Yesterday Obama channeled Emily Litella and said “never mind,” taking back his earlier promise to accept public financing for his campaign if his opponent would as well. In November of 2007 he not only made this pledge, but added “I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.” He has not (see description of those negotiations here), and today he stopped even pretending that he would.
Well, so what? Promises, shmomises.
You might say it’s no big deal. After all, almost every other politician on earth has gone back on a pledge at one point or other, sometimes on many. It’s business as usual, and why should Obama be any different?
But Obama’s been running as the business-as-unusual candidate, not just another hypocritical, lying pol who, as Obama’s former mentor the Rev. Wright said, “does what politicians do.” And yet as soon as Obama saw that the money flowing his way was far beyond what he could get if he adhered to his agreement, he reneged.
It’s not just that he reneged, either–it’s how he reneged. Who’s to blame, according to Obama? Why, John McCain and the nasty Republicans, that’s who. James Joyner writes that this charge of Obama’s does take “a bit of gall.” I’d say it takes substantially more than a bit, as well as a heavy dose of the whining, blaming, audacity in which the holier-than-thou Obama tends to specialize:
The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system,” Mr. Obama said. “John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations.”
As they used to say in the schoolyard, takes one to know one. Actually, it’s Obama’s campaign that’s been doing virtually all of the latter, as Jim Kuhnhenn of the AP points out:
Despite that claim, few Republican-leaning groups have weighed into the presidential contest so far. In fact, Obama allies such as MoveOn.org are the ones that have been spending money on advertising against McCain.
But Obama doesn’t want to let a little thing like this fact get in the way of a good argument, or at least an argument that sounds good. And once again, he’s relying on the American people not to know or care—and, if the comments by his supporters are any indication, he could be right (scroll down here for many such comments).
There are two ways in which this act of Obama’s shows that he’s the candidate of change, after all. He’s changed his mind, for one thing. And he will now become the very first presidential candidate from a major party to opt out since the public funding system—with its spending limits—was created in the post-Watergate reform climate of 1976. This means that he will be the first candidate in over thirty years to have more money under his control than his opponent:
“It’ll be like George Steinbrenner’s Yankees in the ’90s—an All-Star at every position—against the ’90s Kansas City Royals, barely able to meet their payroll,” said Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant who worked for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004….”He’s going to be able to raise almost unimaginable amount of money,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist…”This is an incredible advantage for him and his campaign. He’ll be able to dictate the terms of this election….[H]e can be the aggressor…”
Obama is no doubt betting that few people will know, remember, or care what a hypocrite he looks like at the moment, because now he’s got the money (and the control of it, unlike the RNC funds McCain will have some access to) to mount an unmatchable media blitz of ads from now till November. It just might work; he’s wasting no time:
Within hours, Obama showed his financial might by rolling out a 60-second television ad in 18 states, including several that have been reliable GOP strongholds.
Obama made the money announcement in a video message to supporters—and sought to empower them to give more….
“Let’s build the first general election campaign that’s truly funded by the American people,” Obama said—ignoring the fact that the system he’s opting out of is paid for by taxpayers who donate $3 to the fund when they file their tax returns.
It’s hardly the only fact Obama is ignoring. The sad thing is that it may not matter.
Change you can believe in.