Anyone other than John McCain might be able to attack Barack Obama for rejecting taxpayer financing for the general election. But McCain’s long record on campaign finance reform has tied his own hands.
In 2003 McCain sponsored a bill that would have prevented candidates from taking public financing for the general election but not for the primaries — which is exactly the position McCain is in now. That bill never passed, and McCain’s campaign says there’s no reason they should tie themselves to something that didn’t become law.
Call it McCain’s “Do as I do, not as I say” moment. The only problem is, McCain’s own campaign finance partner, Sen. Russ Feingold, took a different route in 1998. In that year he chose to bind himself to his own campaign finance proposal, even though it wasn’t law. He nearly lost because of it, but gained credibility for sticking to his principles.
The McCain folks argue his intention for introducing the bill was to keep folks in the system, not force them out of it. But as the situation stands now, only one of the two candidates — Obama — is doing what McCain’s bill called for, while McCain is violating the principle of his own legislation. In theory, that would cut into McCain’s criticism of Obama. We’ll see.
— Stephen Dinan, National political correspondent, The Washington Times