Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hoist on His Own Petard

Conservatives were on to this from the beginning, and Karl Rove in today's WSJ lays out just what the effect was of the epochal "Campaign Finance Reform" that John McCain so loudly championed, and that a large majority of both the electorate and the Congress lined up behind. Now, by taking the biggest empirical measure, we know the net--and intended, by the way--effect of getting the money out of politics. Really? The Messiah, after first piously pledging to abide by the public financing regime, which was to be the central pillar of the new regime of clean politics, shifted, pivoted, pirouetted--backslid--into accepting the torrent of mainly illicit money raised through Soros-funded back offices and boiler rooms set up for the purpose. Obama's treasury was so lopsidedly huge he simply drown out McCain's efforts to get a word in. Think of Obama with a stadium-sized public address system, with Jumbotrons and massive lighting, speaking to tens of thousands--and McCain standing on his campaign-finance approved soapbox in the town square with his hand cupped around his mouth, speaking to tens.

We now find that the main point wielded by the Obama campaign to legitimize this amazing flood of campaign money--that it was mostly an outpouring of sincere, motivated--and small--individual givers joining the newly clean political process for the first time--was a total myth. Over half of Obama's money came from the biggest of big fish, giving over a thousand dollars, with a significant fraction coming in amounts over two hundred dollars. This fiction of the little giver--one thinks of the widow and her mite--supporting the Promised One with her butter and egg money--is now exploded.

The taint of cheating and outright fraud and criminality attaches to this historic victory through the credit card donations of Daffy Duck et. al. These were made possible by the ministrations of some anonymous backroom operative, instructed to turn off the screening and verification function that websites taking money use to prevent stolen credit cards from being used. Thus, this campaign was funded with an unknown number of fraudulent transactions, using either the routine scam of stealing the card number and using it without the owners knowledge, or by the repeated use of certain accounts under the control of the campaign for "donations" from deep pockets using fake names to create the illusion of many separate givers. And of course they will get away with it--nothing to see here folks, go back to your homes.

I wonder if John McCain knows that one of his career-defining pieces of work wrong-footed his last campaign from the start. This is a perfect example of the conundrum Plato offers in Book 1 of the Republic. How can the just man, who must always hold to the truth and can never avail himself of dishonest practice, ever prevail against the unjust man who can lie, cheat and steal, all while accusing the just man of these very things? That the appearance of justice is what is key, not actually being just, is the lesson the world teaches everyday. It is that on which the Saul Alinski School of Politics and Public Policy grounds its entire franchise.

It's why Jesus' instruction to be wise as serpents but harmless as doves was necessary--he knew it's hard to out-snake a snake. As we are wont to say these days, I don't question McCain's patriotism, only his judgment.

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