Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 20, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

OBAMA AND PUBLIC FINANCING....Apparently John McCain is going to try to make a big deal out of Barack Obama's pledge a few months ago to "aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election." Paul Waldman thinks Obama ought to opt out of that pledge by citing 527s as an excuse:

The argument would go something like this: "I said I would 'aggressively pursue an agreement to preserve a publicly financed election' with my Republican opponent. And I'm happy to have our two campaigns sit down and see if there is a way to make the debate between me and John McCain, within the publicly financed system. But as long as there are 'independent' Republican groups out there planning on spending hundreds of millions of dollars attacking me, it would be pretty foolish to lock myself into a spending limit that makes it impossible to respond. So I ask Senator McCain: Can you call off the right-wing hit squad? If you can do that, I'll be only too happy to say we should both accept public financing. But if you can't, I'm not going to sign away my ability to compete."

McCain would squawk, of course, but the real question is whether it would be enough to satisfy the press.

For the record, I think Obama made a pretty clear promise to accept public financing in the general election as long as McCain did likewise, and the 527 dodge is just that: a dodge. At the same time, I also think Obama was foolish to make his promise in the first place.

But whatever Obama does, I think one thing is clear: he should do it quickly. If he's willing to accept public financing, he should say so straight away and put this whole thing to bed. If he's not, he should lay out his reasons and make a clear and unequivocal statement about it right now. It won't hurt him even slightly in the primaries — Hillary doesn't have much of an opening to attack on this issue, and if she's foolish enough to try it might actually help Obama by giving him a chance to show that he's tough enough for bare-knuckled campaigning too — and no matter how the press reacts the issue will die quickly as long as he takes a firm position. If McCain tries to bring it up later, Obama can then wave it off as old news, a tactic that has almost a 100% success record with the mainstream media.

I'm mystified that the Obama campaign doesn't seem to get this. What do they possibly gain by allowing this issue to remain in the news cycle for weeks or months? They should get off the stick.

Kevin Drum 2:48 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (119)

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Obama could make the case that he is not fighting a principled opponent. John McCain used legal trickery during the primaries so that he could simulataneously spend more than public financing allows, and use the promise of public financing as collateral for a loan, although that's against the rules (so instead of directly saying that the public money would be collateral, he instead promised to stay in the race under false pretenses and take public financing to pay off debts if he lost).


Obama could ask if John McCain really wants to talk about public financing given his chicanery.

Posted by: Joe Buck on February 20, 2008 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

How about they genuinely want to try to pursue an agreement with McCain on the issue but cannot do so before they are the nominee because it would be presumptuous ?

It definetly looks like bad politics to let the issue linger but if he sincerely believes in it as a matter of policy (he wants to take public financing if they can agree on some basic rules) then it makes sense

Posted by: Benjamin on February 20, 2008 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

McCain has run an incompetent, totally bad campaign. Clearly, he is trying to weaken Obama by cutting his money supply. Obama should just get a couple of McCain quotes about this issue. McCain has been totally hypocritical about the whole issue. He KNOWS that he will be buried, since the Democrats are WAY energized.

I believe that it is his OWN BILL which will cripple him. Wouldn't that be choice? His own limits on money....

Posted by: POed Lib on February 20, 2008 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

What? Make a deal, or even not attack, McCain, who has been shamelessly manipulating the system? Getting loans with public funding, opting in, opting out, etc. What Joe Buck said.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on February 20, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

I'm mystified that the Obama campaign doesn't seem to get this.

Maybe because Obama promised to stick to public financing? A promise is a promise. If Obama isn't willing to stick to his primise to use public financing, I will have lost my respect for him. I'm pretty torn between Obama and McCain, but breaking the promise would be the last straw forcing me to vote for McCain.

Posted by: Al on February 20, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Joe makes an excellent point. The Obama campaign should say that they aren't even sure that McCain has followed the law, suggesting that McCain is the one abusing the pledge and the system, until it has been proved that McCain stayed within the law (which is doubtful).

And actually, did Obama make a pledge to take public financing, no matter what, if the Republican nominee did? Kevin and the media seem to be reporting it that way, but I've never seen a quote from Obama himself that makes it clear that it was a sure thing. He pledged to negotiate, in the quotes I've seen, and that's a huge distinction. If this is the truth, the Obama campaign should at the very least do their best to correct the record about what McCain is charging.

Btw, Obama addressed this issue in an editorial in USA Today, today. It was well-written but not as aggressive as I would have liked.

Posted by: Roy on February 20, 2008 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

I think this is the ideal opportunity for Obama to show he is the candidate of change, the President that will reach across the aisle in a bi-partisan fashion, the President of hope.

He has the perfect opportunity to show that what he says is not "Just Words."

Someones crying, lord, kumbaya
Oh lord, kumbaya

Posted by: jerry on February 20, 2008 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Is before you put up your post fast enough? http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2008/02/opposing-view-3.html#more

Posted by: Joe on February 20, 2008 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

All along there has been a lot of second-guessing of Obama's campaign. But what they're doing seems to be working.

Posted by: Tithonia on February 20, 2008 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Whoops. Roy beat me to Obama's USA Today op-ed.

Posted by: Joe on February 20, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

What Joe said, Obama answered this today in a US Today Op-ed. No one should commentate on the issue until they've read this.

As I have said, I will aggressively pursue such an agreement if I am my party's nominee.

I do not expect that a workable, effective agreement will be reached overnight. The campaign-finance laws are complex, and filled with loopholes that can render meaningless any agreement that is not solidly constructed...

Posted by: Mark on February 20, 2008 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

So last year, Obama said that he would aggressively seek to pursue a spending agreement with his opponent that preserves not only the letter but the spirit of campaign finance reform.

