Obama On Public Financing

Whether or not to adhere to a public financing pledge, that has become a major question facing the Obama campaign right now; does he turn down the mass of donors waiting for him in a General Election match up against John McCain in favor of public financing, or does he turn down a fantastic pledge made at a time when there seemed to be little possibility of ever having to go through with it?

The pledge was taken up a while ago.  Hillary Clinton was still “inevitable” and John McCain was about as dark of a horse as you can get as he was taking a pounding amongs conservatives due to his immigration bill, McCain Feingold, and just overall dislike in general.  At the time they made the pledge, I don’t think either candidate really believed it would be likely they would have to hold true to it.

It’s like two boys making promises on a bus ride home.  One boy promises that if he’s an NBA superstar, he’s going to take care of the other, just as the second boy promises the same if he becomes a rockstar.  For the sake of accuracy, we’ll pretend the boy who wants to be in the NBA also can’t make a basket, snatch a rebound, or for that matter tell the difference between a basketball and a soccer ball to save his life, while the other boy actually does have some musical talent.

These things simply just don’t come off.

Still, I don’t see where Hillary Clinton has any business coming in and criticizing Obama for not immediately jumping in and proclaiming that he’ll honor the pledge.  It’s not like she’s championing public financing herself, and in fact has made no move to suggest that she would honor such a pledge had she taken one.  From her, it strikes me as a particularly dubious line of attack, one in which you’re damned if you don’t, and you’re damned if you do.  If Obama turns away from the pledge, she gets to hit him for being dishonest.  If he honors it, she gets to say he’s going into the General Election not fully armed and ready to win.

Indeed, there’s more than a few folks who believe that Obama should refuse the pledge, and it’s easy to see why.  John McCain is often seen as the apple of the MSM’s eye, and while Obama may be enjoying the positive focus of the media now, that’s likely to change when McCain gets in the ring against him.  Beyond that, Obama could easily quadruple McCain’s fundraising abilities, perhaps more.  He could flood the media market with ad buys, he could run a much bigger organization, and in general just drown the Republican nominee out.

With just the disparities in campaign funds alone, Obama could make it appear as though there wasn’t even a Republican running this time around (Okay, so that might be a little hyperbole).

But it’s a tough call, and I think the Obama campaign is doing the right thing in at least one regard, and that’s holding off until the General Election before they make their final decision.  You go one way or the other now, and the Clinton campaign is going to use it against him either way, and with the election still as close as it is, the smallest things could swing it the other direction.

For now, “We’ll see after the primaries are over” is a sufficient enough answer, and should appease anyone not in the Clinton Cult (Larry Johnson, Taylor Marsh, I’m talking to you here).

But when it comes to crunch time, a decision will have to be made.  I know what most people are saying, I know a lot of lefty bloggers are out there screaming at the top of their lungs for Obama to turn it down, to use the biggest advantage he has against McCain.  And I wouldn’t blame Obama if he did stick with the donors.  I’m not, as some may claim, in a cult, and I realize the guy’s human and it’s hard to just give up an advantage like that.  Indeed, it would almost guarantee a win.

Yet, I’m of the mind that I think he should honor it, mainly because I think he can still win without it.  Obama has weaknesses against McCain, sure, but the question is, on a level playing field, can Obama take McCain?  The answer to that is of course he can.  Regarding the status of media darling, yes, apparently McCain was the darling in 2000, and they still apparently love him.  Yet that didn’t prevent him from getting ripped apart by the Bush campaign.  Also, one must not forget that Obama’s also something of a media darling at this stage of the game, and I honestly think it’s a crap shoot as to which campaign gets to hold onto that status once they are directly pitted against each other.

Second, I don’t really see in which area McCain is going to beat Obama.  We know McCain doesn’t know economics; he tells us this all the time.  He’s going to get out there and he’s going to say lower taxes and no pork barrel projects, and that’s going to be about it.  He’s got little beyond the Republican economics mantra, and I think Obama has the substance to really upstage him on that scale, hopping from education to green collar jobs to busting McCain’s balls for once attacking Bush’s plan to cut the wealthy a break on taxes at one point, but then playing the party line later.

Foreign policy?  Sure, McCain’s got the military background, the POW background.  But that’s not necessarily going to help him, and the fact is, Obama’s much more in tune with where America is right now on Foreign Policy.  McCain is going to talk about his hundred years in Iraq, and Obama’s going to smack him down on it hard.  Perhaps the only thing conservatives like about McCain is his Foreign Policy, but the problem they don’t seem to understand is that the only Americans who actually agree with them are other conservatives.  Most everyone else is going to go for the guy who’s for a responsible withdrawl from Iraq while at the same time putting far more emphasis on diplomacy there and everywhere else.

Indeed, when faced with the issues, there’s little daylight for McCain.  And so we bring it back to the pledge itself.  True, the pledge is going to open Obama up to attack based upon the pledge alone, and there really is no telling how hard that might hit.

But one thing that is interesting about both of these candidates is that they both seem to embody a narrative of integrity.  McCain’s more than stumbled on his, and Obama is only human and has had some hiccups here and there as well.  But when you compare McCain to the likes of Giuliani, or Bush, he’s a saint, and Obama compared to the underhanded tactics of Team Clinton, seems completely reputable and honest.

I say you stay with that integrity.  There’s an uncommon opportunity waiting just around the corner to make this General Election about ideas and not tactics, about integrity as opposed to dirty tricks.  Neither one of these candidates embodies complete honesty, however, they both at least try despite their faults, and for Obama that’s what honoring the pledge is about.  It’s about doing what’s right because that’s what his campaign is all about.

I understand if he doesn’t, I wouldn’t.  But turning away from his biggest advantage for the sake of an honest and even campaign, that’s showing us something special.

Winning under such a handicap.  Even better.

Further, if Obama is truly about unity, this is the way to do it.  If he finances his own campaign through donors, there will be far too many detractors who say he cheated his way into the White House.  If he accepts the pledge, though, they can’t say a thing.

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