Friday, June 20, 2008

 

Running (Olympic) Rings Around McCain

Ah, the things that all those private litle donations can ultimately be spent upon:
Though the Obama campaign is keeping mum about whether it will definitely run spots, it has asked NBC Universal about Olympics advertising including $500,000, $2 million and $4 million packages of ads. (NBC presented those along with a $10 million package.) It's not only a sign that the Obama camp has faith it can continue its stellar fundraising achievements but a signal that a widening field of battleground states has the candidate contemplating national broadcast buys. An Olympics buy could also allow Mr. Obama to reach out to a large swath of women.
So, he's considering advertising in what is usually a way-too-expensive environment for the usual presidential campaign. And this info is leaked out just as a Newsweek poll give Obama his first double-digit nationwide lead. This could get ugly fast.

As several people have said, Obama would have been a fool to walk away from so much money by
accepting public financing. And how many Democrats would not vote for him over this issue (some Hillary supporters? Maybe, but they would have grievances going well beyond public financing. And Republicans might just vote for Obama just to get back at McCain for all the headaches his campaign finance stuff has caused them over the years.

Meanwhile, the line of the week on the public financing issue comes from a reader whose name I can't share: "You realize this is the first time in history that a black person is getting attacked for NOT going on welfare?"

That's a keeper.

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Open Thread

Jump in early to kick off the weekend.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

 

Two "Perfect" General Election Opponents

Talk about two candidates that deserve each other: The holier-than-thou Frick and Frack of "reform" -- Barack Obama and John McCain. Obama, this morning, announced -- to the surprise of no one -- that he would opt out of the public campaign finance system -- the first general election candidate to do so since the post-Watergate laws were written:
"It's not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections," Obama wrote. "But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system."
"Not an easy decision"? Please.

Anybody who has been paying attention should hardly find this surprising. The man has been averaging about $30 million just this calendar year with a fundraising machine for the ages. He's drawn this from a record 1.5 million donors -- most of whom are giving in small donations, thus allowing him to go back to that well over and over again. No one should begrudge that Obama has completely rewritten the rules of what is possible.

That said...Obama, who is all about integrity and "change you can believe in" made a promise months ago that he would abide by the public financing rules for the general election.

Except, of course, when it is too difficult to say no to the more than $250 million (conservatively estimating) that he can raise himself.

Of course, this would be a perfect "gotcha" for Mr. Campaign Finance Reform himself, John McCain. Except for two things. 1) His campaign finance rules helped create the situation in which we are in now. He first pioneered Internet fundraising in 2000. Then got his campaign finance law passed in 2002, pushing so-called soft money out of the system -- and strengthening the hand of candidates who could raise lots of money in small donations (such as on the Internet). Howard Dean took that idea it to another level in 2003 -- and Obama pushed it into another galaxy in the current cycle.

McCain's people called foul on Obama:
Jill Hazelbaker, the McCain campaign’s communications director, said later on a conference call with reporters: “The true test of a candidate for President is whether he will stand on principle and keep his word to the American people. Barack Obama has failed that test today, and his reversal of his promise to participate in the public finance system undermines his call for a new type of politics.” She added, “This decision will have far-reaching and extraordinary consequences that will weaken and undermine the public financing system.”
Yeah, right, yada yada yada. It's tough for McCain to go around calling Obama a hypocrite, when he's played fast and loose with FEC campaign finance regs himself:
By signing up for matching money, McCain agreed to adhere to strict state-by-state spending limits and an overall limit on spending of $54 million for the primary season, which lasts until the party's nominating convention in September. The general election has a separate public financing arrangement.

But after McCain won a series of early contests and the campaign found its financial footing, his lawyer wrote to the FEC requesting to back out of the program -- which is permitted for candidates who have not yet received any federal money and who have not used the promise of federal funding as collateral for borrowing money.

Mason's letter raises two issues as the basis for his position. One is that the six-member commission lacks a quorum, with four vacancies because of a Senate deadlock over President Bush's nominees for the seats. Mason said the FEC would need to vote on McCain's request to leave the system, which is not possible without a quorum. Until that can happen, the candidate will have to remain within the system, he said.

