The Power of the Jump: L.A. Times Buries and Waters Down Evidence That Obama Actually Broke a Public Financing Pledge
Last night, I was shocked to see that the L.A. Times had clearly and prominently told readers that Obama had made (and has now violated) a pledge to use public financing.
Readers were told about Obama’s pledge right up front, in clear headlines. Also, readers were told that Obama had said “yes” when asked if he would use public financing if the Republican did. The “yes” was not portrayed as a mere promise to pursue an agreement with McCain.
All in all, it was a surprisingly fair story.
Thank God, some editors got hold of that story and fuzzed it up so that Obama doesn’t look so bad.
In the version appearing on the front page of today’s print edition, any evidence that Obama actually made a pledge is buried on Page A12, and so watered down that the reader can’t quite tell what he really promised.
Yup, this is the story I had expected to see.
The headline in the print edition, which is now the headline used on the main web page, reads as follows:
Obama sets his own terms for race
He rejects federal funds for the chance to spend much as much private money as he wants, some of it in red states.
Oh, well hey, good for him! We want people to set their own terms! That’s certainly a very positive thing, wouldn’t you agree? Who wants to have their terms set by someone else?
Similarly, in the current web version of the story, any hint of going back on a pledge has been removed from the headline, as well as the deck headline, which reads as follows: “The likely Democratic presidential candidate is poised to spend big, with the extra money going for ads in red states.”
Good for him again! And the lede sentence makes it clear that he has been freed from a restraint, which is also a big positive;
Freed from a serious fundraising constraint, Barack Obama is positioned to mount a general-election campaign on a scale the nation has never seen, fueled by hundreds of millions of dollars in private donations.
It’s so wonderful to break free from fundraising constraints. Especially serious ones. This is so great for him!
In the seventh paragraph, we’re told that McCain accused Obama of breaking a pledge:
He accused Obama of breaking a promise to abide by the federal spending limit.
Those crazy presidential candidates! Always with the accusations! What a grumpy old guy that McCain is.
Any hint of evidence that McCain might be right comes in the ninth paragraph. And guess what?
That’s on the back pages.
Yup, the story moves to page A12 right there in the eighth paragraph, so that the first hint that McCain was right — that Obama really did break a pledge — comes on the back pages, where most readers don’t bother to turn.
And just look how they soften the blow:
Though Obama’s decision made strategic sense, it left some good-government groups discouraged, predicting it would only fuel the money chase in politics. Complicating matters for Obama, he wrote in a campaign questionnaire last November that he was committed to public financing.
Yes, that does complicate matters for him. Rather inconvenient, that.
Waay, waaaay, waaaaaaaaaaaay down in the story we’re given the details of the questionnaire, which they now manage to spin as a mere promise that he would “aggressively pursue” such an agreement:
When he answered the campaign questionnaire in November, he was asked by the Midwest Democracy Network whether he would take part in the public financing system. Yes, he replied, adding that if he became the nominee he would “aggressively pursue an agreement” with his Republican counterpart to “preserve a publicly financed election.”
This makes it sound like he said: “Yes, I will aggressively pursue an agreement.” That’s not what he said. In the first sentence of his answer, he said: “Yes.” Period, full stop.
It took seven more sentences to mention pursuing an agreement.
Once again, here is the quote from the questionnaire. Note the beginning of the answer: “Yes.” Only seven sentences later, after a bunch of claptrap about how much he loves public financing, does he talk about pursuing an agreement:
If you are nominated for President in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?
OBAMA: Yes. I have been a long-time advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests. I introduced public financing legislation in the Illinois State Senate, and am the only 2008 candidate to have sponsored Senator Russ Feingold’s (D-WI) bill to reform the presidential public financing system. In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.
This is much more the kind of story I expected from the L.A. Times. Peter Nicholas and a clueless headline writer were far too clear and direct in the first version. Luckily, a new reporter came in to help, and some experienced editors helped layer some gook and muck on there, to confuse the issue and make Obama’s pledge seem much more watered down.
So now I don’t have to parade naked after all.
So now I don’t have to parade naked after all.
If this were a headline over at AOSHQ it’d read, “Patterico keeps intact modesty, integrity, but mostly modesty”no one you know (1f5ddb) — 6/20/2008 @ 7:17 am
i have forgiven obama for breaking his pledge, just as i have forgiven you for breaking yours. you get to keep your clothes on and he gets to spend as much money as he can raise. now try to be happy. happiness is a bootstrap thing, if you start by thinking positive, you’ll end up living positive.assistant devil's advocate (15c21c) — 6/20/2008 @ 7:32 am
now try to be happy.
All joking aside, it’s going to be difficult for me to be happy with a president of the US, leader of the free world, with mega power, whose word I can’t trust if something better for him should come along, and who puts himself above what he’s already stated is good for the country.
