In her daily commentary, Campbell Brown takes Barack Obama to task (moderately, as she always does) on his broken promise to accept public financing. Her comments are relevant, particularly in the final week of a long campaign, but especially today, being the day that Obama launches his half-hour prime-time infomercial.
As is obvious to anyone who has read any of my posts on the topic, I have been on the Obama wagon for some time, dating officially back to March (I think) when he made his brilliant speech on race during the Jeremiah Wright affair. Bias declared, I agree with Brown’s statement (I paraphrase) that Obama broke his spending promise, and breaking promises is bad.
For most politicians, the breaking of a promise is commonplace enough to go without notice. However, when one wraps themselves in a cloak of honour, as Obama has done throughout the campaign, it is noteworthy. That this single promise stands out is as more a testament to how clean a campaign Obama has run, especially when compared to the clusterfuck of vectoring, slander, and lies of his opponent. Considering how negative this campaign has been (steered directly into the ditch by McCain), that this broken promise and a handfull of references to McCain’s age are all the “slime” and negativity that can be pinned on him, Obama has done a remarkable job.
When he announced the decision to not accept public financing, Obama released a video explaining that his reason for doing so was to be better able to fight off the 527’s and other attack groups that operate outside traditional campaign financing (not to mention, moral) constraints. (Under Karl Rove, the Republicans had mastered the use of these groups. Sure the Democrats dabbled, but like Bill Clinton, they didn’t inhale – 527’s operate best when they slime the opponent, and by and large, Democrats are leery of too much of that.) However, what the Democrats were beginning to understand was the lesson Howard Dean taught them in 2004 – big donors are passe when the internet can provide the advertisement and revenue base for a groundswell of small donations should a candidate be able to mobilize the masses. By the time of the announcement, the Obama campaign had already raised enough money, and the machinery was in place to raise much more, that it looked like they would be able to defend themselves against the 527-style attacks without having to get dragged too far into the mud.
To say the least, Barack Obama mobilized the masses.
(Revelatory aside: We used to play a game called Star Fleet Battles, in which you would create Star Trek warships and create battles with your friends’ ships. In almost every case, given the same amount of build money, the person that built a massive warship, well armed and armoured, would lose to the one with a half dozen speedy little frigates. Election campaigns are big, armoured ships, and 527’s the frigates. The Democrats have proven unable to use the frigates very well, so they have been forced to put more and more money into armour. Not only does this explain why the Democrats need all this money, but is should also explain why I never got laid until I was in university.)
To be sure, the decision to counter 527’s with campaign funds could (and should) have been made before promising to accept public funding, but I don’t think that even Obama understood the wave that was beginning to form, fanned by his campaign.
It was a stupid promise to make, and a smart one to break. If you’re going to break any, break the stupid ones – not all of them as John McCain has.