The second issue is more complicated. It involves a $1 million loan McCain obtained from a Bethesda bank in January. The bank was worried about his ability to repay the loan if he exited the federal financing program and started to lose in the primary race. McCain promised the bank that, if that happened, he would reapply for matching money and offer those as collateral for the loan. While McCain's aides have argued that the campaign was careful to make sure that they technically complied with the rules, Mason indicated that the question needs further FEC review.

If the FEC refuses McCain's request to leave the system, his campaign could be bound by a potentially debilitating spending limit until he formally accepts his party's nomination. His campaign has already spent $49 million, federal reports show. Knowingly violating the spending limit is a criminal offense that could put McCain at risk of stiff fines and up to five years in prison.
Of course, McCain has benefited from the FEC's continued lack of a quorum, so he's going on like his opt-in/opt-out do-si-do is fine and dandy. The fact remains, even if the FEC decided to side with McCain, he's certainly violating the "spirit" of the laws that he himself has been insisting that candidates adhere to.

And don't think Obama's people will point out McCain's inconsistency on his pet issue. Their campaign will take the brief hit from the media and various good-government groups and then just roll on raising oodles of money. As the saying goes, it's better to apologize than ask permission.

Meanwhile, McCain will, like it or not, be forced to take the passive assistance of various GOP-connected 527 groups -- which McCain hates -- who will raise money separately to run negative ads against Obama, separate from the official McCain effort.

As a result, this will create a situation where the two presidential cycles post-McCain-Feingold will each set records in total spending.

As I said before, two perfectly suited holier-than-thou candidates going at it.

UPDATE: ABC's "The Note" expertly critiques the politics of Obama's move -- with a line that's just gotta hurt some of the liberal partisans out there:
Maybe we had it wrong from the start: It's Barack Obama who is running for George Bush's third term, while John McCain just might be pursuing John Kerry's first.

Not on policy, of course (not that Team McCain would much mind that perception these days). But in approach, in temperament, in stability, in take-no-prisoners mindset -- inside which campaign would Karl Rove recognize a piece of himself?

In the one with tightly controlled access, the jugular-aiming (drama-free) political shop, and the temerity to cast aside a fundraising pledge en route to breaking all campaign-finance records?

Or the one with rolling press conferences, scattershot messaging (with missed zingers), and complaints about the other side not playing fair?

We have found the new politics -- and it can spend half a billion dollars to win an election.

There's a signal here that Bush campaign veterans can appreciate: Obama made a coldly calculating decision based on a desire to win. He tossed aside a pledge rather than throwing away the single biggest advantage he enjoys over his rival.

Sounds about right. (h/t, Eric Pfeiffer at Congressional Quarterly).

UPDATE II: For those curious about the extent of Obama's "promise" on agreeing to public financing, read this W. Post analysis from February. While it's true he always kept the "weasel" language of "aggressively pursuing" an agreement on public financing with his eventual Republican opponent, he 1) Answered a candidate questionnaire clearly that he would stay with public financing and 2) Certainly didn't sit down with the McCain campaign in any serious way since Hillary Clinton conceded.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

 

Government at work (6/18/08 edition)

BACK TO SCHOOL
Last week, I gave Canada grief over their lack of free speech rights. Unfortunately, these same limits don't apply to psychics.

A mother drops her autistic daughter off at school, "only to receive a frantic phone call from the school telling her it was urgent she come back right away." This is where the mother's nightmare begins (from
CityNews.ca):
The frightened mother rushed back to the campus and was stunned by what she heard - the principal, vice-principal and her daughter's teacher were all waiting for her in the office, telling her they'd received allegations that Victoria had been the victim of sexual abuse - and that the [Children's Aid Society] had been notified.

How did they come by such startling knowledge? Leduc was incredulous as they poured out their story.

"The teacher looked and me and said: 'We have to tell you something. The educational assistant who works with Victoria went to see a psychic last night, and the psychic asked the educational assistant at that particular time if she works with a little girl by the name of "V." And she said 'yes, I do.' And she said, 'well, you need to know that that child is being sexually abused by a man between the ages of 23 and 26.'"

