Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Of standards and history

Recently, I tackled the issue of Presidential candidates and their tax returns, noting how those demanding that Romney release more of his had created a phony narrative wherein it was "standard practice" for candidates to release ten or so years of returns. Looking at the actual numbers--going back to 1968--I showed that there is no such standard in evidence:
Out of eighteen candidates, seven--including Romney--released zero, one, or two years of returns, while also seven released ten or more years of returns. Percentage wise, 39% released two or fewer years, 39% released ten or more, and 22%--including Obama--released three to nine.
This reality hasn't stopped the repetition of the claim. To make it appear true, pundits and various Democrats have created an artificial barrier to define "recent": thirty years. No particular reason for this limit is ever given because no particular reason exists. It just serves to make the phony narrative appear to be true.

But it occurs to me that there is another issue wherein a standard did, in fact, exist. And it was completely ignored by President Obama in 2008. The issue: the Presidential Public Financing System. Remember back in 2008, when McCain and Obama both pledged to use the system, but then Obama reneged and went with wholly private funding? Even pundits on the left were forced to allow that Obama was breaking a promise he did indeed make. The reasoning? The Obama Campaign then tried to argue that it was necessary step to combat McCain's fundraising, something that just wasn't true in the least:
Obama announced he would become the first presidential candidate since 1972 to rely totally on private donations for his general election campaign, opting out of the system of public financing and spending limits that was put in place after the Watergate scandal.

One reason, he said, is that "John McCain's campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs."

We find that to be a large exaggeration and a lame excuse. In fact, donations from PACs and lobbyists make up less than 1.7 percent of McCain's total receipts, and they account for only about 1.1 percent of the RNC's receipts.
The reality of the matter was simple: the Obama Campaign was raising too much money; it was on a record pace in this regard and did not want to surrender a clear advantage over the McCain Campaign in funding. In the end, the Obama Campaign raised over $750 million. The McCain campaign raised $238 million, including matching public funds. If the Obama Campaign had gone with public financing, he would have been limited to around $252 million, thus giving up some $500 million in additional funds. If the goal is to win an election, it was kind of a no-brainer.

That said, Obama did break his promise. And for the most part, the public financing system has been championed by those on the left--by Democrats--as a necessary mechanism to prevent exactly what happened in 2008 and what will likely happen in 2012: an election decided by money, plain and simple.

Which makes Obama's balking at public financing somewhat hypocritical, given his abject disgust at the Citizens United decision and how it would supposedly result in too much money in federal elections. Moreover, Obama's choice in 2008 represented a complete break with precedent; he was the first to opt out of the system since 1972, as noted above. Yet no one was excoriating him in the media for this, only for breaking his promise. Under the same rubric used to attack Romney on tax returns, the same pundits should have been beside themselves over Obama's decision. He was--again--the only one to break precedent.

Now that he has, the public financing system is likely to end (and that may be a good thing). The subject is not even a part of the discourse in the current election cycle. It was taken as a given that both candidates would raise too much money, making public financing an impossible choice. And indeed, that is exactly what has happened.

When the system comes crumbling down--as it soon will--I am sure there will be more hand-wringing angst and editorials bemoaning this turn of events from pundits on the left and Democrats in power. But there will be one person--and only one person--to blame for this: Barack Obama. No one else. He's the one that chose to ignore precedent, that chose greed over fairness (from the left's perspective). Is it any wonder no one is talking about this?

Cheers, all.

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