Sunday, November 02, 2008

Shorter David Broder: I'm totally in the tank with McCain's "town hall" argument

Towards the end of Broder's I'm-still-kinda-skeptical-about-Obama essay, he writes:
Obama is not, any more than other politicians, a paragon. He reneged on his promise to use public funds for his general election campaign, driving a stake into the heart of the post-Watergate effort to reform the campaign finance system. He rejected McCain's invitation to hold joint town hall meetings -- opening the door to the kind of tawdry exchange of charges that we have seen. In both instances, he put his personal goals ahead of the public good -- a worrisome precedent.
It's possible that a good-government type of person would be dismayed at Obama opting out of public financing (though there are arguments in favor, given the 527's, etc). But to say that by not agreeing to public debates on McCain's terms is
  • A "a worrisome precedent" of Obama putting "personal goals ahead of the public good", and

  • That it "opened the door to .. tawdry exchanges"
is remarkable.

First of all, town hall debates are not a necessary component to a good election campaign. Broder needed to make the case - which he didn't - that the public had insufficient exposure to the candidates and their positions this year. That argument is unpersuasive considering the huge number of debates that were held.

Second, failure to take part in town hall meetings in no way justifies the kind of low-ball charges that came from the McCain camp (e.g. "Obama wants to teach sex ed in kindergarten"). And using the expression "tawdry exchanges" makes it look like there was an equivalence between each side. That's impossible. Even McCain supporters would disagree with Broder (saying that their man got hammered worse).

The more I read Broder, the more I get the feeling that one of his goals is to promote Broder. Broder the Olympian figure who won't get his hands dirty actually grappling with unpleasant details and calling foul where appropriate. It's gotten to the where I expect Broder to refer to World War II as a "distasteful affair". That sort of thing.


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