Now it is bad enough that school officials would report this incident to the Children's Aid Society (the Canadian version of a child protection unit in the U.S.). So you know the story couldn't possibly end here:
The mom, who is divorced and has a new fiancé, adamantly denied the charges, noting her daughter was never exposed to anyone of that age. And fortunately she had proof. The mother was long dissatisfied with the treatment her daughter had received at the school, after they had allegedly lost her on several occasions.

As a result, the already cash strapped mom had spent a considerable sum of money to not only have her child equipped with a GPS unit, but one that provided audio records of everything that was going on around her.

So she had non-stop taped proof that nothing untoward had ever happened to her daughter, and was aghast that the situation had gone this far. But under the Child and Family Services Act, anyone who works with children and has reasonable grounds to suspect a youngster is being harmed, must report it immediately - and the CAS has an obligation to follow up.
The word of a psychic constitutes "reasonable grounds"?

NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT
From
TheHill.com:
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is taking a month off from Congress to recuperate after her marathon run for the presidency.

She is not expected to return to the Senate until July 7 or July 8 after the Independence Day recess, according to two Democratic sources.
Let me get this straight: You spend 18 months basically on leave from your job in order to run for president, then you get a month off AFTER that?

Maybe I need to run for senate in New York? If only I didn't have to live in New York to do it...oh wait, I forgot about the New York rules where you only have to visit the state occasionally to qualify to run for the senate. Sign me up!

SPEAKING OF JOB PERKS...
From
Financial Times.com:
[Chris Dodd, the Democratic chairman of the Senate banking committee]on Tuesday admitted he was one of a number of Washington officials who were made members of a VIP programme by a leading mortgage provider but denied he knew this would secure him preferential treatment.

...[Dodd] said he had not asked what Countrywide Financial’s VIP offer entailed and insisted he had not been told that he would receive favourable loan terms.
Sounds like the Democrats have a new version of "don't ask, don't tell".

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Michelle O! No She Didn't!

For those believing that Michelle Obama needed to reintroduce herself, here's a clip of her guest appearance on "The View." Proceed at your own risk.

Alas, there was no knock-down, dragged-out jello wrestling match between Michelle and Eliabeth Hasselbeck, but, hey, you can't have everything:

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

 

Lighten Up...Please?

Josh Marshall is upset about seeming GOP racial insensitivity:

06.17.08 -- 2:58PM // link recommend (34)


Republican Outreach


Button on sale at the Texas GOP state convention this weekend.

Late Update: Our reporter-bloggers at Election Central got in touch
with the folks at the Texas GOP. And they say they
didn't
know anything about it
, would have prevented it from being sold if they had.

--Josh Marshall

Oh, stop it!!! Josh is a friend of mine, but this is why liberals get the reputation of not having a sense of humor. This is not offensive. Repeat, this is not offensive. It. Is. Funny. You know how I know? I've used the same joke myself and gotten laughs. And, no, it's not one of those, it's-only-funny-if-a-black-person-says-it. It's just funny.

Calling Michelle Obama "Barack's Baby Mamma"? Yeah, that's offensive.

Making a "White House" joke, hardly. For the record, I also said that African-Americans would no longer be able to call 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, "the Blame-Whitey House" either.

Um, that one, you might want to stay away from.

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Mets Suck

Not just because the highest payroll in the National League has been playing under .500 for the season.

No, because after letting Manager Willie Randolph dangle in the wind for weeks, they let him fly cross country, beat the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels (the Mets' third win in four games), have a press conference -- and then fire him, announcing it by press release at 3:15 AM EST.

Shame on Omar Minaya and the entire New York Mets organization

By the way, this has nothing to do with whether Randolph should have been fired after last season's historic collapse or because the team under-achieved this year. This is about the right and wrong way of doing something.

The Mets treated an honorable man shabbily. Once again, shame on the entire organization.

UPDATE: The Daily News' Bill Madden lets the Amazin's have it.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

 

Obama's Father's Day Message

Barack Obama gave an important sermon Sunday, one that many black fathers -- including, frankly, my own -- need to hear. The cynical among us -- including the anchor in the embedded introductory video set-up piece -- can focus on this as a socially conservative "Sister Souljah"-ing of an issue. Who knows? Who cares?