Come to think of it, this pretty much verbatim describes Bill Clinton. Oh my gosh, here we go again. *goes to get a couple of aspirin*no one you know (1f5ddb) — 6/20/2008 @ 7:40 am
So, what have we learned from all of this? We can trust the LA Times to be completely in the bag for Baracky, and we can trust that Baracky does not mean what he actually says.JD (75f5c3) — 6/20/2008 @ 7:47 am
Could there be any clearer sign that he is the new messiah? With the major news organizations volunteering to be his spin-meisters, his legend has been secured before he actually has to do anything.Missed It By THAT Much (d55d4c) — 6/20/2008 @ 7:48 am
One radio headline I heard this morning said that Obama passed up public financing as if he was sacraficing something. The spin goes on.Alta Bob (d2c526) — 6/20/2008 @ 7:52 am
Barack Obama is positioned to mount a general-election campaign on a scale the nation has never seen
Well, I’m just hoping that the ceaseless barrage of pricy election ads, and the informative “paid for by” tag at their ends, will remind the voting audience that all of this comes of the candidate’s breaking his pledge and will peel off his supporters on every ad’s airing.m (65f33a) — 6/20/2008 @ 8:24 am
That’s a good point. He spent what — three times as much money as Hillary — and squeaked out 51% of the popular vote between the two of them? He knows that he will need to spend at least four times as much as McCain to even have a chance to beat him.Missed It By THAT Much (d55d4c) — 6/20/2008 @ 8:43 am
Paterico, you think you are relieved that the LA Times remained true to form? I had promised to join you, with potentialy horrifying results.Bar Sinister (6ef162) — 6/20/2008 @ 8:47 am
The fellating from the MSM, the free media, is the biggest in-kind contribution he will get.JD (5f0e11) — 6/20/2008 @ 8:47 am
JD: Nicely said; sadly true.Old Coot (85f458) — 6/20/2008 @ 8:55 am
The Sacramento Bee’s coverage was better. They had a sidebar that printed Obama’s response to the questionnaire as well as his statement from yesterday. Readers could easily compare the two statements and come to their own conclusions. The text of the main article basically concluded that he broke his pledge, but public financing isn’t a priority for voters and so he won’t suffer for it.MartyH (52fae7) — 6/20/2008 @ 9:00 am
“Freed from a serious fundraising constraint…”
I stopped giving the LATs the benefit of the doubt ages ago, therefore, even the use of “Freed” when talking about him, in any way, is suspect. Freudian slip? Carefully placed implication to appeal to a certain group?
Nothing is beneath them.Dana (eb599c) — 6/20/2008 @ 9:35 am
Why is anybody surprised Obama broke his promise? He promised the people of Illinois he would serve his full term and wouldn’t run for president in 2008 if he was elected Senator.
Obama: No experience; No integrity; No clue.Socratease (64f814) — 6/20/2008 @ 10:15 am
Contrarian argument: It is important that a leader is willing to change his stated position when new information becomes available. In this case it was the success of Internet fundraising from millions of people like you and me. The public financing law was designed to try and get the influence of “big money” out of campaigns, by allowing the people to contribute $1 on their income tax forms, as you know. It would be one thing, a violation of the principle of the law, if Obama said I don’t want the people’s money because I can get more from the PAC’s and lobbyists. He hasn’t said that, he’s going to get more money from the same people who check the box on their tax returns. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact it is a good thing for our system as well as the wave of the future. I would worry about a potential leader who was too stupid or stubborn to see this. This argument about not trusting him because he’s smart enough to change his position when it becomes obvious that it makes no sense is unwise.Peccator Dubius (0a6237) — 6/20/2008 @ 10:59 am
Peccator, that was a rather poor attempt at justification. Public financing of campaigns has long been a Democratic platform plank, so your “its the spirit not the letter” attempt to ignore Obama’s own breaking of a campaign pledge after such a short time fails.SPQR (26be8b) — 6/20/2008 @ 11:16 am
314love2008 (0c8c2c) — 6/20/2008 @ 12:05 pm
Obama: No experience; No integrity; No clue.
Equals to the greatest success story ever to be told, if he wins.
Couldn’t he just go somewhere like far,far away or into some other dimension or some place that time forgot.Mike (6af7cb) — 6/20/2008 @ 12:58 pm
Didn’t Obama say just a week ago that he’d pursue a meeting with McCain on the issue? Today his spokesman acknowledged that no attempt had been made to set up such a meeting because “it wasn’t worth it”.
Willing to talk to despots unconditionally but not to the other Presidential candidate – despite pledging to do that as part of his weasling out of his firm commitment to accept public financing.
We will certainly hit an all time low with Presidential credibility when he is elected. We will look back wistfully at Clinton’s lies and rewriting of history as trivial by comparison.in_awe (bc82df) — 6/20/2008 @ 1:22 pm
Patrick, another excellent scalp. And here (at #2) is what makes the bias particularly galling: the Times editors KNOW they are biased.
1. Typically, a biased writer isn’t aware of his/ her bias. As Bernard Goldberg put it, “Fish don’t feel the water.” But!
