Editors: Reformer Barack breaks a promise

Tries to pin blame on opponent

Barack Obama’s decision to reject public financing of his presidential campaign comes down, of course, to basic arithmetic. The man is a private fund-raising machine. He expects to raise at least two or three times the $84 million he would be allowed to spend under the public financing system and he knows a political advantage when he sees one.

But given his professed support for public financing not just in general but in this very election cycle, Obama and his handlers obviously felt his decision required a high-minded video explanation.

And it was as tortured as one might expect from a candidate who has based his entire campaign on being an agent of reform.

We learned that in fact, it’s John McCain’s fault that Obama has been forced to go this route.

“We face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system,” Obama proclaimed in the video, adding that McCain “won’t stop the smears and attacks from his allies” in independent groups that can raise funds without limits.

That’s a truly remarkable political contortion. We’ve yet to hear much of anything from independent GOP groups in this election cycle. And in fact Obama’s announcement came in the same week that MoveOn.org and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees launched a national television ad that wildly distorts McCain’s statements on Iraq. Apparently if the baby in the ad is cute enough, it doesn’t count as a smear from a political ally.

Ah, but Obama has washed his hands of the independents, hasn’t he? In fact he has rejected donations from lobbyists and political action committees to his campaign and the Democratic Party, which we supported. But frankly when you’re Barack Obama, who needs ’em? And he has discouraged his supporters from donating to outside groups but then again, so has John McCain.

Another defense for rejecting public financing and the spending limits that go with it: The majority of his donors have given his campaign less than $100 apiece and in Obama’s world that amounts to a new kind of public financing, free of special interests. Note that this year the prime beneficiary of that “system” is . . . Barack Obama.

The public financing system, adopted in the wake of Watergate, may indeed be imperfect and in need of reform. But for Barack Obama that is a problem best dealt with, conveniently enough, after the election.

We occasionally grow weary of the term “flip-flop” during political campaigns. In this case we’re satisfied to use “broken promise.”


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