Barack Obama promised he would take public financing for his presidential campaign if John McCain did.
McCain did and Obama didn’t.
As Obama’s fundraising haul totals make headlines, Fox News was one of the few media outlets reminding voters how Obama reneged on his campaign finance pledge.
On CNN’s “Reliable Sources” this past Sunday, Howard Kurtz asked Time magazine contributor Mark Halperin: “If a Republican had not taken public financing and had raised all that money, and the Democrat was struggling financially, wouldn’t we see a lot of stories about one candidate essentially trying to buy the election?”
Halperin’s response: “We would. We’d also see a lot of stories about his going back on his word, saying that he would accept the public money and would reach out to Senator McCain to try to work out a deal.
“So I think this is a case of a clear, unambiguous double standard, and any reporter who doesn’t ask themselves, ‘Why is that, why would it be different if it’s a Republican?’ I think is doing themselves and our profession and our democracy a disservice.”
The Halperin take, of course, was not the first or only rumbling on the matter.
With so much cash pouring into Obama’s coffers, Fox News asked the burning question in a headline Tuesday: “Is Obama Trying to Buy the Election?”
Following the incredible news that Obama raised no less than $150 million in September alone, Fox quoted McCain stalwart Sen. Lindsey Graham, who vented during a Philadelphia rally: “Don’t reward that guy. Tell him, ‘You’re not going to buy Pennsylvania.’ Pennsylvania is not for sale!”
The Republican lawmaker from South Carolina taunted: “Senator Barack Obama has brought change, all right. He’s the first person since Watergate to reject public financing and raise $600 million. You can’t turn on your TV without some ad -- so much of it you don’t know where it’s coming from. That’s the kind of change that’s going to ruin America.”
Whether one agrees with the characterization of “buying the election,” media-use surveys deliver some powerful figures on the saturation-bombing Obama blitz:
According to Fox, Obama -- who famously reversed course and turned down public financing without conferring with McCain as he promised -- outspent the Republican 4 to 1 on television ads in key swing states, and 117 to 1 in online advertising.
Furthermore, research by the New York Daily News showed that Obama aired 50,000 30-second spots on national, local and cable TV channels last week -- alone.
The Daily News tried to give readers a handle on the sheer volume by suggesting “if that much airtime was run end to end on a single channel, it would take 17 days for the reel to end.”
Consider that the McCain campaign’s most recent Federal Election Commission report reveals that by comparison to the titanic Obama war chest, their candidate has only $47 million to spend during the month of October -- because he is restricted to public financing.
Despite the passing remarks made on Kurtz’s “Reliable Sources,” critiques of Obama’s fundraising and outright flip-flop on the issue of campaign finance has been relegated to the blogosphere.
Richard Baehr, chief political correspondent of American Thinker, has called the Obama reversal “the most consequential lie of the 2008 Obama campaign, and the one that may determine the outcome of the election.”
And Baehr concluded with this acid analysis:
“Not surprisingly, the mainstream media have been unconcerned about Obama’s backtracking and dishonesty on his pledge to participate in federal financing of the general election campaign. For a day or two, some journalists and pundits made it sound like Obama had let them down. But shortly thereafter, the move was viewed as smart, strategic and necessary -- the obvious thing to do when winning is everything.”
It was in June of this past summer that Obama made his fateful announcement that he would reject public financing of his campaign.
At that time, Obama spokesman Bill Burton blamed McCain’s campaign for failing to negotiate in good faith on a course to public financing.
“In the past couple of weeks, our campaign counsels met and it was immediately clear that McCain's campaign had no interest in the possibility of an agreement,” Burton offered by way of explanation.
“When asked about the RNC’s months of raising and spending for the general election, McCain's campaign could only offer its expectation that the Obama campaign would probably, sooner or later, catch up,” Burton added. “And shortly thereafter, Senator McCain signaled to the 527s that they were free to run wild, without objection.”
But Baehr didn’t buy one word of the spin:
“This was hogwash. Ads by independent groups and so-called 527s this cycle have heavily favored Democrats, just as they did in 2004. Obama was advantaged on that front.
“Obama opted out because he knew it would pay off -- that he could raise much more than $84 million, and that he then could bury McCain by ratios of 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 in spending on ads and organizers down the stretch. That is exactly what is now occurring, and a major reason why Obama has opened up leads in the key battleground states.”
But whether the mainstream media hangs its head or simply stands in silent awe of its handiwork, most agree that the playing field has been forever changed.
As reported by The Associated Press:
“People will look back at 2008 as the year that Barack Obama once and for all destroyed public financing as we know it,” said Todd Harris, a Republican strategist who worked on McCain's 2000 presidential campaign.
“It will be very difficult four years from now for any candidate to make the case that they should participate in public financing, given the obvious financial advantage that Obama has received by opting out.”
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