Mark Shields didn’t mince words on PBS about Barack Obama’s decision to opt out of public financing. Appearing as the progressive balance with David Brooks on Judy Woodruff’s show, Shields ripped into Obama, calling him unprincipled and suggesting that his latest video message painted him as a “hostage” who couldn’t pass a polygraph:
It was a flip-flop of epic proportions. It was one that he could not rationalize or justify. His video was unconvincing. He looked like someone who was being kept as a hostage somewhere he was so absolutely unconvincing in it. It could not have passed a polygraph test.
I mean, coming up with this bogus argument the Republicans have so much more money — the Republicans don’t have so much more money. He’s raised three times as much as John McCain has.
David Brooks tried his Messiah/Machiavelli theory, but admitted that Obama hit a new low:
I do think it’s the low point of the Obama candidacy, and I think it for this reason. His entire career he has put political reform at the center of it. In the Illinois legislature, in the Senate, political reform has been the essence of who he has been. And so for him to betray this, to sell out this issue, what won’t he sell out?
Brooks tried to play this as Obama making tough decisions that would prove his mettle as Commander in Chief, which makes no sense at all. A true leader would stick to his principles even when it didn’t personally benefit him, not leap from position to position for political expediency. Later, Brooks seemed to figure this out:
But McCain wouldn’t have done this. When the chips are down and McCain faced the crucial issue of his career, which was backing the surge, he backed the surge thinking it would cost him the presidency. …
On a core issue of character, I do not believe McCain will bend. He’ll bend on all this other stuff he doesn’t care about, but Obama did bend on a core issue of his conscience.
Bend? This was a clean break from his oft-cited principles on public financing. He cited them while he broke with them. Even Mark Shields knows that the GOP hasn’t outraised him or funded 527s. He broke with his principles and lied about doing so, while sanctimoniously paying homage to the principles to which his opponent has remained faithful.
When the mask has slipped badly enough for Mark Shields to not only see it but get visibly angry about it, trouble is around the corner. And Shields lowers the boom in his column today:
Sounds good until you check the facts. McCain has raised a grand total of $650,000 from the lobbying industry (Obama pledges not to accept lobbyists’ or PAC money), according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and just 1 percent of his contributions are from PACs. Talk about a paper tiger.
But everybody remembers the most famous 527 group of all, the 2004 “Swift boats” attack ads questioning John Kerry’s bravery in Vietnam. Here are the numbers: The 527 spending has heavily favored Democrats over Republicans in every election cycle since 2000. In 2004, Democratic-leaning 527 groups spent $316 million to Republican-leaning 527s’ $113 million. So far in 2008, the 527 spending has been $116 million to $69 million in favor of the Democrats.
Obama complicated his current situation by publicly proposing in March 2007 an agreement between the two major party nominees to rely exclusively upon public financing for the general election. John McCain immediately agreed. Last November, Obama stated: “I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election,” and on Feb. 26, Obama told the late Tim Russert, who had asked him if he might “break your word” on his public financing pledge, “I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that works for everybody.”
Obama lied about the 527s. He smeared McCain by accusing him of having fueled his campaign on lobbyist donations. He reversed reality by calling Republicans “masters” of the 527 strategy that his allies George Soros and MoveOn dominated in 2004 and 2000. And Obama didn’t even have the courage to negotiate with his political opponent while telling voters that we shouldn’t fear negotiating with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Vero Possumus, indeed.
Update: PBS, not NPR.