And now today, Obama's saying that he will... aggressively seek to pursue a spending agreement with his opponent that preserves not only the letter but the spirit of campaign finance reform.

Damn flip-flopper!

Posted by: DaveWoo on February 20, 2008 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is often wrong, but he made two mistakes here. If Obama uses the argument that he is afraid of the Republican 527s, then he looks afraid, which is not good. Also, if Obama makes a decision either way now, he is asking for attacks from the Clinton Camp. This decision can wait.

Posted by: reino on February 20, 2008 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Oops. Meant to say that Kevin isn't often wrong. My apologies.

Posted by: reino on February 20, 2008 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK
Maybe because Obama promised to stick to public financing?

No, he didn't.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 20, 2008 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

They should get off the stick.

Hmm. Well, I think they should get on the stick.

Posted by: JM on February 20, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

It's easy to get out of:

Say that no agreement can be reached till John McCain 1) stops his campaign finance trickery, and 2) apologizes to the American people for engaging in that kind of underhanded trickery, particularly given his role in campaign finance reform in the past.

You make the trickery public, and you force McCain to either deny it (and thus get out of public financing yourself) or admit it (and thus really fuck up his straight shooter maverick image).

Posted by: phleabo on February 20, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Given the way many Republicans feel about McCain-Feingold, I wonder if this couldn't backfire on Johnny boy.

Posted by: Quinn on February 20, 2008 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

This would be my concern with the Obama campaign. They don't seem to get that once Hillary's out of the way, they're going to get hit hard. Can he hit back?

Posted by: DougMN on February 20, 2008 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

The 527s are a lot more important than a dodge. They were the critical determinant in 2004.

Posted by: urban legend on February 20, 2008 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Roy asks:

"Did Obama make a pledge to take public financing, no matter what, if the Republican nominee did? Kevin and the media seem to be reporting it that way, but I've never seen a quote from Obama himself that makes it clear that it was a sure thing."

That may be because the New York Times has been cleaning up his pledge a bit (it was made last fall). When asked if he would pledge to go public if his Republican opponent did, he answered, "Yes," then gave the rest of his answer. The Post included the "yes" when they editorialized about this last weekend. The Times has dropped the "yes" when they have quoted Obama's pledge.

Question: What part of "yes" doesn't the New York Times understand?

Posted by: bob somerby on February 20, 2008 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

This would be my concern with the Obama campaign. They don't seem to get that once Hillary's out of the way, they're going to get hit hard. Can he hit back?

See Mark's post at 3:03.

Posted by: shortstop on February 20, 2008 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

To a far greater extent than his opponents Clinton and McCain, Obama has been publicly financed.

Posted by: chance on February 20, 2008 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Obama should announce that he isn't going to take public financing. If asked to explain he should say simply "I intend to beat John McCain like a rented mule."

Obama needs to let the world know that he is calling the shots here; not McCain and not the media.

Posted by: rk on February 20, 2008 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

It is premature to do anything- he hasn't even won the nomination yet.

However, if McCain goes the public financing route, it will be impossible for Obama to not do so without looking like he lied. It is quite a corner he painted himself into, and for no real gain.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on February 20, 2008 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama were truly the man of change that he claims to be, he should simply tell McCain that unlike him, he believes in the First Amendment, which states that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech and that McCain-Feingold is violation of the First Amendment.

If he wants to rub McCain's nose in this stupid issue, Obama should say that, again unlike McCain, he would not be corrupted by the millions of dollars that American citizens are freely donating to his historic campaign of change.

But I suspect that would be too much change for Obama or any other liberal to embrace.

Posted by: Chicounsel on February 20, 2008 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Regardless of what Obama does, I think McCain might want to opt for public financing simply so that the temptation isn't as strong to suck up to the usual GOP money players. McCain already looks kind of dirty based on the loan terms that he set up earlier this election cycle (e.g. that he would stay in the GOP nomination race even if he wasn't competitive simply to collect taxpayer money to repay his loan terms? That's sketchy).

Posted by: Franklin on February 20, 2008 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK
Question: What part of "yes" doesn't the New York Times understand?
What part of the english language doesn't Bob Somerby understand? The 'yes' isn't the definitive part of the quote if Obama gave a more lengthy qualifying statement after saying 'yes'.

You really need to take a step back, Bob. First you can't see that Hillary was attacking both Bush and Obama with her "all hat and no cattle" line, a point proven by her continuing the personal tear down campaign against Obama, and now you try to parse his complex statement into a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer.

Posted by: mp on February 20, 2008 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

The centrist and the others to left of Republican ideology are not expected to be shills for the Democratic nominee's campaign, but is it too much to ask that they keep their to prove that I am rational, above partisanship, and neutral, I have to bang up on the presumptive Dem nominee hat in the closet at least till he gets the nomination?

Posted by: gregor on February 20, 2008 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

So, Obama is all for public financing as long as no member of the public can use their freedom of speech to talk about him.

Great

Posted by: Paul on February 20, 2008 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

This issue does not hurt Obama as much as it makes McCain appear as a whinny weakling. So, I might disagree with Mr. Drum about getting off the stick. This issue does not hurt Sen. Obama with his constituency. This is a MSM pundit created controversey McCain is using to try and limit the fiscal advantage of Obama's vast constituency. Those who will be influenced to support McCain because of it, are not going to vote for Obama anyway.

This issue empowers Obama's constituency. They should be asked to give more, especially since their generosity has a war advocate begging for mercy. Make McCain beg, then make him beg some more. Then decline.

Barack should ask the 50,000-100,000 people at his next rally to squawk like a McCain, and then tell the naval nihilist that is his answer.

