Wednesday, February 8, 2012
This Forces Me To Look Deep Inside
The President has been laying low for some time, allowing the Republican candidates to have the stage. For that reason I’ve spent a number of my blogs on critiques of those candidates and the positions they have taken. I haven’t been terribly kind to them because I think they have not been very consistent or logical in their attacks on each other or in the proposals they have offered.
But today the President jumped into the fray with both feet reversing his long-held position in opposition to Super Pacs with their massive fund-raising capabilities. His opposition dates back to his days in the Senate when he was unable to get a bill passed that would have limited the influence of such groups and required that they reveal the sources of their income.
After the Supreme Court declared the Super Pacs to be citizens with full rights to express themselves through unlimited giving, the President harshly criticized that decision and predicted a situation pretty much like the one we are now in. Witness the vicious Pac attacks made by Romney’s and Gingrich’s Pacs, in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida.
So, after consistent and persistent criticism of the Pac system, the President’s campaign announced today that they would endorse a Pac of their own to begin raising funds to combat those of the other side. Immediately the Media and other critics called that decision a “flip-flop” and unprincipled. My purpose in this blog is to try to analyze those criticisms.
First it is obvious that the new Obama position is inconsistent with his stated position on campaign financing. Secondly, it runs counter to principles he has espoused of clean and open campaigns. It is unknown how the Pac supporting him will operate but at least, depending upon how his Pac is operated, it has the potential of violating his long-stated principles of clean campaigning.
So the President’s dilemma is: When you have tried to change the rules under which all parties must play in a way that you believe would improve the process of electing our leaders, but have been unable to get cooperation in doing so, should you play by the rules you would like to have in place, even though that would put you at an enormous disadvantage, or do you yield and play by the rules the others are playing by. I guess it depends upon whether you want to have a chance to win or if you just want to make a point. I believe the President wants to be a serious contender for a second term.
It is important to note that, though I find the Pac system very flawed and repulsive, no less authority than the United States Supreme Court has said that it is legal and, I presume, not immoral. Therefore anyone who chooses to go that route has the blessing of the highest Court in the land. Justices Thomas, Roberts, and the other three who supported the Citizens decision should be standing on the steps of the Supreme Court applauding the President for coming around to their position.
If those now criticizing the President for changing his position believe it would be wrong for him to endorse a Super Pac which assists Democrats, they should be equally incensed that the Republican Candidates are doing so. If they believe that such Pacs are “fair game,” and good for their side, they should not object to the President’s team using them.
I believe it was a sad day when the Senate passed up the opportunity to adopt Senator Obama’s campaign reform law. It was an even sadder day when the Supreme Court opened the doors to unlimited campaign financing under the claim of “free speech.”
It is also sad that the President, or anyone else who wishes to have any chance against candidates like Romney or Gingrich, both of whom have shown that they will spend as much as they can get their hands on, and run ads as vicious as any ever seen in U.S. politics, must play by rules he wishes could have been different.
But the President’s decision to change course is not illegal. Depending upon how his campaign operates, it does not have to be unethical or immoral. President Obama is a pragmatist, as are most of us in our daily lives. If something isn’t working, we try something that seems like it might. He could see that allowing Republicans to raise and spend unlimited cash while holding back his Democratic colleagues from doing so was to doom the Party to defeat.
I heard a prediction by a political pundit tonight on the evening news that by the end of 2012 we will have massive electoral fraud cases in the courts and perhaps be ready once again to consider electoral reform. If reform is the result we can perhaps say that it was worth the trauma. But if fraud, and more fraud is all we get I fear for the nation.