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Obama and Public Financing

I must admit, I just can't get worked up over Obama's decision:

Senator Barack Obama announced Thursday that he would not participate in the public financing system for presidential campaigns. He argued that the system had collapsed, and would put him at a disadvantage running against Senator John McCain, his likely Republican opponent.

With his decision, Mr. Obama became the first candidate of a major party to decline public financing -- and the spending limits that go with it -- since the system was created in 1976, after the Watergate scandals.

Mr. McCain, who has been a champion of the public financing system, affirmed Thursday that his campaign would accept public financing.

And the reason I can't get worked up is this: It's not like the U.S. has anywhere near a perfect public financing system. It would be one thing if election campaigns were all funded publicly, with no private donations allowed, and there were strict and sensible spending limits. But it's essentially just a system of loopholes.

Here's how Obama himself put it: "The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who've become masters at gaming this broken system. John McCain's campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we've already seen that he's not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations."

Of course, the Democrats are awfully good at exploiting the system, too, especially through their own 527s, as they showed in 2004.

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FL/MI Update

Untitled Document


Democratic Party lawyers have determined that no more than half the delegates from Florida and Michigan can be seated at the party's August convention, dealing a blow to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's efforts to seat the full delegations from those states.

The rules committee of the Democratic National Committee meets on Saturday to determine whether to seat the delegates from these states, which were penalized for holding early primaries.

Half? Yes, at most. (See a background post on what to do about Florida and Michigan here.)

Why? Let's remind ourselves of the facts:

1) This wasn't Obama's doing, and, contrary to Hillary's not-too-subtle allegations, he isn't to blame.

2) The DNC set the rules (way back in August 2006), Florida and Michigan broke the rules, the DNC penalized Florida and Michigan. (It's that simple.)

3) With the exception of Mike Gravel, the candidates agreed not to campaign in Florida prior to the primary there on January 29. Hillary held three fundraisers two days before the vote, however, and then went there to declare victory, but it was in no way a meaningful victory because it was in no way a meaningful contest.

4) While Hillary decided to remain on the ballot in Michigan, along with Dodd and Gravel, Obama and several other candidates (including Edwards, Richardson, and Biden) withdrew from the primary in October 2007 and had their names taken off the ballot for the January 15 primary. (Kucinich tried but failed to get his name removed.) As with Florida, Hillary and her campaign and her surrogates have declared victory, but, again, it was in no way a meaningful victory. In second and third place, respectively, were "Uncommitted" and "Undecided."

And now Hillary wants those results to count? Well, of course. She wants both the delegates and the popular vote totals, both of which would count in her favour.

Here's how I put it the night of the Florida primary (before I had endorsed Obama): "So Hillary played along with the ruling, avoiding Florida, until it was in her self-interest, after her bad loss to Obama in South Carolina, not to. And, in declaring victory in what was a non-competitive race, she now wants the vote to count, for Florida to get its allocation of delegates after all? What do you think she'd be saying -- what do you think her husband would be saying -- if Obama were trying to pull a stunt like this? Or what if Obama had simply won and was respecting the ruling? There wouldn't be a peep out of the Clintons. And so she's declaring victory and her supporters are lapping it up. It's all quite despicable. She wants the delegates, but she also wants the momentum heading into next week's Super Tuesday. And apparently she'll stop at nothing to get it."

But, you see, this is Clintonian ethics at work: When you're losing, change the rules... and go back on your word and do what you said you wouldn't do... and smear your opponents... and play fast and loose with the truth... and claim to be the victim of a massive conspiracy.

If nothing else, this long and sometimes bitter race has shown us what makes the Clintons tick.

Justin blogs at The Reaction

Totalitarian Religion, Abusive Polygamy, and Illiberal Texas

As you may have heard:

A Texas appeals court ruled Thursday that state authorities and a lower court judge abused their authority by illegally seizing up to 468 children from their homes at a polygamist ranch in West Texas last month.


According to the court, the state did not establish proper grounds to remove the children from their families, who belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or F.L.D.S.


The unanimous ruling by three judges of the Third Court of Appeals in Austin revoked the state's custody over a large group of the children and by extension almost certainly the rest, for what it called a lack of evidence that they were in immediate danger of sexual or physical abuse.

The appeals court said the record "does not reflect any reasonable effort on the part of the department to ascertain if some measure short of removal and/or separation would have eliminated the risk." It also said the evidence of danger to the children "was legally and factually insufficient" to justify their removal and it said the lower court "abused its discretion" in failing to return seized children to their families.

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Yet Another Super Tuesday

Well, it's finally upon us. Super Tuesday 5... or 8... or 17... or whatever it is. I've lost count.

But it's the day we've been waiting for all primary season, the day we knew was coming, the day of the Kentucky and Oregon primaries.

I'll be live-blogging the results as they come in, keeping an ear or two out for American Idol -- it's Dave vs. Dave! (I'm rooting for Cook) -- but here, as we kick off the day, are some interesting tidbits for your amusement and/or edification:

1) Hillary is still insisting that the race is "nowhere near over," bubbling over with her now-characteristic faux populism, and playing fast and loose with popular-vote totals. Obama may or may not declare victory tonight, but he will likely reach a key milestone once today's results are in: a majority of the pledged delegates. He doesn't yet have enough superdelebates to put him over the top, but he's been trouncing Hillary in superdelegate pick-ups since the first Super Tuesday on February 5.

2) Speaking of superdelegates, Obama has picked up the endorsement of one of the party's long-time leaders, West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd: "Barack Obama is a noble-hearted patriot and humble Christian, and he has my full faith and support."

3) At least Obama doesn't need to bribe superdelegates. It is being reported (and, of course, denied) that Hillary financier Haim Saban offered $1 million to the Young Democrats of America in return for two superdelegate endorsements. Another example of trying to win at any cost, it would seem. (And yet, in this case, the cost was clear.)

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Too Bad for Those Threatened Polar Bears

Remember when I wrote that post on how "polar bears are facing unprecedented environmental stress that will cause their numbers to plummet" (if I may again quote WaPo)?

No? Well, I can't say I blame you. It was way back on July 7, 2005.

The point of that post was simple: Polar bears are a victim of global warming. The World Conservation Union had concluded that they were a "vulnerable" species and that their numbers would decline sharply as a direct result of "climatic warming and its consequent negative affects on [their] sea ice habitat."

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration was doing nothing -- or, rather, worse than nothing. It was actively blocking international efforts to address global warming in meaningful ways. As I put it on May 14, 2007, Bush had turned the United States into "the malevolent hegemon," while he himself had become "an enabler of future genocide."

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