Last year US Senator Barack Obama took a bold step to set himself aside from his opponents for the Democratic nomination. Poorly funded in comparison to his opponents, Obama said he would acccept public funding of his presidential campaign if he got the nomination. Also in money trouble due to early missteps, John McCain also said he would accept public funding.
How things change! Many months later Obama is on the cusp of getting the Democratic nod and is awash in cash. Now he is actively trying to figure out how to go back on his promise.
This back and fill shouldn’t surprise anyone. This is the same man who on CNN talked of how superdelegate votes should absolutely reflect their state delegations. But when pointed out that would mean Ted Kennedy would be voting for Hillary Clinton for the nomination, Obama started to hem and haw and talk of the need for “discussion and change.”
So now we get to see how much of Barack Obama is based in principle and how much in opportunism. Will he keep his word, or let his word get washed away in a flow of cash?
So now we get to see if the man who claims he will move us to a higher moral level of political discourse will go back on his word.
I don’t think he should. He made the choice, and told the public what he would do. There is nothing illegal with his now refusing public funding, nor is it immoral…I think it is more than a little unethical, I think it is wrong, and I think it reeks of the political subterfuge and opportunism in the political environment that Obama claims he will move to eliminate and “change”.
Perhaps I am simply cynical, but what makes this more interesting is the possibility that the Obama never really thought it would come to this. I can just imagine the following conversation among his advisors …
Advisor 1-“We are stagnant…we need to do something bold”
Advisor 2-” I got it! Have the Senator announce that if nominated he will accept public funding of his campaign and challenge the other candidates to do the same!”
Advisor 3-“Great idea! If they do accept, we are no worse off. If they don’t, we become the campaign of principle!”
Advisor 2-“Absolutely! Let’s take this to the Senator and see if he will sign off?”
Advisor 1-“Hold on…what if we actually get the nomination? Then we will be stuck with public financing…”
Advisor 3-“Oh,come on! This is for a tactical advantage…the only GOP guy who can use this against us is John McCain, and there is no way he will be the nominee!” Nope, no one is going to remember this next Spring!”
And they would probably have been right…except John McCain will be the GOP nominee.
Now Barack is stuck…either he sticks to his guns and does as he proposed, OR he ends up getting to answer the question, “Do, were you being an opportunist now or back then?”
The folks I feel sorry for are those who have consumed the Obama Kool-Aid. They are touting their guy as the last honest man in American politics, and if he says I am going to refuse public funding they will find some way to rationalize the decision. They may say it is necessary to get out of Iraq, it is OK because otherwise the GOP will find some “Rovian” tactic to win the election, that Obama is the better man so it is OK “just this once” to go back on his word.
You know they will, and that is where the real tragedy lies. This matter goes beyond the the character of Barack Obama, and the question is he an opportunist or is he principled. We know from his take on the Super-delegates that he has a flexible morality…we just don’t know how flexible. But if he now refuses public funding after saying he would accept it if nominated, then he will also be climbing the greasy pole on the backs and shoulders of thousands of supporters who will be willing to subvert their innate sense of what is right just so Obama fulfill his ambition.
Senator O, what’s it going to be?