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Dollars and Change

A roundup of weekend Obama commentary and news about campaign finance, superdelegates, and the meaning of change.

Money Honey
"A year ago, before Barack Obama's prodigious fund-raising powers were clocked in at $1 million a day, the senator made a great show out of raising a good idea: He would take the narrower road of public financing in the general election if he secured the nomination and his opponent did the same. Senator John McCain, then a long shot, agreed. Mr. Obama even secured a ruling from the Federal Election Commission that he could return unused private donations and then accept public financing," the New York Times says in a Sunday editorial.

"Well, Mr. McCain is now the presumptive Republican nominee and says he is eager to take Mr. Obama up on the idea if he beats Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sounds good? Not so fast.

"Representatives of Mr. Obama are cautiously saying this plan was an option, not a pledge, and it will not be definitively addressed unless Mr. Obama secures the nomination. An idea floated by a contender is now too 'hypothetical' for a front-runner."

It depends on what "yes" means.

"Campaign seconds will spar eagerly over what 'option' and 'pledge' mean. But researchers from government watchdog groups found a candidates' forum from last November where Senator Obama answered with a firm 'yes' when asked if he would participate in public financing, should the Republican nominee do the same. He promised to 'aggressively pursue' this route."

*

"Why would anyone, knowing the stakes, seek unilateral disarmament this election cycle?" asks liberal blogosphere granddaddy Markos Moulitsas, aka Kos, who is supporting Obama.

1. How is it unilateral if both candidates agree?
2. When does the new politics start?

*

Obama has chided Hillary Clinton (and John McCain) for practicing a "politics of the moment" in which public officials do what is immediately expedient, even if it means changing positions. But a public financing agreement for the general election was Obama's idea in the first place.

"Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, issued an unusual challenge to his rivals on Wednesday. He proposed a voluntary agreement between the two major party nominees that would limit their fund-raising and spending for the general election," the New York Times reported in "Obama Proposes Candidates Limit General Election Spending."

"Mr. Obama's suggestion is notable because the 2008 presidential election is widely expected to be the first campaign since President Richard M. Nixon left office that would be paid for mainly by private donors and waged without legal spending limits."

Fight Club
"Since the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, there has been a rise in the bile index in Washington," the Tribune's Michael Tackett writes.

I know! Once Clinton got into office the Republicans went nuts.

"[Hillary] seems to be saying the status quo of red versus blue, attack and counterattack, should be an accepted fact of American political life."

I know! It's like she wants people to attack.

"What if the electorate is actually fed up with the mentality that reduces every battle over every issue to the simple arithmetic of getting one more vote than the other side?"

I know! If only Obama would stop fighting for every last vote.

"Sen. John McCain, no matter how many people he refers to as 'my friend,' isn't making any grand appeal for a different way of doing business."

I know! Take campaign finance reform, for example . . .

*

Or, as Kos might say, why would you unilaterally disarm?

Superdelegates
"Compared to the average voter, the superdelegates have a disproportionate influence regarding who the nominee will be," Jeannine Szczech of Madison, Wisconsin, wrote in the Tribune's featured letter on Sunday.

I agree. And it's wrong.

A few things, though:

1. If you believe the rules shouldn't be changed during the campaign - that, for example, the Michigan and Florida primary results shouldn't count - then you have to be consistent. Superdelegates exist. I wish they didn't - just like I wish the Electoral College was abolished already - but they do.

2. Because of the complicated formulas for allocating delegates, caucus-goers in some precincts have more influence than caucs-goers in others. Should those rules also be changed? The best example is Nevada, where Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but may end up with one less delegate than Obama.

3. Whose vote should a superdelegate's reflect? Nancy Pelosi represents San Francisco, which went for Obama, but is in California, which went for Hillary. Former DNC chair (and Obama supporter) David Wilhelm lives in Ohio but says he thinks he's more of a national representative. (And is Pelosi, as Speaker of the House, a national figure?) Should it be based on your congressional district, as delegate allocation is? What if you aren't even an elected official with a constituency? What about superdelegates like Al Gore?

As the New York Times put it:

"Several senior officials cautioned that the party elders had not yet determined whether the superdelegates should be urged to cast their votes for the candidate who has the most delegates, or the one who won their state or Congressional district, or the winner of the popular vote. Because Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton might lead in different categories, the question is a vital one."

*

And while we're here, let's finally start that campaign to eliminate the Electoral College.

Change Bank
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, quoted on the Tribune editorial page on Saturday:

"The word 'change' is so overused that it's in danger of sliding past platitude into meaninglessness . . . before long, [Obama]'s going to have to give us a more concrete sense of how this whole change business would work."

I know! It's almost time for Obama to explain what he means.

*

"What we need is a president who's in the business of solving problems, and we will solve problems by bringing this country together and rallying the United States of America around a common purpose."

1. Obama said he'd disclose that purpose sometime after he's elected.
2. And that purpose is to rally together around a common purpose.

From his secret money operation to his media manipulation, Obamathon pulls back the curtain on one of the biggest political fairy tales of our times.



Permalink

Posted on February 18, 2008


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