Saturday, February 16, 2008

Taking The Pledge

By Cernig

Could we see a public-financed election?
Hammering Senator Barack Obama for a fourth straight day, Senator John McCain said here on Friday that he expects Senator Obama to abide by his pledge use public financing for his general election if Mr. McCain does so as well.

“It was very clear to me that Senator Obama had agreed to having public financing of the general election campaign if I did the same thing,” he said after a town hall meeting here. “I made the commitment to the American people that if I was the nominee of my party, I would go the route of public financing. I expect Senator Obama to keep his word to the American people as well.”

Asked if he would use public financing even if Mr. Obama did not, he said: “If Senator Obama goes back on his commitment to the American people, then obviously we have to rethink our position. Our whole agreement was we would take public financing if he made that commitment as well. And he signed a piece of paper, I’m told, that made that commitment.”

Mr. Obama did not rule out the possibility of accepting public financing, but declared on Friday, “I’m not the nominee yet.”

“If I am the nominee, I will make sure our people talk to John McCain’s people to find out if we are willing to abide by the same rules and regulations with respect to the general election going forward,” Mr. Obama told reporters at a news conference in Milwaukee. “It would be presumptuous of me to start saying now that I am locking into something when I don’t even know if the other side will agree to it.”
Now this is pretty transparently McCain manouvering to nullify Obama's likely fundraising advantage, so what should Obama do?

Well, Oliver Willis says:
Don't give up that advantage. This is the equivalent of the opposing coach asking the Bulls to bench Michael Jordan in his prime.

You don't bench Jordan and you don't cave in to John McCain's campaign finance bull.
The Mighty Kos, "lord of us all", says:
This is such a process story with zero relevance to the public that there's no benefit to be gained by taking public financing -- unless you can't raise it as fast as your opponent. Then you do whatever you can to try and goad your opponent to join you by opting in.
And Jerome Armstrong at MyDD, obviously having divined Kos' response in the stars rather than having agreed the response before writing or simply plkaigerising like crazy, writes:
This isn't the type of issue that the public gives one hoot about; but the media love this sort of process story, and will continue to air it out as McCain continues to hammer Obama on financing, making it a issue of character...Obama would be well-served to either fold up his 'pledge' or "commitment" or whatever you want to call it, and take a bit of heat now, or else, say he's going to do public financing and be done with it, but trying to finesse the issue only serves up more ammo to McCain for his character attacks on Obama.
And all of them are wrong. The reason they are all wrong is in Kos' headline - "Play To Win".

You see, Obama has campaigned largely on a public platform of playing to change the game - Playing just "to win" isn't what he is meant to be about and isn't why he is winning. Voters would rightly see him as just another power-hungry politico who will turn on any promise, even his most morally based ones, to gain advantage...and that Obama has successfully convinced so many voters that he's not just another partisan political hack seeking office any way he can is exactly his appeal to independents, moderate conservatives and newly-minted Democratic voters. If his campaign descends to the level of just "playing to win" from it's current strong, ideologically superior, position, he's sunk. If he sticks to his guns, he's a winner - especially against Clinton, who is seen as the ultimate "play to win" Dem candidate and would never take McCain's offer in a month of Sundays.

As an non-Democrat but definitely Leftie observer, I have to say that I agree with James Joyner that taking the pledge would play to Obama's strengths. But he should do so by one-upping McCain and pledging not to support or allow 527 attack ads favoring his campaign - and very publicly ask McCain to pledge likewise. That would either take away McCain's strongest election card or expose McCain as the pledge-breaker, which would in turn allow Obama to renege with honor.

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