Posted by: Brojo on February 20, 2008 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

You make the trickery public, and you force McCain to either deny it (and thus get out of public financing yourself) or admit it (and thus really fuck up his straight shooter maverick image).

I believe we have a winner.

Posted by: Lucy on February 20, 2008 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

I think that Obama needs to be _Praising_ John McCain.

He needs to praise John McCain for sponsoring the McCain/Feingold bill. He needs to praise him for sponsoring immigration legislation that recognizes the human dignity of undocumented immigrants. He needs to prais him for opposing the bush tax cuts. Praise him for standing up in opposition to waterboarding. Praise him for standing up against the religious right in 2000.

That way Obama is still a nice guy and every right-wing nut job stays away from the polls in January

Posted by: jessew on February 20, 2008 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin may be right, but given what this campaign has done over the past couple of months, I'd cut them some slack. They seem to know what they are doing.

Posted by: RollaMO on February 20, 2008 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

The USA op-ed is the perfect response: we will sit down and play deal no deal. Guess what? No republican will ever agree to play ball with those constraints. McCain is effectively cooked with no way out of the pot.

Turn up the heat please.
He deserves slow torturing.


Posted by: frankly pissed in Hawaii on February 20, 2008 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

There's something annoying about a guy who clearly supports Hilary, giving advice to Obama.

So far, Obama has run a pretty good campaign. You should take all this great "advice" of yours and give to Hilary, she needs it much more.

Posted by: Justin on February 20, 2008 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Why the Press Sucks, pt. 157

Here is a NYT teaser currently on their webpage:
"Clinton Sharpens Attack Against Obama"
Here is what they say in the article about the "words vs works" theme:
"It is a familiar theme, but Mrs. Clinton delivered it with fresh intensity after the crushing defeats in Wisconsin and Hawaii on Tuesday."
In other words, there is no story here. Clinton is using the same old rhetoric--the "fresh intensity" is BS. This is a writer who had a deadline for 1000 words to his editor about the campaign so he invented something.

And for the media conspiracy crowd, the article continues the "Hillary Attacks!" meme.

Posted by: Bush Lover on February 20, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

All this talk about public financing is silly.

Clearly, McCain is using the issue of public financing as a wedge device. He's not serious. Nor should Obama be. There is nothing serious in this to be serious about.

What is significant is to have the candidates engage in a spirited exchange on the future of America and its relations with the world. Let's sweep the Clinton debris out of the way and get on down the line.

Posted by: Gerald L. Campbell on February 20, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

"If Obama were truly the man of change that he claims to be...."

Well, sure, if he were as big an idiot as you are. Fortunately for all of us, he's not.

Posted by: PaulB on February 20, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

For the record, I think Obama made a pretty clear promise to accept public financing in the general election as long as McCain did likewise

That's funny. I thought Obama made a pretty clear promise to aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee regarding public financing.

Now, where would I get that idea?

Posted by: Brautigan on February 20, 2008 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Note to mp:

I didn't try to simplify his answer. The Post quoted his complete answer, the Times chose to leave off the "yes." This was an odd bit of journalism. In the initial "yes," he agreed that he would go public if the Republican did. Without it, his agreement to do so isn't clear.

What I wrote concerned the NYT, not Obama. You aren't able (or willing) to see the difference. RE Obama, I agree with Kevin. I'm sorry he said what he did last fall, and I'm inclined to hope he finds a way out of it. I don't regard this as a big deal about him. But it looks like a typical bit of play by the Times. Their omission does change his answer.

Actually, Clinton was talking about Bush, as you can see by the fact that she used the word "Bush." Speculation beyond that is speculation. You want the right to type your preferred novels too. Sorry--only journos get that.

Posted by: bob somerby on February 20, 2008 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Ultimately, I think this is a pedantic pundit issue that few average voters will care anything about.

Posted by: Speed on February 20, 2008 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

If Barack should accept pubic monies, that means he would have to tell his constituents to stop supporting him finanically while the MSM and the 527's spent millions attacking him. That would be a betrayal to his constituency, who have really done the heavy lifting, financially, to make Obama the Democratic front runner and probable nominee.

Barack, if he must respond to the braying of the naval nihilist jackass, should simply say his millions of supporters do not want him to limit their small contributions to his campaign and they do not want him to limit his ability to communicate to the rest of America.

Posted by: Brojo on February 20, 2008 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

"So, Obama is all for public financing as long as no member of the public can use their freedom of speech to talk about him."

LOL.... Dear heart, do tell us when the Obama speech police come knocking at your door, won't you?

Posted by: PaulB on February 20, 2008 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Of course he promised to commit to public financing. For his supporters and him to say he didn't is the kind of tiresome parsing that he claims to be above. The public isn't going to buy any convoluted explanation about 527's.

He's promised to be a lot of things that he says makes him better than the average Washington politician. If all of his high-flying rhetoric means anything at all, he has to stand on principle even if it's not in his interests. He's failed with Donnie McClurkin. He's failed when it comes to health care. Now is another chance. It's time to actually deliver.

Posted by: Steve on February 20, 2008 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Obama can actually do much better than this. He can escalate. Say to McCain, "Hey, we both serve in the Senate. Let's fix this together. I'll co-sponsor immediate legislation with you to cover everything, including the 527s, to make our agreement binding. We'll make it just like the Clean Elections law in Arizona which you supported. I'll urge my fellow Democrats to pass this law, and you urge your fellow Republicans and your friend President Bush to support it, too. What do you say?"

The legislation would provide public financing, and that financing would automatically increase if 527s pour money in.

