Sometimes, my beloved New York Times tends to get too liberal and idealistic for my Democratic tastes.
One of the things I love about The Times is that it holds politicians to extremely high standards — as it should, of course — and seldom lowers the bar.
But in an editorial last Wednesday, The Times held President Barack Obama to an unrealistically high bar, in my opinion, when it chided him for deciding to cooperate with a super PAC called Priorities USA Action.
The Times said that Obama’s announcement “fully implicates the president, his campaign and his administration in the pollution of the political system unleashed by Citizens United and related court decisions.”
By agreeing to play ball with a super PAC, the editorial went on, Obama “gave in to the culture of the Citizens United decision that he once denounced as a ‘threat to our democracy.’ ”
The editorial ran under the headline, “Another Campaign for Sale.” The subhead said, “President Obama reverses position and joins the sleazy ‘Super PAC’ money race.”
Yes, the super PAC system is sleazy, and, yes, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010 was crazy and has further tainted our elective system. And, yes, it would be great if President Obama had decided to forgo the super PAC route.
But at what cost? Everyone knows the power of money in politics…If you (or somebody supporting you) can go on TV and say your opponent is a dipstick thousands of times more than you can say the same about him (or her), you’re likely to prevail. You have to respond to negative ads, and you need just about equal resources to even try to effectively counteract them.
The Times’ editorial board thoroughly dislikes all the Republican candidates and will undoubtedly endorse Obama for re-election. So, what it was doing in this editorial, it appears to me, was calling on Obama — its candidate — to take the biggest gamble of his political life and run without super PAC support.
Two days after the editorial was published, The Times ran five letters to the editor about the editorial.
Two of the writers sided with The Times’ editorial, and three took Obama’s side.
One of those who sided with The Times, Paul Bloustein of Cincinnati, said: “President Obama is a very principled man, until he isn’t. His decision to use super PAC money in his re-election effort is hugely disappointing…fear of being a one-term president has trumped principle.”
The other writer who sided with The Times, Margaret McGirr, Greenwich, CT, said: “It doesn’t get better than this: watching the very same people who scolded Supreme Court justices for their decision on campaign finance defend setting up a super PAC.”
I agree, however, with the letter writers who said Obama was left with little choice, if he hoped to be re-elected.
Douglas J. Cocuzza of Hackettstown, NJ, said, “You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. You are forced to bring a gun or not participate in the fight.”
Also using a fight analogy, Mike Cockrill of Brooklyn said: “If you’re in a boxing match and the judge says you can use chairs, you’d be a fool not to grab a chair when your opponent comes after you with one. Later in the recovery room, you can both discuss whether the chair rule is a bad one.”
(Don’t you love that last line?)
William D. Bandes of Roseville, CA, got the last word:
“You write that President Obama is ‘telling the country that simply getting re-elected is bigger than standing on principle.’ Getting re-elected is bigger than surrender, better than handing the reins over to those who bought government by giving us Citizens United in the first place.”
To be precise, Bandes should have said “better than handing the reins over to those who are trying to buy government” because the super PAC people haven’t yet bought either the executive branch of government or both divisions of the legislative branch.
I completely agree with Bandes that this is a case where the stakes are simply too big for Obama to forgo super PAC money. I sure don’t want any of those Republican dipsticks in the White House. Do you?
What Obama needs to do is get re-elected, hope some conservative Supreme Court justices die or retire and then appoint some justices who will get the court off the errant course it’s been on under John Roberts, Anton Scalia and the dope whom Jack Danforth gave us, Clarence (Coke Can) Thomas.