The fact is, this is a message that needs to be heard. There is a significant segment in this country that didn't grow up with the stereotypical dad tossing the football in the backyard, teaching them to drive -- or, broadly speaking, teaching them to be a man. The America of "Father Knows Best" or "The Cosby Show" didn't resonate with them. The far-reaching effects can be seen in poor performance in schools -- and a huge prison population.

Whether this is political or not -- and considering an absentee father inspired his first book, I don't think it was -- Obama recognizes that he has a bully pulpit now and he's using it.

Bully for him.

The full address is here:

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The Obama Temptation...

...for several black conservatives:

Just as Obama has touched black Democratic voters, he has engendered conflicting emotions among black Republicans. They revel over the possibility of a black president but wrestle with the thought that the Illinois senator doesn't sit beside them ideologically.
"Among black conservatives," Williams said, "they tell me privately, it would be very hard to vote against him in November."

....

J.C. Watts, a former Oklahoma congressman who once was part of the GOP House leadership, said he's thinking of voting for Obama. Watts said he's still a Republican, but he criticizes his party for neglecting the black community.
Black Republicans, he said, have to concede that while they might not agree with
Democrats on issues, at least that party reaches out to them.
"And Obama highlights that even more," Watts said, adding that he expects Obama to take on issues such as poverty and urban policy. "Republicans often seem indifferent to those things."
Likewise, retired Gen. Colin Powell, who became the country's first black secretary of state under President George W. Bush, said both candidates are qualified and that he will not necessarily vote for the Republican.

"I will vote for the individual I think that brings the best set of tools to the problems of 21st-century America and the 21st-century world regardless of party, regardless of anything else other than the most qualified candidate," Powell said Thursday in Vancouver in comments reported by The Globe and Mail in Toronto.

All of this suggests, rightly, that political choices come down to more than ideology or policy. There is often a "gut" feeling that comes into play. It's easy to say that this comes down to just "race." But RT contributor David Bernstein shared some of the deeper complexities a couple months ago (after -- ahem! -- a bar conversation on the topic with a certain founder of RT, but that's another story):
And yet ... I, like many folks, find him strangely compelling. And it's not just because we're fellow "mixed-race Americans", although that is certainly part of it -- I mean, I never expected to see a presidential candidate who shared both my skin tone and my haircut -- but the touch of Obamamania I feel at times goes beyond mere ethnic association.

So what is it? I think it comes from the dreams I have had that, sometime in my lifetime, we would actually live in a post-racial society -- that skin color would matter no more (and hopefully less) than other attributes when measuring the status and character of individuals. I used to write about this regularly in the early 90s; I even published a magazine called Diversity & Division based on the premise of post-racialism way back then.

And here's the kicker. I always assumed that the first successful post-racial politician would be a conservative. Liberals, and partisan Democrats in particular, are so caught up in race that it just didn't seem possible for them to get behind a candidate of color who wasn't a Sharpton-esque loudmouth or some slick machine pol deftly practiced at playing on white guilt.

Obama, whatever else you say about him, doesn't ask for white guilt. I love him for that, and so do many other conservatives of a certain age. And I, like all the cute young college girls at an Obama rally, got caught up in the possibilities, in symbolism that his candidacy represents -- of a new America where a mulatto guy named Barack could get elected president based on his ideas
and personality, not on some fouled up racial dynamic.
Karol Sheinin, by the way, thinks that J.C. Watts isn't being completely straightforward on his reasons for possibly voting for Obama:
That's funny, because when I interviewed him in 2004, during an African-Americans for Bush event at the Waldorf Astoria in NY, (video here) and asked him what the Republican party could do to attract more black voters, he said they should just keep doing what they're doing. He didn't indicate there was any room for improvement and he disputed my assertion that doing what we've been doing hasn't worked.

Karol may have a point. However, it's never really a good idea to take what a politician says at a political convention at face value: They are usually "on," at that point, i.e. sticking to the party line on just about every topic that comes up. At this point, four years later, and not working to re-elect an incumbent president, Watts may feel to free to share what he really thinks.

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