What's McCain going to say to that? That he doesn't want a law enshrining their agreement?

Posted by: Timothy on February 20, 2008 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

He said he would aggressively pursue an agreement to accept public financing. 90% of his contributions came from donations under $100. He can try to negotiate the 2 candidates only take $100 per person for their campaigns, making it a "public" financed campaign.

Posted by: buttah on February 20, 2008 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

To Timothy: Whether or not Obama said that in good faith, it won't be taken that way. Everyone will say that Obama knows perfectly well that 1) Congress won't act that quickly, if at all, and 2) my understanding is the Supreme Court has said that political ads are free speech. So critics will say he's posturing--taking an idealized stance that he knows can't happen.

Posted by: Steve on February 20, 2008 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

To buttah: That won't really work either, I don't think. 90% of the contributions may be small, but most of the money comes from big contributions, whether that's defined as $200+ or $1000+. (Just like medical costs--most people don't have big costs, but most of the costs come from a small number of people.)

Really, though, the overall point is this: Obama promised to do something based on principle. This is only meaningful if you stick to it even when it'd be better for you not to. To try to redefine what his promise meant because suddenly it's not advantageous means the whole thing was just a political stunt to begin with.

Posted by: Steve on February 20, 2008 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

You know what screw it.

"After seeing the enthusiasm my campaign has generated among the American people, I am going to rely on their generosity in the presidential campaign."

Then just announce that he won't take contributions in excess of over $500 in one shot.

Posted by: MNPundit on February 20, 2008 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin said: For the record, I think Obama made a pretty clear promise to accept public financing in the general election as long as McCain did likewise

As many have said, this is incorrect. Obama's "pretty clear promise" was to "aggressively pursue an agreement to preserve a publicly financed election".

The difference is substantive. Reference to pursuing an agreement indicates that there are many issues to be resolved. Obama mentions some of them in his USA Today article:

1. "outside groups have come to spend tens of millions of dollars "independently," while the candidates they favor with these ads "wink and nod" at this activity."

2. "There is an even greater risk of this runaway, sham independent spending now that the Supreme Court has wrongly opened the door to more of it in a recent decision."

3. "And the agreement may have to address the amounts that Senator McCain, the presumptive nominee of his party, will spend for the general election while the Democratic primary contest continues."

Saying that he would pursue an agreement, rather than agreeing in advance, was the intelligent thing to do and shows that he has the good judgment he claims. To anyone with any experience in business or government, this language indicates that there are many subsidiary issues that must be agreed upon before agreeing on the federal funding option.

Posted by: JS on February 20, 2008 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is in one of his bend-over-backwards fair moods. In the process, he has gone off the deep end. He will return to his regular sane self soon, I hope.

-- r

Posted by: DesiPanchi on February 20, 2008 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

Obama intends to "pursue" public financing for as long and as hard as it takes - until he chases it over the horizon. Like the rest of his pie-in-the-sky promises he's gonna pursue them; he just has no intention of catchin' 'em.

Posted by: Chrissy on February 20, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, I thought 90% referred to the $36mm NOT the type of donor. And the principle is that he would accept public financing so as not to be beholden to lobbyists.

Posted by: buttah on February 20, 2008 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Excellent comment, JS.

Posted by: nepeta on February 20, 2008 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

OT: Does anybody else have trouble using the 'back arrow' to go from a comment page back to the main page here at Kevin's site? When I use my back arrow to go back to the main blog page I end up going to my homepage. Anyone, suggestions?

Posted by: nepeta on February 20, 2008 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

He'll whup McCain either way. (shrug)

Posted by: cazart on February 20, 2008 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

This public financing topic is worthless; It is not news; it is not important.

If Obama wants to ignore public financing, fine.

If McCain wants to ignore public financing, fine.

Grow up people.

Posted by: James on February 20, 2008 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

According to OpenSecrets (http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/donordems.asp?cycle=2008), as of 1/3108, 74% of his money has come in the form of $200+ donations. 43% has come from $2300 donations.

Posted by: Steve on February 20, 2008 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK
Somerby wrote: Actually, Clinton was talking about Bush, as you can see by the fact that she used the word "Bush." Speculation beyond that is speculation. You want the right to type your preferred novels too. Sorry--only journos get that.
If I'm running against Somerby for Editor, and I've been attacking Somerby for being an idiot for weeks, and I then say, "We've had seven years of the idiocy of Maureen Dowd, and we can't afford to have seven more years of idiocy," can I possibly be referring to Dowd if she doesn't have the ability to serve for seven more years? Of course she was talking about Obama. No speculation needed.


Posted by: mp on February 20, 2008 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

"According to OpenSecrets (http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/donordems.asp?cycle=2008), as of 1/3108, 74% of his money has come in the form of $200+ donations. 43% has come from $2300 donations."

Of course, this is still the lowest% of money from over $200 donors of any of the three major remaining candidates. (88% Hillary, 78% McCain)

Obama and McCain have amazingly similar fundraising percentages, actually.
26%O, 22%M, 12%H $200 and less.
43%O, 45%M, 63%H $2300+
10%O, 9%M, 33%H fully maxed out ($4600)

Hillary is obviously getting a much larger % of her cash from big money donors then either Obama or McCain.

Of course, the difference for Obama is that he has 2.5 times the number of donors that McCain does in every single category. I bet McCain's big donor percentages spike as we move to the general election, though.

Posted by: Dan on February 20, 2008 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

How about this: It's a non-impact story. The more McCain talks about it, the less he talks about other potential (real) weaknesses. You yourself said it won't effect Obama in the primary season at all, so why bother responding at all. Let McCain blubber on about it to his wits end.

