By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Ganging up on Obama

I caught the podcast of “Meet the Press” early this morning and couldn’t believe my ears. Guest host Brian Williams devoted the first dozen or so minutes to pounding Barack Obama over his flip-flop on accepting public campaign money.

Fair enough. But you’d think someone would have brought up the fact that John McCain appears to be violating the campaign-finance law right now. Not Williams. Not McCain surrogate Lindsey Graham. Not even Obama supporter Joe Biden. At least Biden didn’t call Obama “clean and articulate.”

It’s one and out for Williams, who’ll be replaced by Tom Brokaw next week. Let’s hope that Brokaw is better prepared.

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  1. Peter Porcupine

    DK – what TPM fails to mention is that the FEC cannot act on either McCain’s request for funds (in which case he’d have money) or his request to leave (in which case he could raise money) – because the FEC has no quorum. Four of the six bi-partisan slots are empty, because a Senator has a hold on all pending nominees – GOP and Democrat. Initially, it was because he did not approve of one of the GOP nominees, but that nominee has since been withdrawn, and the administration wants to confirm one GOP and one Democrat, as is the practice, to ensure that the FEC remains bi-partisan. A Senaotr says that the two pending nominees and the one GOP nominee can be confirmed – giving the Democrats a 3-2 advantage – or none will be confirmed, leaving the FEC without a quorum.That Senator’s name is – Barack Obama.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    PP: This AP story seems to explain it pretty well. McCain did not receive public money – rather, he was able to get a $4 million private loan because he had been promised public money. So what, precisely, is the error in Marshall’s post?BTW, campaign-finance laws should have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, as they are an abridgement of free speech. But given that they’re McCain’s baby, you’d think he’d try a little harder to stay in compliance.My apologies in advance if you attempt to reply – I might not be back at a computer for many hours.

  3. mike_b1

    So by opting out Obama saves the taxpayers $80+ million, and Williams is mad about it?Great place, this country.

  4. Peter Porcupine

    DK – he has not received the money (and may not until after the convention) but has rescinded his request. Would an FEC WITH a quorum DENY his request to withdraw, esp. since Obama has blown it off? Since the request and withdrawal lie together in an inbox, McCain is treating it as a moot point. What is deceptive about TPM is that they stress that the GOP chair objects, but not that they are unable to rule because of the man who declared public financing ‘broken’ in a self-serving video, neglecting that HE is the person who broke it.I absolutely agree about the court and the legality of the law, and the conservative in me gloats at McCain falling into a trap of his own making. Still – Obama can use a little ‘beating up’ after his disingenuous conduct, which only proves he IS a Chicago machine pol after all, and not a spotless messiah.

  5. Steve

    McCain also gained access to the Ohio Republican primary ballot by virtue of the fact he was using public funding. Because he had a contractual agreement with the FEC, he was not required to gather signatures to gain ballot access.And kudos to Dan. As far as I can tell, he is the only person to have raised this issue on a television program.

  6. Anonymous

    Dan, I listened to the podcast too. I think you’re forgetting that this campaign is about Barack Obama, not about McCain. The truth of the matter is that Obama’s flip-flop hurts his reputation with people, including myself, who believe he’s an agent of change. His decision, while a good one tactically, strips away some of that image he’s meticulously cultivated. That being said,I’m still going to vote for him.Point two, I don’t know why you got all bent out of shape over this. I didn’t get the impression they were ganging up on him. McCain received a good amount of criticism for his own flip-flops. If you want to hear some real bias, listen to Chris Wallace’s program over at Fox. D. Rogers, Somerville

  7. Stella

    There are few places as devoid of talent as NBCNews. It’s been a long standing situation.

  8. Anonymous

    One error is Marshall’s post is that he – in typical liberal blogger fashion – attempted to make this some kind of orchestrated Republican conspiracy.The FEC is a bipartisan commission. There is a Republicans chair, but the other chair, Ellen Weintraub is a Democrat.TPM, while very respected among the liberal blogosphere, is still trash. And THAT is probably the reason Brian Williams didn’t ask about it.If only Kos sweetheart Keith Olbermann had been made host of MTP – then you would get all of your liberal conspiracy theory questions asked.

