Obama's a Scoundrel, God Bless Him

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I can't get too bothered about the Obama-borrowing-phrases-from-Gov. Deval Patrick scandal—I have this mental image of the Clinton campaign as an army running out of cannonballs, stuffing silverware into the guns and lighting them with their last box of tinder. But it seems like that controversy pushed aside the controversy of Obama reneging on a promise to take public financing if John McCain did the same.

It started a year ago when Robert Bauer—an Obama legal advisor who I interviewed last year—proposed this to the FEC, in a request to raise private funds for the general election while leaving open the public funding option.

Senator Obama, fully committed to competition on the same terms as all other candidates, has decided that, if he becomes a candidate, he will also instruct his campaign to proceed with active fundraising for the general election. But the Senator would not, if the law allows, rule out the possibility of a publicly funded campaign if both major parties' nominees eventually decide, or even agree, on this course. Should both major party nominees elect to receive public funding, this would preserve the public financing system, now in danger of collapse, and facilitate the conduct of campaigns freed from any dependence on private fundraising.

The intent was pretty clear: Stroke the FEC and hope the endorphins drifted over to newspaper editorial boards. And it worked! In April, McCain, not yet in meltdown but already underperforming financially, said he'd take public funds if Obama did. And of course, since then, Obama has been raking in Croeses-level riches while McCain spent a few months getting out-fundraised by better than two to one by Ron Paul. Obama's campaign started murmuring this month about not taking public campaign funds: McCain slammed him.

"We have a candidate who is quite serious about taking public funds if Obama does," Mark Salter, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain, said Thursday. "It's not a game to McCain." Mr. Obama, Mr. Salter said, "gave his word, and he either places value on that or he's just fooling voters."

But as liberal CFR guru Mark Schmitt shows, McCain reneged on public funds for the primary (saying he wouldn't take them, then saying he would) then actually taking out a loan with the promissary funds as collateral. (McCain never ended up taking the funds.) It's incredibly twisty.

What does this mean? It means that rather than pledge his existing certification for matching funds as collateral for the loan, which would bind him to the system and thus the spending limits, McCain carefully pledged to seek to re-enter the system later, and to use a non-existent future certification as collateral. And while the system is "voluntary," McCain essentially traded away for cash his right to choose whether to participate in the system, and even his right to drop out of the presidential race, allowing the bank to force McCain "to remain an active candidate" in order to reapply for and qualify for funds. He was betting the spread (10 points) on his own primary performance! I don't think it's an exaggeration to say this is a promise to perpetuate a fraud on the American taxpayers: if he no longer intended to seek the presidency, he made a legally-binding promise to pretend to remain in the race just long enough to collect public money to repay the loan.

Is this illegal? Who knows. Note that it took several days of discussion among top lawyers and former FEC commissioners to figure out whether it was even possible to opt out of the public financing system after opting in and qualifying for funds. No one's ever done that. And therefore, no one's ever opted back in, after opting out, after opting in. And therefore, no one's ever borrowed on the basis of a promise to opt back in, after opting out, after opting in. Is your head exploding yet?

Both candidates were playing games: McCain's game-playing was, to my mind, even worse. Especially because he's relocated his inner saint and is calling for both him and Obama to plunge back into the public trough.

NEXT: Also, They Can't Reach Through the Screen and Grab Your Child, à la Freddy Krueger

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  1. Hillary Conceding 10 or 11 of Pennsylvania’s 103 Delegates

    So, as you’ve been hearing here and elsewhere, along with Ohio and Texas, Pennsylvania is key to Hillary Clinton’s chances at the nomination. Absolutely vital. And Hillary is way ahead in the polls. So things look good for her there, right?

    Wrong.

    Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign failed to file a full slate of convention delegate candidates for Pennsylvania’s April 22 primary.

    This despite the possibility the primary proves critical and despite Clinton owning the full-throated support of Gov. Rendell, state Democratic Party leadership, Mayor Nutter and, presumably, the organizational skill all that entails.

    And despite a Rendell-ordered extension of the filing deadline that could be viewed as more than just coincidental.

    “There are a number of Clinton delegates that did not file for reasons of illness or other issues,” Democratic state chairman T.J. Rooney conceded yesterday after being questioned by the Daily News.

    He initially said he was unaware of the fact, but confirmed it after checking with Clinton’s state delegate petition organizer.

    It appears Clinton came up 10 or 11 candidates short across a number of congressional districts, including two in Philadelphia.

    That’s close to 10 percent of the 103 delegates to be decided by voters.

    Wow. That’s gonna hurt the “let’s return competence to the White House” message, huh? Also the whole, “we’re going to fight for every delegate!” rallying cry.

    What has her campaign staff been doing?

  2. I’m confused. Is McCain taking public funds or not? If not, Obama hasn’t broken his promise.

    The “plagiarism” thing is just silly. As near as I can tell, Patrick is allowing Obama to reuse things Patrick used. If Patrick gave de facto permission, which it sounds like he did, there’s no problem (although Obama should consider hiring Patrick as a speech writer.)

  3. I’m still waiting for someone from Reason to come out and say that Obama is not a libertarian, a libertarian-Democrat, libertarian leaning or anything libertarian. I know it seems he leans that way compared to Hillary, but I really don’t see anything libertarian about that guy.

  4. I’m confused. Is McCain taking public funds or not? If not, Obama hasn’t broken his promise.

    No he isn’t. He secured a loan with a Maryland bank under an agreement that basically said:

    If I don’t get the nomination I can use public financing to pay back the loan, but if I get the nomination, the money will come flowing in and I will be able to get a loan without public financing.

