Of the many — actually, it approaches infinite — missed Republican opportunities of this campaign season, I feel there is one so obvious I had to try to remedy it — personally.
It’s just a few hours until the polls open, but I wanted it out there just so I could say it was. Here you go.
My friends, I’m John McCain. Back in 2002, I fought hard to limit the amount of money in politics. I thought it was corrosive and anti-democratic. Public financing of campaigns has long been a Democratic rallying cry, and I crossed the aisle to work with my colleague, Senator Russ Feingold, to pass legislation limiting the amount of money being pumped into campaigns. Nothing I have done has damaged me more with the base of my own party, but I thought it was the right thing to do, so I did it.
During the primaries, both Senator Obama and I agreed to make this campaign about issues and not about money, and I was proud and pleased when he joined me in a pledge to accept public financing for the general election.
However, back in June, Senator Obama renounced that pledge. Once it became clear that he could raise more money by breaking his promise – not just to me, and to America, but to the Democratic Party ideal they have fought for for so long – once he realized he could raise more money by breaking that promise, he broke it.
I did not.
So now, Senator Obama has raised over $600 million dollars. Because I remained committed to a principle we both agreed upon, he is able to outspend me at least seven to one. Remember that, next time you see an ad run by Senator Obama. Or the next one. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that.
And if that doesn’t bother you – at least a little – just ask yourself one question: What if Senator Obama, running on a platform of Change and “a new kind of politics” was the one to accept public financing, and the Republican opponent did not. What if the Democrat, true to his principles and a personal pledge, held true to his beliefs, while the Republican raised six hundred million dollars and turned off the standard credit card anti-fraud protections while doing so? What if the Republican outspent the democrat more than seven to one, and, as a result was up by a few points in key battlefield states.
What would you think then?
Would you not be inclined to say he “bought the election?” And do you think, in the face of that advantage, that anyone will ever accept public financing again?
And what if, in the face of that disadvantage, all you had to trust and depend on was the fundamental integrity of the press to present whatever damaging information they and their army of reporters could uncover, on either candidate?
What if they too failed to live up to their obligation to you? Then where would this principled stand leave you?