Posted by: Nobcentral on February 20, 2008 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

mp,
It doesn't matter, you forgot to note that Gore was mistreated in the 2000 election, prior to making your point.

Posted by: bjd on February 20, 2008 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Dan--yes, you're correct. I wasn't comparing Obama with Clinton, just noting that limiting yourself to $100 donations isn't going to work.

Posted by: Steve on February 20, 2008 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

The Obama campaign should say that they aren't even sure that McCain has followed the law

Sen. Obama should insist an independent prosecutor review all of Sen. McCain's public financing actions, determine if any laws have been broken and make the findings public before he will sit down and negotiate. If any laws have been broken by the McCain campaign, no negotiations and a referral to the AG.

Posted by: Brojo on February 20, 2008 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

The good news for Obama is that McCain is clearly scared shitless about having to go up against the Obama campaign and their amazing ability to raise money. McCain desperately needs to limit the general election campaign to public financing.

Posted by: cajun on February 20, 2008 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'm mystified that Kevin Drum couldn't figure out who to vote for until a few weeks ago. I trust the Obama campaign has a plan on this. In general, their timing has been great in this campaign.

Posted by: Beth in VA on February 20, 2008 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Sen. Obama should insist an independent prosecutor review all of Sen. McCain's public financing actions...

Posted by: Brojo

Beautiful.

Posted by: Econobuzz on February 20, 2008 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is mystified about whatever ... What mystifies me (well, not really, but humor me) is
the ability of the right-wing machine to raise a non-issue (well, a non-issue in the sense of
1 - they don't believe in it except in the sense of using it as a wedge - obviously successfully;
2 - its blatant falsity on the face of it, without any significant parsing;
3 - given the convoluted shenanigans involved in the "accuser's" effort to avoid seeming to sign up for matching funds - as in whether matching funds were offered as collateral or not in the loan advanced to the campaign) and;
have literalist-fair-minded people of the bending over backwards kind issuing all sorts of letters of conscience to their own preferred nominee (who was chosen after not a little private and public soul-searching) -
all of this in response to a non-issue raised by a party without a moral conscience or a stable position that they chose to stand by (a claim believed by their own supporters, no less) and in the direction of one of the most straightforward (reasonable? inspirational? organized? charismatic?) politicians to populate our stage in a while - well that managed to build a following anyway.

Mystified, indeed.

-- r

Posted by: DesiPanchi on February 20, 2008 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK


If for some reason the tide suddenly changes -or- the superdelegates give it to Hillary you will have millions (read: MILLIONS) of disillusioned Obama fans staying home in November.

The result will be McCain in the Whitehouse (read: 4-8 more years of Bush type politics)

A win in November is the most important thing for democrats and Hillary just isn't creating passion like Obama. It shows in the polls head to head vs. McCain AND not too many people are talking about that.

Posted by: cboas on February 20, 2008 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

If for some reason the tide suddenly changes -or- the superdelegates give it to Hillary you will have millions (read: MILLIONS) of disillusioned Obama fans staying home in November.
- cboas


So it can be concluded then that the majority of Obama's fans are not true democrats? That's reassuring. Sounds like a petulant child saying that he'll hold his breath till he dies unless someone gives him ice cream.

Posted by: optical weenie on February 20, 2008 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

I disagree both that it was a mistake to intend to accept public funds and that such an intention should be jettisoned because he enjoys an advantage.

Regardless of any other reasons, this would give Hon. Sen. McCain more wiggle room when the inevitable 527 attack machines really get going. As it is, expressing a desire to enter into an agreement to limit third party spending, and being slapped down, one gains the advantage when the GOP attacks start (and I don't believe that Sen. McCain could stop them if he wanted to, his campaign is now even more beholden to big donors and this seems unlikely to change) as well as having the wiggle when it comes to Dem third party ads.

Posted by: jhm on February 20, 2008 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Optical is right. Are we to be held hostage by an army of spoiled brats? "You won't let me steer the boat, so I'm not going to watch out for icebergs!"

Like someone else we know, I tremble.

Posted by: thersites on February 20, 2008 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

Obama should not feel bound by such a "pledge" because funding of campaigns is about buying media time. The Republican candidate has a built in advantage with regard to media. Placed in the Republican candidates lap AT NO CHARGE is favorable coverage and exposure from the following media outlets:

1. Fox News
2. AM Talk Radio
3. Drudge (which leads the "mainstream" media on a leash)
4. Christian broadcasting outlets

A Democratic candidate has to outraise a Republican candidate just to keep the broadcast media field level.

Posted by: fidelio on February 20, 2008 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

If for some reason the tide suddenly changes -or- the superdelegates give it to Hillary you will have millions (read: MILLIONS) of disillusioned Obama fans staying home in November.

Mmmm, I think you're really overstating that number, cboas. And weenie, no, even if "millions" were correct, that doesn't represent even close to a "majority" of Obama fans--haven't you seen his primary and fundraising results? :)

Okay, enough gigging the "disenfranchised" weenie.

Seriously, it would be interesting to get a headcount on how many Clinton and Obama fans absolutely decline to vote for the other in the general. My own anecdotal (take with entire salt lick) experience has 6 Clinton supporters refusing to vote for Obama and 1 Obama supporter refusing to vote for Clinton.

It would be cool to find out how those numbers really shake down nationwide, not for the purposes of anybody holding anybody else hostage, but because I suspect the number on both sides is really quite small. After all, a recent poll showed 70-something percent of Dems said they'd vote for either Hill or Bar, while only about 50 percent of Repubs say they'll vote for anybody other than their preferred candidate. Most Democrats are very proud of where we are and the choices we have, and I think the number of ain't-gonna-vote-for-him/hers will shrink as the general approaches. It always does.

