Obama’s Halo Seriously Flickering

obama
Photo: Getty Images


Reformer, hopemonger — and politician. Barack Obama had a choice between keeping his word on public financing or reaping a windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars from unrestrained fund-raising, and in true American fashion, he chose the money. The decision is widely viewed as pragmatic — after all, he's trying to win an election here, not run an exhibition on consistency. But for those dazzled by promises of reform, Obama's reversal has the scales falling from their eyes — a recognition that he is, beneath all the hype, a politician who acts in his best interests.

• The Washington Post editorial board writes that Obama “had an opportunity here to demonstrate that he really is a different kind of politician, willing to put principles and the promises he has made above political calculation,” though they can understand why he didn’t (the money). At the same time, he could have spared us “the self-congratulatory back-patting while … doing it.” [WP ]

• The Boston Globe editorial board contends that Obama’s decision “deals a body blow both to the system of campaign finance and to his own reputation as a reform candidate.” [Boston Globe]

• The USA Today editorial board says that while it’s not a surprise, Obama’s decision “is disappointing nevertheless, particularly for a candidate who claims to be running as a reformer and a different kind of politician.” Obama “is being disingenuous about his reasons for opting out of public financing,” as they were less about the “broken” system (which isn’t really broken) than the huge financial advantage he has over John McCain. [USAT ]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board wonders if this is “the tone of the new postpartisan Obama era,” begun with a “large and telling … flip-flop.” Obama “entered the campaign as a ‘reformer’” and “will no doubt end a half-billion dollars later proclaiming himself to be even more of a reformer.” [WSJ]

• The New York Times editorial board says that Obama has come up short in his vow to “depart from self-interested politics,” and his “description of public financing as ‘broken’ is only half true,” as the system works fine for the general election. [NYT]

• David Brooks argues that “Obama is the most split-personality politician in the country today.” Sure, he’s the high-minded liberal, but he’s also the politician who, “at the first breath of political inconvenience … threw public financing under the truck.” He sold out “the primary cause of his life … with a video so risibly insincere that somewhere down in the shadow world, Lee Atwater is gaping and applauding.” [NYT]

• David Corn claims that Obama “has indeed demonstrated the potential of a new model,” and it’s possible that “his embrace and mastery of small-donor fundraising [is] an indication he is truly a vehicle for change.” [Mojo/Mother Jones]

• Michael Scherer says “there is nothing inherently sinful about Obama's opting out of public financing because he wants to keep his significant fund-raising advantage.” But it’s a problem is he does that while “maintain[ing] at the same time that he is a money-in-politics reformer who is going to do politics differently.” [Swampland/Time ]

• Lynn Sweet writes that “however liberating from special interests it is having millions of donors, it is not the same as taking public financing.” While he justifies his decision based on the “broken” system, “Obama knew the system was broken … all along.” [Chicago Sun-Times] —Dan Amira

Related: Obama Broke His Promise!

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.