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June 20, 2008


Hillary Clinton

as a big obama fan, i'm actually a bit disappointed by the way he handled the public financing announcement, and not just because of david brooks. i just wish he wouldn't have been shy about the fact that he changed his tune, and didn't do what he said he was going to do...which is seriously engage mccain on the issue and possibly reach agreeable terms by which they could continue to support (in the hopes of ultimately reforming) the system. the video he distributed was not convincing. i agree with david brooks and others that this is the low point of the campaign. i understand the trade-off, but i would have liked for him to be more up front about it. it's ok to change your mind. just say so. again, this is coming from a guy who owns 4 obama tshirts.

Robi Ganguly

Well, I'm not sure how seriously I can take a comment from someone identifying themselves as "Hillary Clinton", but I will reply.

While I agree that he maybe minimized the fact that the conversations with McCain's team went nowhere, I don't think it's a bad thing.

First, because the point isn't really that he and McCain didn't sit down in person. That's not nearly as important as the issues that were on the table to be discussed. The biggest issue is probably the 527 organizations and how they play a role in the campaign. What Obama wants to see happen is that they're not influencing the campaign through their unlimited spending capabilities. If that wasn't on the table, there's no point in meeting.

Secondly, I disagree that this is a low point because the fact that MoveOn quickly fell in line and said that they'd follow Obama's lead and example is a very strong move. It illustrates that when facing a challenger who is using all of the loopholes, you can still opt to stick to your principles and inspire those on your side to do the same. If this was really a "low point" of the campaign, Obama would have said "we're not opting for public financing because the opponent's using dirty loopholes to take advantage of the system" and then turned a deaf ear to his supporting organizations when they used those same loopholes. That's not the case here.

This difference in approach and affiliated actions is a big deal. It's worthwhile to think really hard about what these people say AND what they actually do.

Benjamin Hoyt definitely seems like he could have handled the situation somewhat more politically-adeptly. I mean, even long-time Democratic campaign finance reform advocate Russ Feingold has criticized this decision. I think he also loses some of the high ground with it becomes so clear that he really doesn't need any of the public money anyway. So, it kinda just looks like a calculated move that is intended to put McCain in an awkward situation. I think that he should have made more of an effort with McCain, first...

Robi Ganguly

Actually, Ben, your point about Feingold reinforces my opinion on this.

Remember, the McCain-Feingold bill ( is part of the existing ruleset that Obama takes issue with. Feingold and McCain had good intentions, I'm sure, but the loopholes for the 527 organizations (read the wikipedia entry for further detail) are a large source of discontent about its execution.

In this instance, I believe that the situation is thus:
- Good intentions resulted in a compromised solution, which has resulted in lots of "bad" (read: unintended) behavior.
- Opting into public financing but sticking to his principles about 527 spending would severely handicap Obama

Happy to research more if you think I'm not seeing all the context here, but I think that the media is oversimplifying the debate. It's worthwhile to delve into the specific issues of campaign finance to fully appreciate what's at stake here.


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