You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

The Mccain Campaign's Public-financing Blather

I understand that Obama said he'd go with public financing for the general election, but the McCain campaign spin on Obama's likely reversal here seems like a real reach. Here's what the Times reported today:

For now, McCain advisers have indicated that they will seek to exploit the issue if Mr. Obama indeed opts out of public financing for the general election. With an obvious interest in reining in the Obama fund-raising juggernaut, the McCain campaign seized Wednesday on Mr. Obama’s remark of Tuesday night.

“Barack Obama publicly promised the American people that he would accept public financing if he is the nominee of his party,” said Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for Mr. McCain. “Launching his campaign by going back on a promise to voters would be dishonest, and exposes his politics of hope as empty rhetoric out of a typical politician.”

The McCain campaign is, as usual, quick to accuse its opponent of acting dishonorably (and to imply that McCain is the last honorable politician left on the planet). But does the accusation make any sense here? I guess it does if the point of public financing is to prevent candidates who have broad, grassroots appeal from gaining an advantage over those who don't. But I thought the point was to diminish the influence of rich people and special interests and empower ordinary people instead, in which case Obama comes closer to the ideal than any candidate in years. I guess I've been under the wrong impression, though.

Also, as David Axelrod points out in the Times piece I linked to, it takes a lot of chutzpah for the McCain campaign to serve up this self-righteous bunk. Thanks to the way McCain tried to game the public-financing system last fall, he's supposed to be in the system during the primaries, not just the general. (See this post for elaboration.) That means he shouldn't be able to spend a single dollar between now and September, when he officially receives the GOP nomination. Maybe next time the McCain campaign could, you know, stop flouting the rules before we have a conversation about dishonesty and empty rhetoric.

--Noam Scheiber