Ignoring NY Times reports, Times and Wash. Post editorials made no mention of McCain campaign's waffling on public financing

Ignoring NY Times reports, Times and Wash. Post editorials made no mention of McCain campaign's waffling on public financing

››› ››› JOHN DELICATH

Editorials in The New York Times and The Washington Post both asserted that Sen. John McCain has agreed to accept public financing in the general election if Sen. Barack Obama does. But neither editorial mentioned that according to a Times article, McCain advisers said earlier in the week that he would not accept public financing in the general election.

Editorials in the February 16 editions of The New York Times and The Washington Post arguing that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama should accept public financing in the general election if Republican candidate Sen. John McCain does both asserted that McCain has agreed to accept such financing if Obama does. But neither editorial mentioned that according to a Times article, McCain advisers said earlier that week that he would not accept public financing in the general election.

The Times editorial reported that Obama "answered with a firm 'yes' when asked if he would participate in public financing, should the Republican nominee do the same." The editorial then "urge[d] Mr. Obama to return to that position." Earlier, the editorial asserted that "McCain is now the presumptive Republican nominee and says he is eager to take Mr. Obama up on the idea if he beats Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton." McCain said on March 1, 2007, that if he became the Republican nominee, he would accept public funds, provided the Democratic nominee did as well. However, the Times reported on February 13 that "Mr. McCain's advisers said that the candidate, despite his signature legislative efforts to restrict the money spent on political campaigns, would not accept public financing and spending limits for this year's general campaign." Moreover, in a February 15 article reporting that the "McCain campaign's latest stand on the issue" is that it will accept public funding if McCain's Democratic opponent does the same, the Times similarly reported: "On Tuesday, one of Mr. McCain's advisers told The New York Times that the campaign had decided to forgo public financing in the general election, an awkward admission for a senator who has made campaign finance reform a central part of his political persona."

The Washington Post editorial headlined "Mr. Obama's Waffle" asserted that Obama was "starting to hedge" "about the campaign's earlier position" on accepting public financing in the general election and contrasted him with McCain, claiming: "The presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, agreed long ago to Mr. Obama's deal, back when his prospects for securing the nomination seemed slim. Mr. McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, reaffirmed that pledge this week at a lunch with reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor." However, the editorial never mentioned McCain's own reported "waffle" -- that, according to the Times, days before "reaffirm[ing] that pledge this week," McCain advisers had said that he would opt not to use public funds. Nor did the editorial note what the Post itself reported on February 16: that, while McCain has declined to take public financing for the primary elections, he had taken out a $1 million loan "by pledging to enter the public financing system if his bid for the presidency faltered." While the Post reported that McCain "never used the funds of the most recent loan" the article also reported that "[u]nder the agreement, McCain promised that if his campaign began to falter, he would commit to keeping his campaign alive and to entering the federal financing system so the money he had raised could be used to gain an infusion of matching funds."

From the February 16 Times editorial:

A year ago, before Barack Obama's prodigious fund-raising powers were clocked in at $1 million a day, the senator made a great show out of raising a good idea: He would take the narrower road of public financing in the general election if he secured the nomination and his opponent did the same. Senator John McCain, then a long shot, agreed. Mr. Obama even secured a ruling from the Federal Election Commission that he could return unused private donations and then accept public financing.

Well, Mr. McCain is now the presumptive Republican nominee and says he is eager to take Mr. Obama up on the idea if he beats Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sounds good? Not so fast.

Representatives of Mr. Obama are cautiously saying this plan was an option, not a pledge, and it will not be definitively addressed unless Mr. Obama secures the nomination. An idea floated by a contender is now too "hypothetical" for a front-runner.

Campaign seconds will spar eagerly over what "option" and "pledge" mean. But researchers from government watchdog groups found a candidates' forum from last November where Senator Obama answered with a firm "yes" when asked if he would participate in public financing, should the Republican nominee do the same. He promised to "aggressively pursue" this route.

We urge Mr. Obama to return to that position, and Mrs. Clinton to follow suit. She has not made a firm commitment, even as she endorses an updating of public financing subsidies to make it more attractive. After the hundreds of millons in private donations being splurged on the primaries, public financing would limit the general election nominees to $85 million each. This seems generous enough, particularly with the political parties and independent groups free to spend even more.

From the February 16 Post editorial:

AS RECENTLY as November, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was unequivocal about whether he would agree to take public financing for the general election if his Republican opponent pledged to do the same. "If you are nominated for president in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?" the Midwest Democracy Network asked in a questionnaire. Mr. Obama's answer was clear. "Yes," he wrote. "If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election."

Or maybe not. Mr. Obama deserves credit for obtaining a ruling from the Federal Election Commission that allowed him to raise money for the general election campaign but reserve the right to return the funds if he were to win the nomination and manage to arrange a cease-fire with the other side. That outcome, once improbable, is now within reach. The presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, agreed long ago to Mr. Obama's deal, back when his prospects for securing the nomination seemed slim. Mr. McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, reaffirmed that pledge this week at a lunch with reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

But Mr. Obama's campaign, which has been raking in money at an astonishing clip of more than $30 million a month, is starting to hedge. Speaking to the Associated Press, Mr. Obama's spokesman, Bill Burton, downgraded the Obama plan to "something that we pursued with the FEC and it was an option that we wanted on the table and is on the table." Asked about the campaign's earlier position, Mr. Burton said, "No, there is no pledge."

Network/Outlet
The Washington Post, The New York Times
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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