyone else will flip channels, so to speak.

And today, while editorialists are denouncing Obama, few seem to have noticed what Josh Marshall is pointing out:

I mentioned earlier today that it was quite a thing to see John McCain denouncing Barack Obama for breaking his word on public financing when McCain himself is at this moment breaking the law in continuing to spend over the spending limits he promised to abide by through the primary season in exchange for public financing. (By the FEC’s rules, we’re still in the primary phase of the election and will be until the conventions.)

I want to return to this subject though because this is not hyperbole or some throw away line. He’s really doing it. McCain opting into public financing, accepted the spending limits and then profited from that opt-in by securing a campaign saving loan. And then he used some clever, but not clever enough lawyering, to opt back out. And the person charged with saying what flies and what doesn’t — the Republican head of the FEC — said he’s not allowed to do that. He can’t opt out unilaterally unless the FEC says he can.

Here’s a video from last February in which Josh explains McCain’s, um, maneuverings:

Steve Benen writes,

I’m a little confused about why Obama’s decision is causing such a stir.

To be sure, Obama reversed course. He said he intended to stay within the system, and then he didn’t, so if his detractors want to shout, “Flip-flop!” it’s a reasonable enough charge. But if policy reversals are a politician’s biggest crime, John McCain might as well drop out of the race now.

Ultimately, Obama is a pragmatist. He wants to play by the rules — Obama isn’t violating any laws or doing anything unethical here — and maximize his chances of success. In this case, that means raising lots of money from his supporters. And this is scandalous … why?

Sidoti said Obama “chose winning over his word.” It reminded me of an extemporaneous speech Obama delivered to his staff in Chicago shortly after securing the nomination. He explained that the nation is counting on him and his team to win. “We don’t have a choice,” Obama said. The stakes are too high, and the responsibilities are too great. In this context, if that means withdrawing from a flawed campaign-finance system, so be it.

Two other points. First, it’s curious that Obama’s perfectly legal and ethical decision is sparking complaints, but McCain’s arguably illegal decision to “spend over the spending limits he promised to abide by through the primary season in exchange for public financing” is hardly generating any news at all. Obama is opting out of a system he never entered; McCain is playing fast and loose with election law. For some reason, the AP is writing caustic admonishments about the prior, not the latter.

We all know what the “some reason” is, and what’s going on out of our sight. Corporate interests and the deep pocket/true believer types running rightie media infrastructure are flogging Obama’s campaign finance decision and doing whatever they can to blow it up into a major scandal to hurt Obama. They’re calling/writing/emailing/faxing every columnist and editorialist and news manager in America to be sure they “get” the rightie view of things. And then the rightie view is reflected in news coverage, whereas what we might call an “objective” view is frozen out.

The AP in particular is bought and paid for. Let’s not even pretend otherwise.

David Brooks repeats the propaganda — I mean, it’s David Brooks, so you know he will toe the line even as he pretends to be sorrowful about it all — but he also says,

This guy is the whole Chicago package: an idealistic, lakefront liberal fronting a sharp-elbowed machine operator. He’s the only politician of our lifetime who is underestimated because he’s too intelligent. He speaks so calmly and polysyllabically that people fail to appreciate the Machiavellian ambition inside.

“Machiavellian” is hyperbole, IMO, but on the whole I believe this is correct. During the Endless Primary, people kept portraying Hillary Clinton as a scrappy fighter, and don’t we want somebody who will fight for us like that? But while Clinton was exhausting herself in public histrionics and losing, Obama was finessing the delegate game and winning.

It’s called fighting smart, not hard.

Brooks continues,

All I know for sure is that this guy is no liberal goo-goo. Republicans keep calling him naïve. But naïve is the last word I’d use to describe Barack Obama. He’s the most effectively political creature we’ve seen in decades.

Exactly. But then Brooks says,

Even Bill Clinton wasn’t smart enough to succeed in politics by pretending to renounce politics.

Brooks has to put a rightie spin on things; it’s his purpose in life. But Barack isn’t renouncing “politics.” He’s renouncing the sick political culture that has been strangling elections and government these past few decades. The same culture, I might add, that Brooks and his ilk thrive in like mold in a petri dish.

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There’s Water on Mars


I’m no scientist, but I believe this is huge.

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