A couple of tempests in a couple of teapots. Charlie Black, a senior McCain advisor, says that another terrorist attack would help his guy. Furor. Outrage. McCain rejects the comment; Obama attacks it. Wait a minute, guys, what's going on here? In the interest of fair disclosure, I should say that I know and like Black from past campaigns I covered. He wasn't saying - and he's way too smart to say - that he wants there to be another terrorist attack. Nobody wants that, for heaven's sake. What he was saying, as a simple matter of political analysis, was: if the voters' attention swings away from the soggy economy and back to terrorism, foreign affairs, and so on, that helps McCain because that's where his experience is. On economics he sometimes seems under-informed and/or disinterested. That's all Black meant, and that's true, of course. Can we all stop fussing now?
Tempest two: Barack Obama renounces public financing for the general election after he said he wouldn't. He lied to us. Well, technically he probably did, but he made what was a politically sensible decision. Remember how John Kerry got hammered four years ago by independent groups--Swift Boat Vets for Truth, and so on. They mounted a truly vicious attack on his war record. I think he was even accused once of exaggerating the severity of one of his wounds. I mean, the government gave the man a Purple Heart, but all, of course, is fair in politics and war.
Kerry was stuck, to a degree, because he didn't have enough money to counterattack. It's preposterous--public financing provides millions of dollars but not enough to do everything you want or need to do. And Obama has had great success raising money on the internet. He's had big givers, too, of course, though not as many as McCain. Obama really pioneered raising money on the internet and feels that will work for him in the fall as well. It's almost a sure thing that he will face tough Republican attacks just as Kerry did. Not about his war record--he hasn't one--but the whole array of rumors--he's Muslim, he's unpatriotic, and so on. Race will surface somewhere in there, too. He wants to have enough money to shoot back, as Kerry could not.
Public financing seems good in principle, but it's very hard to create a really level playing field with those independent groups who have every right to speak out, tilting the odds.