This has been a pretty disappointing weekend here at AOTG, but one of the standouts is John McCain. You see, up until now I had assumed that this election was going end being between two people I respected, no matter what their positions on certain issues were. I had started turning a blind eye to some of McCain's pandering, convincing myself that he was just doing what needed to be done in a fairly vicious GOP primary process.
But then came this story, by Paul Kiel of Talking Point Memo, in which John McCain seems to be gaming the public financing system. Read the story for the details, it's worth knowing about, but essentially McCain took up a loan and secured it with the collateral of eventual public financing. However, had he done that straight up, he would have been committed to taking the matching funds and abiding by a strict campaign spending limit. Instead, he secured the loan, with the caveat that should he have successful fundraising (i.e. seriously compete for the nomination) he would not be obliged to take the funds. Essentially, public funding became a failsafe to payback campaign debt should the McCain team fail to find its legs.
This came to me as something of an incredibly disappointment. For all of McCain's flaws, he had always shared with me a passion for what I consider to be the most important issue in politics, campaign finance reform. Without such reform, any and all issues are necessarily tainted. We can reform the electoral system we have and still, so long as campaigns depend on money and money flows freely from corporate interests, so too will the legislation created by Congress be tainted.
So now here we sit at the cusp of an election, where two great champions of campaign finance reform refuse to, either of them, accept the mutual playing field established by public financing. It's easy to respect a John McCain who talks a good game, when he has nothing on the line. He is free to rail against corporate donations when running for Senator in Arizona; he's never going to lose. But when the chips are down the Straight Talk Express derails, he calls the Confederate flag "heritage", he supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent and campaign finance reform remains an excellent dream while he fills his warchest as fast as possible to compete against the Democratic fundraising machine (who thought I'd ever be able to write that phrase).
I guess the moral of this story is that maybe it's time to stop believing in politicians who claim not to be politicians. Perhaps it is a cynical lesson, but perhaps we live in a cynical world. I think I speak for both halves of AOTG when I say we'll be casting our ballots for the Democratic candidate in November, but, at least in the case of this half the name "John McCain" on the other side will no longer give me pause.