This primary only looks bloody to us because we're--mostly--political junkies who live and breathe this stuff. As digby has correctly pointed out, this has actually been one of the cleanest and most civil primaries in some time.

Posted by: shortstop on February 20, 2008 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Kevin that he did make the pledge (or at least try to profit from the appearance of it), this would be a dodge but that he should do it and do it now. I strongly agree with...

I also think Obama was foolish to make his promise in the first place.

More of that vaunted Obama 'judgement'.

Posted by: Steve-O on February 20, 2008 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

This fight doesn't hurt the Democratic party, it helps it. Whoever wins will be primed and ready, not cold and lacking endurance.

Remember in the '96 Denver Broncos? They rolled out that year with a 12-1 start. Then sat John Elway and Terrell Davis, among others, the last few games to rest them up for the playoffs. They lost their first playoff game to the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars who had been in the league only two years by then.

The problem with cruise control is that it's hard to get it going again...

Posted by: elmo on February 20, 2008 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop: my numbers would be completely the opposite. I appreciate your free and fair stance in the primaries--I always love your posts.

My friends and I have been appalled by Hillary's campaign ineptitude--saw an article floating the intriguing idea that Bill might be sabotaging it, which would explain a lot of the tone-deaf attacks.

I am winded by all the negative stuff all over the boards: Obama's judgment is fine, Steve-O. I don't think even he saw how tremendously popular his run was going to be, or that he would face a suddenly desperately under-funded Republican Party. It is clear that McCain has already fudged numbers. Hillary loaned herself cash. I think we see some real populism in Obama's contributions. I have donated what I could afford, and a ton of other small contributors have made his coffers full. No reason for him to apologize for that. His campaign's money comes from the heart.

Posted by: Sparko on February 20, 2008 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop - My own anecdotal (take with entire salt lick) experience has 6 Clinton supporters refusing to vote for Obama and 1 Obama supporter refusing to vote for Clinton.

Really? My experience has been the opposite.

Posted by: Steve-O on February 20, 2008 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

I don't get these people who say they'll refuse to vote for the Dem in November if he or she is not their preferred candidate. They're OK with more war in the Middle East? Bush tax cuts made permanent? Goodbye health care reform? Military Commissions Act? Big Brother? Corrosion of government? Are you kidding me?

This country has serious problems, and we must end Republican rule. End of story.

Posted by: Lucy on February 20, 2008 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

More of that vaunted Obama 'judgement'.

Steve-O, the good judgement lies in the fact that he did not say "I pledge to accept public financing" but "I pledge to aggressively pursue an agreement to preserve a publicly financed election". As already pointed out, pledging to pursue an agreement signifies that there are issues that need to be resolved before an agreement is reached.

It is surprising that Kevin, asking for a swift response from Obama, missed the fact that a response was already out (at USA Today).

At swampland, Karen Tumulty had a post similar to Kevin's but when her commenters pointed out that the pledge was only to pursue an agreement, and that Obama has renewed that pledge, she issued a correction.

Posted by: JS on February 20, 2008 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Lucy: I hear what you are saying, but I have serious doubts Hillary would put a stop to any of it. Somewhere along the line, her triangulations and compromises hurt her credibility with me and many others. I would definitely look at a Third Party challenger before going back to Hillary. She seems unreliably progressive to me. Her campaign has really just exacerbated that perception. IMHO. Same Shortstopian salt-lick grain.

Posted by: Sparko on February 20, 2008 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

How much money do small states like Iowa and New Hampshire make from having the early caucus and primary vote?

How much money do the television, radio and other media make from national campaigns where lots of ads are needed?

Is this sane?

Posted by: MarkH on February 20, 2008 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

Good catch, JS. Obama should indeed fulfill his promise to aggressively pursue an agreement, but he should drive a hard bargain (really, make McCain an offer he can't possibly accept) given that he is way ahead of McCain in fundraising, and that there's no way in hell McCain would be pushing for a deal if the money situation were reversed.

Posted by: kth on February 20, 2008 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Sparko: I see what you're saying. I do think Hillary would have a tough time getting her agenda through because of who she is, unless the Democrats tip the balance of power in Congress--unlikely if she's the nom. She is hawkish and conservative on national security. (Obama's no dove, either.) But if just for health care, we'd be better off with Hillary than McCain.

Oh well, November is an eternity away.

Posted by: Lucy on February 20, 2008 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

So it can be concluded then that the majority of Obama's fans are not true democrats? That's reassuring. Sounds like a petulant child saying that he'll hold his breath till he dies unless someone gives him ice cream.

Well, no it can't... but that said...

1. Not everyone is a Democrat.

2. And this is no doubt true of some of Mr. Obama's supporters not all of whom are yellow dog democrats.

3. And that this is no doubt true of some of Ms. Clinton's supporters not all of whom are yellow dog democrats.

4. Isn't one of the point of politics to get people to vote for you? Isn't that the measure of a campaigner?

5. I'm not sure that "You're a rat because you won't vote for my team automatically" is a winning argument though I can certainly see how frustration can lead to one's espousing it. Though cajoling people is certainly your right.

Posted by: snicker-snack on February 20, 2008 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

OT, but big news. The NYT published an article about an hour ago about McCain and a lobbyist having formed a 'close' relationship during the 2000 campaign. Olbermann interrupted Hardball to announce the shocker. Supposedly the NYT had been sitting on this for some time. Check out the NYT for details.

Posted by: nepeta on February 20, 2008 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

I saw that too, nepeta, but you'll have to fill me in...