  9. Steve

    Josh Marshall is on this case again today. And he has an answer for the question I’ve been asking for over 3 months now – why isn’t the press making an issue of this (or even mentioning this at all)?Josh: “You can say the press should be hitting him on this. But the truth is that this will only become an issue, if Democrats and Obama-surrogates make it an issue.”He’s right – no one on the Obama team has been hitting McCain on this, and they should be hitting it hard.

  10. Mark M.

    It’s great to see that Mike is so concerned about saving the taxpayers money!It’s fun to watch liberals – who were huge fans of campaign finance reform in 2002 – now say that it’s not so great after all.What could possibly have changed?Ohhhh, that’s right, the Democrat has the cash advantage for the first time in modern presidential history.Now they want to save us money… So noble of them.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Mark: I think you’re right about many liberals. I do want to point out that I’ve always opposed all forms of campaign-finance regulation except for instant, online disclosure.In 2002 I gave Marty Meehan a Boston Phoenix Muzzle Award for his role in pushing this anti-free-speech law.

  12. Dan Kennedy

    PP: Please clarify. McCain received the $4 million private loan, did he not? He wouldn’t have receive it without the promise of public funding somewhere down the line, right? It saved his campaign from going under, correct? And now he is spending over the limit, as the Republican chairman of the FEC has confirmed. Where is any of this wrong?

  13. mike_b1

    Mark: Nice to see you implicitly recognize Williams as the conservative apologist that he is. Now acknowledge the same about the rest of the MSM, and you’ll be on the path to truth and enlightenment.

  14. Peter Porcupine

    “He wouldn’t have receive it without the promise of public funding somewhere down the line, right?”DK – Not clear. While he DID declare the future funding as collateral, whoever made the loan knew he had other assets. When John Kerry took out that $6 million mortgage on Louisberg Sq. to save his stalled campaign, they weren’t assessing his ability to repay based on his Senate salary, but on the lovely Mrs. Heinz-Kerry’s ability to repay. Mrs. McCain has equally impressive assets, and I find it hard to believe that a bank would have denied the loan to the McCain campaign.And the ranking (and only) Republican and Democrat are co-chairs of the FEC; TPM just finds it more fun to cite the GOP.You and I do this all the time when we make a reservation for a flight or hotel – a $200 hold +/- is placed on our credit card, but when the bill comes due, we can either leave it on the card or pay cash. That is more analogous to the McCain situation – indeed, he has already WITHDRAWN his request for primary funding – never received a penny, mind you – and has found other ways to satisfy that loan.McCain is treating his withdrawl request as a termination – and since the FEC cannot give him the money OR approve the withdrawal BECAUSE OF OBAMA’S ACTIONS, I don’t blame him.And this illustrates a fatal flaw in ALL campaign finance reforms – it assumes that the participants will behave with honor and decency. I leaave it to you to determine who I have in mind there.

  15. Steve

    Well, we shall see. The DNC has just filed suit in federal district court to force the FEC to investigate McCain’s unilateral withdrawal from the matching funds program (after waiting the requisite 3 months since filing their original complaint).And the FEC should be back in business soon, so we should have some resolution on this by the 2012 election cycle.

  16. Peter Porcupine

    Steve – from your news story -“The DNC has accused McCain of violating campaign finance law by removing himself from the public funding system for the primary election. But given the FEC’s track record and the current pile-up in investigations, no resolution of the matter is expected until long after this year’s November general election is over.”Which may have been Obama’s plan all along. Which says something about the he said-she said nature of the partisan allegation.

  17. Anonymous

    I predict that MA electoral history is about to repeat itself nationally. Everyone who thinks “change” is only achievable with Obama is going to feel very good about themselves for a couple of months, followed by 46 months of buyer’s remorse. Obama is a pragmatist, thus his tiptoeing toward the center now that he has the nomination. I’m not worried about him ruining the country,(we’re better than that). I AM, however, worried about him screwing up capital formation and an energy policy just awakening from slumber. By the time my 401-K recovers from his political experiment, I’ll be too old to spend it, (or dead).

  18. mike_b1

    Well, anon 3:10, the alternative is Old Man McCain launching missiles toward every man, woman and child who wears a scarf on their head, then cussing out anyone who questions him.Not exactly the stuff of Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln.

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