Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On President Obama (3)

I want to pursue my last point in a little more detail, with an example of how Obama is a "normal" politician, and this is to do with the funding of his campaign.

Obama was the first candidate since the time of Watergate not to accept public financing of his campaign, and this reversed his earlier commitment to do so. This made perfect short-term sense and allowed his campaign to outspend the McCain campaign culminating in the purchase of prime-time TV slots for his half-hour 'infomercial'.

I don't have a particular problem with this - and a good argument could be made for seeing the abandonment of principle as 'worth it' given the imperative of changing the political establishment. Simply put - there was a fight and Obama won, pretty much the end of the story.

Where I start to demur a little, however, is in the rhetoric of 'small donations' that Obama uses. According to the Washington Post, "only a quarter of the $600 million he has raised has come from donors who made contributions of $200 or less, according to a review of his FEC reports. That is actually slightly less, as a percentage, than President Bush raised in small donations during his 2004 race..." In addition, there have been some question marks raised about the propriety of his internet fund-raising - that is, even though the claim is for many more people offering funding as individuals for his campaign, clearly some of them were fraudulent.

In other words, Obama is just as much a creature of 'big money' as any of the Republican Presidents of recent years. The 'big money' may come from a different area, but this is not 'new politics'. Indeed, considering the close connections forged by Obama with the Chicago system it seems clear that Obama is gifted at working an existing system. That is a good augury for the professionalism of his administration and we can expect him to be a competent president in a way that, eg with the response to Katrina, George Bush wasn't.

Hopefully that's enough - without getting into the more murky waters of his background - to show that Obama is a "normal" politician, one with immense gifts in that regard which have led him to where he is. My disagreements and concerns about an Obama administration lie in a different area, which is what I shall pursue tomorrow.

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