There was a melt down at elmo's house tonight. You see, my 7yr old boy genius has been eagerly awaiting the lunar eclipse, but it is too cloudy to see it here. So he decided that tonight would be a good time to act like the world was fucking ending.

But Mrs. elmo jumped into action and started looking for when the next lunar eclipse would be in the World Almanac, and found that there would be a SOLAR ECLIPSE this August! Well, she saved the world in Logan's eyes. Then, I had to remember that there is a NASA channel on our Direct TV. Now, instead of watching The Abram's Report like I want to, I'm watching "NASA: Education File". A children's show on the NASA channel at 8:30!!!! Fuck me!

But it ain't all bad. Logan turned to me as I was writing this as asked, "Dad, did you know that Pluto goes into Uranus's orbit?" I shit you not. I started to crack the fuck up but Mrs. elmo's stern look convinced me otherwise...

Posted by: elmo on February 20, 2008 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

Let me comment on McCain--with the newly developing scandal with him and a 40 year old woman. Indeed--kind of f'ed up--crazy, --and may I say here, I know of another semi-famous Vietnam War POW--from his era-- involved with a 40 year old woman--my buddy, no less--and it was a sick, unbelievable relationship--she suffered--and it showed these guys from the war were messed up

Posted by: anonymous on February 20, 2008 at 9:36 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting, nepeta. By the way, did you see what (your) mayor Bloomberg had to say about the 78 NY districts that showed zero votes for Obama:

"If you want to call it significant undercounting, I guess that's a euphemism for fraud," said the mayor.
Posted by: JS on February 20, 2008 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

JS, no, I hadn't seen Bloomberg's comment. Good for him!

Posted by: nepeta on February 20, 2008 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

The "beef" in the NYT/McCain story is not that there was an affair (there is no proof for that) but that (a) the woman was a lobbyist, (b) she was constantly around McCain, so much so that his aides had to confront him about it, and (c) she represented telecom companies which McCain did a number of things to support (although he also points out that he did things that these companies did not like).

Also: when McCain found out that the Times was preparing this article, he called Keller to complain.

Posted by: JS on February 20, 2008 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

Elmo,

Haha. Logan sounds really cool. Too bad he isn't here to see the eclipse. And I wouldn't mind being stuck inside watching the NASA Education File. My little boy, aka husband, has been forcing me out into the 27F night to view the eclipse at various junctures. It's tremendously boring, the moon now being almost a total gray blob.

Posted by: nepeta on February 20, 2008 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

My friend said the Vietnam veteran--famous, having written a book--would pretend he had no money, would pick up objects in the kitchen and throw them, would not discuss his concerns--ever--and would keep her cold, without heat--nor allow her to shop unless all the food was gone in the fridge--plus, despite his armed services pension, would ask money from her....real dysfunctional.
I sense that from McCheeky

Posted by: anon tonight on February 20, 2008 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

JS,

"The "beef" in the NYT/McCain story is not that there was an affair (there is no proof for that)"

No proof, but it is clear that his advisors at the time were worried in fact about an affair. (Have you seen Ms. Ise's photo? She really looks a lot like McCain's wife, a more casual Mrs. McCain. Just saying...)

Also, I think McCain hired a lawyer when he heard the story was coming out, or not? Same lawyer as Clinton in the Jones's hearing, whose name I can't conjure up.

I find it strange that the NYT has been sitting on this for a couple months, at least. Why now?

Posted by: nepeta on February 20, 2008 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

An affair would be juicy, but mostly a private matter, no?. The significant thing, affair or not, is that the woman was constantly around him (enough for his aides to become worried) and that she was a lobbyist for an industry that he was deeply involved legislating for.

Posted by: JS on February 20, 2008 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

Nepeta--yes, she looked to be a younger version of his wife. Less uptight maybe, but maybe my judgmental view. I am saying that I know McCain's buddy from Nam also had a young gal, driven crazy from disturbed thought and behavior--she was totally traumatized and is regretful

Posted by: anon on February 20, 2008 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with JM. To weigh in on this topic without even noting Obama's op-ed today is way below Kevin's usual high standard. It needs a clarification.
I also think Kevin needs to explain why he believes Obama made an unconditional promise to accept public financing. Just because he checked the yes box in that questionnaire? In retrospect, it would clearly have been better to leave that box blank, but isn't it reasonable that Obama (or whatever lowly staffer actually filled this in) just thought his position was closer to yes than no, and those were the only two choices. So just check that one?

Posted by: DickM on February 20, 2008 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

Nepeta: My theiory is that the administration REALLY hates McCain. They have given their usual voices marching orders to trash McCain. Even Coulter and the Hillary comments. I expect that Rove et al., were waiting to spring this on McCain when it would cause him the most pain. He was Soooooooo close to finally winning the nomination.

The problem with my theory is that it would require Rove and company to be extremely twisted and sadistic people--possibly with unlawful tools to eavesdrop on someone and exploit rumors they knew to be true. As we know, this administration is not capable of acting in so unlawful or petty of a way (snark).

Frankly, Democrats would care about influence peddling and telecoms, but the right wing will pounce on this like red meat. I expect they want McCain to drop out with MUCH humiliation.

Posted by: Sparko on February 20, 2008 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

Oh--and another problem with my theory that the administration has sought to secretly undermine McCain: Rove and co. have little influence over the media and NYT. Judith Miller said so. . .

Posted by: Sparko on February 20, 2008 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, thanks for the kind words, Sparko.

I think the reason for the NYT story breaking now is probably much simpler: They didn't have the second McCain staffer, or at least some of the corroboration of details that came from still others besides the two staffers, until now.