2. But THIS example — with the change from a pretty-good, straightforward bit of reportage last night, to this North Korean Bio Of Kim Il-Sung version — demonstrates with unmistakeable clarity that the Times’s editors, or at least those involved in this story, are PAINFULly aware of their biases.Mitch (890cbf) — 6/20/2008 @ 1:27 pm
The “yes” was not portrayed as a mere promise to pursue an agreement with McCain.
At the time Obama was behind the idea of public funding and praising McCain for already having been onboard before him, Mitt was still the GOP favorite (this was back in November when Obama was pro-public funding). The prospect of facing a Romney with an effectively limitless budget had Barack running scared.Patrick (1da9e6) — 6/20/2008 @ 1:32 pm
Obama is scum.Roy Mustang (1641ac) — 6/20/2008 @ 2:04 pm
Translation: Lemmings are allowed to change direction if there is no cliff within sight.
Hey Mr. Frey, Did you seek permission to re-print the Times article or does the scanned version make it public domain?Rovin (a5d8b7) — 6/20/2008 @ 4:07 pm
“allowing the people to contribute $1 on their income tax forms”
— three dollars … potato/pototo
“It would be one thing, a violation of the principle of the law, if Obama said I don’t want the people’s money because I can get more from the PAC’s (sic) and lobbyists. He hasn’t said that”
— Which is why it makes no sense that you brought it up, unless you’re somehow trying to claim that lobbyists and members of PACs don’t give individual contributions to candidates … something that is not true.
“he’s going to get more money from the same people who check the box on their tax returns.”
— Really? All of these people contribute to public financing AND make individual contributions to their preferred candidate? Why would they do that? Do they all just want to be covered whichever way their candidate flips or flops?
“This argument about not trusting him because he’s smart enough to change his position when it becomes obvious that it makes no sense is unwise.”
— It doesn’t matter if he lies as long as it’s for the right reason? Integrity means nothing? even though ALL of the polls show that it is the number one factor that influences the decision of voters in a presidential election?
Polly: Manuel, prepare for a shock.Missed It By THAT Much (d55d4c) — 6/20/2008 @ 5:38 pm
The problem here is that the white power structure is extremely uncomfortable with the reality that a son of Africa will be their President. Obama represents hope and a promise of TRUTH.
The truth is here at
http://african-in-america.blogspot.comTruth First (d33757) — 6/20/2008 @ 9:01 pm
“The problem here is that the white power structure is extremely uncomfortable with the reality that a son of Africa will be their President”? Huh?
Who cares what color his skin is? I’m white and I dont care! It’s the actions of this possible President that concerns this low income anglo.
I want a President who puts the best interest of the US citizens above all else and at all times!
Not just for the hyphinated “african-americans” or “latino-americans”!! And certainly NOTHING for the LAWLESS and TAX AVOIDING IDENTITY THIEFS [illegals] amoungst us!
That is what bothers me.
The breakdown in Law and Order as well as our English language. Then of course job losses added to our offshoring of our formally middle class to India and China!
Down right discusting and Anti-American.
I dont care what race he is, Bush sucks big time!Leave it to Beaner (2459f6) — 6/20/2008 @ 9:29 pm
Just want some representitives who actually care about us!
Truth First, that’s pretty hilarious given how little truth there is in Obama.SPQR (26be8b) — 6/20/2008 @ 9:42 pm
What else is new. Obama hides the truth or shall I say he changes it around to fit the situ. Obama does what is best for Obama.diane (e19cfb) — 6/21/2008 @ 5:12 am
Which is an incisive response to a story in which Obama unequivocally said he’d do one thing (which would represent the “new politics” he’s been talking about)and has now decided to do exactly the opposite. Because of the TRUTH he promises.Pablo (99243e) — 6/21/2008 @ 5:21 am
Obama represents “Change”. Change your position when it no longer fits into your game plan and “Hope” no one sees it as anything but politics as usual. That is the “Truth”. But I am loving it! 🙂love2008 (1b037c) — 6/21/2008 @ 5:46 am
Pathetic Dan Schorr on Obama’s switcheroo this morning on NPR, managed to work into his commentary that Campaign Finance Reform was brought about as a reaction to Nixon’s fundraising methods. Who knew?
Plus he practically blamed McCain for making Barack so touchy about having muslim women sitting behind him on stage.
His whole commentary seemed to be about how sad it is that Obama has to keep watching over his shoulder lest the Republicans do something nasty to him.
Did I mention that NPR is a joke?sherlock (b4bbcc) — 6/21/2008 @ 7:16 am
8 years of this crap ahead of us …JD (191be1) — 6/21/2008 @ 2:42 pm
1990’s: President Clinton Sets Own Terms for Marriage, Relationships
2004: Sen. Kerry Sets Own Terms for Support of Troops in Iraq, Vietnam
2007, 2008: Gore Sets Own Terms in Reducing His Carbon Footprint
2008: Rev. Wright Sets Own Terms for Racial Reconciliationt (1af086) — 6/22/2008 @ 7:46 am
Obamaessiah, that’s a good one.Cecil Nims (fb85ad) — 6/23/2008 @ 2:51 pm