All the hand-wringing over Obama's decision to forgo public financing for the general election has already gotten tiring, and he only made the announcement yesterday. The New York Times Editors say "Between Mr. Obama’s decision to rely on private money and Mr. McCain’s cynical invitation to 527 mayhem, it would be a shame if it also goes down in history as the year public financing died." David Brooks is trying to transform "Barry" into Fast Eddie, who throws public financing under a truck (as opposed to the bus where everything else has been tossed lately--guess it needs new shocks or something). John Cole has links to Red State, The Corner, and Hot Air decrying Obama's rejection of public financing, even though you'd think those people would be glad to see private money being used instead of public money.
Let me be clear here. I would love to have full public financing of elections. We don't have that right now. Instead, we have a crappy partial system filled with loopholes that allows people to opt out of the system. Sen. Feingold, who was upset about Obama's decision yesterday, acknowledged that subsidies for the primary system are broken, though he seems to think that the general election ones are okay. He's not running. He's also wrong.
Any public system, if it's going to be truly fair--and that's the idea behind public financing, to get big money out of the game--has to be mandatory. There can't be an opt-out. Either everyone does it, plays by the same rules, under the same restrictions, or the system won't work. The other details are all open for debate, but that one has to be a part of it--no opting out.
It's no surprise to see all the objections from the right--Brooks, Hot Air, The Corner, etc. have always been of the mindset that nothing is a problem until it gives the Democrats an advantage, and for all the continual bleating about the liberal bias at the New York Times, they've certainly been no friend to Democrats in the 15 years or so I've been reading their pages.
Senator Feingold is another matter--he's a true believer in the system, and why not? He helped write the laws. One of them bears his name, along with the presumptive Republican nominee--who kindasorta opted out of the public financing system during the Republican primaries and who broke the spirit and perhaps the letter of the law doing so. He's still wrong on this. The system is broken, and maybe it will never be fixed. But for now, if Obama can go outside the system, and the law allows him to do so, he absolutely should.