    Linkeee

  5. Guess what: I’m not surprised Weigel doesn’t understand why the Patrick issue matters. While it’s not as important as the issues with the candidates’ policies – something Reason isn’t exactly rushing to discuss – it does help show to even more people that BHO is basically just an empty suit who’d be lost without his (and Patrick’s) speechwriters.

  6. If I don’t get the nomination I can use public financing to pay back the loan, but if I get the nomination, the money will come flowing in and I will be able to get a loan without public financing.

    Not very clear…version 2.0:

    If I don’t get the nomination I will use public financing to pay back the loan, but if I get the nomination, the money will come flowing in and I will be able to pay back the without public financing.

  7. Was it just the one line? Jesus…I’ve not been paying attention to the news lately but caught a snippet of David (Lapdog) Frum on Larry King where he kept saying “Obama just keeps repeating Patrick Devall, Obama just says what Patrick Devall says, etc.” on and on. Jesus, as if I did not think Frum was a tool already…
    The thing about Frum is he doesn’t even try to be a honest thinker. He’s a political shill. He’s got beans in ones sides basket and tries to apologize and spin things their way (and not even as broad a basket as “conservatives” or “Republicans” but specific administrations and campaigns).

    This is what National Review has fallen to. And that guy had the balls to drum people like Buchanan et al out of the “movement.” Get real.

  8. it does help show to even more people that BHO is basically just an empty suit who’d be lost without his (and Patrick’s) speechwriters.

    As opposed to all the other politicians who are Cicero-like in there oratory skills?

    Seriously, this whole non-issue is Clinton grasping at straws. A politician used a good line from a friend and another politician. OH THE HORROR!!!
    What are you gonna tell me next, that comedians steal jokes???

    And last I checked, Patrick is saying that he had given permission to Obama to use any of his material — so the “plagarism” issue really is rather moot.

  9. PREVIEW PREVIEW PREVIEW:

    it does help show to even more people that BHO is basically just an empty suit who’d be lost without his (and Patrick’s) speechwriters.

    As opposed to all the other politicians who are Cicero-like in there oratory skills?

    Seriously, this whole non-issue is Clinton grasping at straws. A politician used a good line from a friend and another politician. OH THE HORROR!!!
    What are you gonna tell me next, that comedians steal jokes???

    And last I checked, Patrick is saying that he had given permission to Obama to use any of his material — so the “plagarism” issue really is rather moot.

  10. I mean David Frum is like a female version of Susan Estrich…

  11. This would be relevant if most other national politicians did not have speechwriters or other people that suggested to them things they might say.

  12. Apparently I wasn’t clear enough. The “plagiarism” charge isn’t what I’m highlighting, because apparently there was some sort of permission granted.

    The issues are:
    1. BHO decided not to mention that he was using Patrick’s lines. Things like that don’t just happen: they had to have decided that not mentioning where the lines came from was OK. Perhaps they thought no one would notice.

    2. If we’re going to elect someone based on Patrick’s lines, why not just run him instead? Why not run BHO’s speechwriter?

    Let me get them started:

    BHO is so last week! Deval Patrick for President! Jon Favreau for Vice-President!

  13. Hey, this is a little off topic, but here’s a wonderful Obama site: http://obamawill.com

    Enjoy!

  14. I’m still waiting for someone from Reason to come out and say that Obama is not a libertarian, a libertarian-Democrat, libertarian leaning or anything libertarian. I know it seems he leans that way compared to Hillary, but I really don’t see anything libertarian about that guy.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve never heard them proclaim that Dennis Kucinich isn’t libertarian, and I don’t think he’s pro market at all.
    Come on, reason, stay on top of these things!

  15. What are you gonna tell me next, that comedians steal jokes???

    Just so you know, Carlos Mendacious happens to be naturally funny.

  16. What has her campaign staff been doing?

    I dunno. Something like this?

  17. reason sucks

    That’s Montgomery Clift, honey!

  18. That’s Montgomery Clift, honey!

    I thought it was Eleanor Clift. I need a scorecard.

  19. I’m still waiting for someone from Reason to come out and say that Obama is not a libertarian, a libertarian-Democrat, libertarian leaning or anything libertarian. I know it seems he leans that way compared to Hillary, but I really don’t see anything libertarian about that guy.

    “You can make a reasonable case that Obama’s economic intuitions are more libertarian than Hillary Clinton’s. It’s a lot harder to argue that they’re remotely libertarian in themselves.” —yrs. truly, last week

    it does help show to even more people that BHO is basically just an empty suit who’d be lost without his (and Patrick’s) speechwriters.

    The problem with that theory is that Obama’s flowery speeches are the emptiest thing about him. Whereas during the debates, when he isn’t reading a speech, he’s clearly quick and smart, whether I agree with him or not.

  20. So the controversy is that his speeches are scripted? That he borrowed words from one of his advisors without mentioning each and every time that he was borrowing phrases? Did you know that George Bush didn’t attribute the “thousand points of light” when he said it in the SoTU? Gasp!

  21. Does John McCain have to credit Dick Cheney every time he used the phrase “surrender to terrorists?”

  22. Joe, no, he just has to pay a royalty.

  23. More troubling than this is Obama’s angry, ethnocentric wife, who got into Princeton via Affirmative Action and still has a big chip on her shoulder about it.

  24. Seeing as how the Democrats have a huge fundraising edge over the GOP this time around, Obama was a fool to ever even consider taking public funds. Kinda shows that Obama is a bit naive.

  25. Rereading those words, it seems to me that Obama didn’t seem to make much of a pledge, other than to “not rule out” using public financing. He didn’t pledge to use them, only to consider it.

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