- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008

John McCain needs to get used to the fact that neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton will be accepting the $85 million in public money for the general election campaign. Knowing this sooner rather than later offers Mr. McCain, whose relative fund-raising so far has been abysmal, an incredible opportunity to begin aggressively shaking the Republican money tree for the fall campaign while the Democrats spend their much larger war chests attacking each other. And President Bush, the most prolific money magnet in the history of the Republican Party, needs to add the duties of fund-raiser-in-chief to his commander-in chief-responsibilities between now and Election Day.

All three candidates have decided to forego taxpayer-financed matching funds for the primary campaign — although the Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission has mischievously told Mr. McCain that the commission has not yet approved his request to withdraw from the public-financing system for the primary season. Mrs. Clinton, who has already raised more than $22 million that can only be spent on a general-election campaign (or must be returned to the contributors), never intended taking public money for the fall campaign. At one time, long before he and the political world began to appreciate his unprecedented fund-raising prowess, Mr. Obama had made a pledge to accept public financing for the general election if his Republican opponent agreed to do so.

Mr. McCain, who has raised less than $60 million in individual contributions during the previous 14 months, is wasting his time trying to force Mr. Obama to abide by his earlier pledge. Mr. Obama, who has collected $194 million in individual contributions since the beginning of 2007, including $36 million in January and $55 million in February, has reasonably argued that he could never agree to accept public funding in the fall without a guarantee by his opponent to control the independent spending by outside groups. Of course, such a guarantee is completely unenforceable.

Indeed, the recent dissemination of — and the popular reaction of disgust to — the racist videos starring Mr. Obama’s spiritual mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, guarantee that independent conservative groups will be spending tens of millions of dollars disseminating these “sermons” across America if Mr. Obama is the Democratic nominee. The ads will no doubt be asking why Mr. Obama has spent 20 years attending a church whose congregation gave a standing ovation to Mr. Wright’s incendiary “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” sermon, which was delivered five days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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