As it happens, now is a much better time than December would have been. McCain's now the nominee; I don't think he's going anywhere at this stage of the game without a clear second to step in, and now he's seriously damaged goods. The serial adultery will piss off the religious right, which had no love for him anyway, and the leaning on federal regulators on behalf of his girl's clients will turn off the independents who thought he was straight-shootin' and ethical. Two for one.

Posted by: shortstop on February 20, 2008 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Obama wants to wait to "negotiate" with McCan't and then just come out and say they could not reach an agreement so he won't be using the pub. financing system after all. Maybe he plans on flipping on McCan't later.

Posted by: Dresden on February 20, 2008 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop: Your thesis is sound--but I do think the Wurlitzer is still queued from the White House. And I think I see three moves ahead of them now. I believe you will see orchestrated calls for McCain to step down, and/or delegates to swap to Huckabee or Romney. These guys don't take prisoners unless it means rendition to a bad place. I can almost hear the fake cries of outrage "and a lobbyist no less!" Methinks this is strategic sadism, more than careful sourcing!

Posted by: Sparko on February 20, 2008 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

So McCain hires Robert Bennett "to deal with the matter" according to WaPo.

Same Robert Bennett Bill hired to deal with Paula Jones.

Posted by: JS on February 20, 2008 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

The Times seems to be trying to get back the subscriptions it lost when it hired Kristol. That might do it, too.

Posted by: JS on February 20, 2008 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

JS, Thanks for Bob Bennett's name. Whew. I can take that one off the memory queue now.

Posted by: nepeta on February 20, 2008 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

This is getting funnier by the minute:

Drudge's headline is "NOW THAT HE'S SECURED NOMINATION: NYT DOWNLOADS ON MCCAIN".

WaPo says: "The Times inquiry burst into public view when the Drudge Report Web site posted an item about the newspaper's probe."

Posted by: JS on February 20, 2008 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

JS: these things never spring up by accident. I think we Democrats were pretty comfortable with McCain as opponent. This coming before the convention, and before he secured the final delegates is highly suspicious. I was confused by the attacks from the Wurlitzer well past the time when McCain was inevitable. I may be wrong about W's role in this melt-down. But this is too early for Maccacca. They can swap puppets before the convention. Or AT the convention. Damn.

Posted by: Sparko on February 20, 2008 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

For you basketball fans...is this Lakers vs. Suns game worth the money or what!

Posted by: elmo on February 20, 2008 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

"They can swap puppets before the convention. Or AT the convention."

Sparko, So the Dems are stuck without a known Repub nominee for a few months. Bad news. It'll have to be a generic R attack until then. When is the Repub Convention anyway?

PS: US missile successfully took out the falling satellite over the Pacific, except they won't know whether they got the fuel tank for 24 hours. That was just an excuse anyway. Darn.
I don't suppose the satellite had a balloon attached to it, did it?

Posted by: nepeta on February 20, 2008 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

A REALLY GOOD take on the NYT McCain piece:

Josh Marshall on NYT McCain Piece

Posted by: nepeta on February 21, 2008 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

nepeta: it is all in the telemetry. Or the wrists.
The reasons we won't know for a while.

Posted by: Sparko on February 21, 2008 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

that really blows when left blogistan pounces on the side of an issue that reinforces GOP talking pts.

pre half-cocked, shouldn't we go to tape and see what obama actually said. I realize it's more fun to leap to conclusions and tut-tut. but one of the posts above does accurately quote obama.

for the record, obama DID NOT PROMISE TO ACCEPT PUBLIC FINANCING. even if his GOP rival did.

he promised to put it on the table. that's it. that's the extent of his obligation.

now can those of us w/ the vapors on this one descend from high dudgeon?

this is a clinton and GOP talking pt. there's plenty of right-wing echo chambers out there; they don't need our help.

how about a clarification on obama's comment please, Kevin?

Posted by: mencken on February 21, 2008 at 6:10 AM | PERMALINK

mencken, typical wishy washy corporate double speak from Obama learned well in law school. Never take a firm stand. Like the corporate speak way of lying "we'll take that under consideration", "we'll take that under advisement" "it's on the table" "on our agenda" in reality meaning GFY we have no intention of doing anything or keeping our word.

(btw your screen name doesn't fit well)

Posted by: Chrissy on February 21, 2008 at 7:26 AM | PERMALINK

"wave it off as old news, a tactic that has almost a 100% success record with the mainstream media"

I suppose if by almost you mean all except whitewater, commodoties trading, Lewinsky, Foster, Lincoln B/R, chinese fundraising, 1992 inaugural speech, travelgate, internet invention, $400 hair (3H's), voting for/against $87 B, Love (canal and story), loving nascar, sighing, Rich, Jones, scream, etc.

All of these seem old to me, all are referred to regularly in the Washington Post and NY Times (by name or inference) to this day.

Posted by: david on February 21, 2008 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

Scooter Libby, I'll grant you, rarely comes up.

Posted by: david on February 21, 2008 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Obama would be crazy to accept public financing. $85 million is a pittance compared to figures we've been seeing from his campaign. Each disclosure is a new record, and he's raising it the honest way, in small amounts. He needs to note that he's raising money the way a candidate should: From the people. That's something to be proud of. If it were a bunch of fat-cat bundlers backing him, he'd have a harder time backing out.

Posted by: John on February 21, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

i really do believe "democrat" chrissy would twist anything, scream about anything, spew about anything to try to get obama to lose in the general. she is just that fucked up. what an ugly sight.

Posted by: as it unfolds on February 21, 2008 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Obama: We don't like the idea that John Mccain expects the taxpayer to pay off a personal loan.We can not enter into a Public financing pledge full well knowing John Mcain has already gamed the system.

Posted by: john john on February 21, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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