Obama: The Magic Fades Away

Having cast my vote for Obama in the Texas primary, I’m saddened by  signs that he is morphing into just another conventional pol, thus eroding about 70% of the reasons for electing him:

1. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Friday rejected Republican rival John McCain’s proposal for 10 joint town-hall appearances, offering instead to have just one on the July 4 holiday.

–Washington Post

Translation: Town halls are for schmucks. I’m great with soaring speeches from the teleprompter. I’ll continue dazzling my rock-star throngs and fill in the details, uh, after I’m elected. If I blow it in the July 4 chat, the barbecuing masses won’t even notice.

2. Senator Barack Obama  announced on Thursday that he would not participate in the public financing system for presidential campaigns. He argued that the system had collapsed, and would put him at a disadvantage running against Senator John McCain, his likely Republican opponent. With his decision, Mr. Obama became the first candidate of a major party to decline public financing — and the spending limits that go with it — since the system was created in 1976, after the Watergate scandals.

–New York Times

Translation: I’ve got more money than God. Why should I take part in a system that was intended to curb the power of the wealthy, which I now am, and create a more level playing field? Now excuse me. I need to go denounce greedy oil companies and hard-hearted insurance bosses.

 

And here I thought a change was gonna come.  If Obama is going to promise to use public financing, and then break his word when he has a giant war chest, how is that a new start, change we can believe in, etc.? And his defense–hey, look how much of my loot comes from little guys–won’t wash. The next time around, some Republican with zillions of bucks will opt out of the system, using Obama’s example as his excuse.

Of course the public financing system isn’t perfect. Nothing is. And many people believe there should be no restraints whatsoever on campaign spending: If you got it, baby, spend it. But Obama spent years backing campaign finance reform, repeatedly promised to use the public funds,  and now that it’s convenient for him to do so, he walks away from the issue. Because he can. Yes, he can. For decades, Democrats have told us that it was wrong for Republicans loaded with fat-cat bucks to “buy the election.” Now that they’ve got the big loot, uh, well, uh. . .

What Obama is doing is shrewd. He’s out to win at any cost, even if he breaks his word and abandons his beliefs about campaign reform. But again, this is the whole point: What he’s doing is what any ordinary, garden-variety hustling pol would do. It will probably help him win. But how is this breaking free of  the poisonous, gridlocked system so many people hate–and looked to him to change?

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