06 February 2008

Presidency for sale

Hillary Clinton is using her own millions to fund her run for president.

That was the gossip that hit the blogosphere this morning after Mark Halperin of Time magazine posted a question regarding the subject on the mag’s blog. Teddy Davis at the ABC News blog Political Radar jumped in with "A Democratic strategist allied with -- but not working for -- Clinton told ABC News Tuesday that the Clinton campaign has discussed investing as much as $20 million into the race."

And then, Clinton campaign communications director Howard Wolfson confirmed the rumors in an e-mail to the Politico’s Ben Smith. "Late last month Senator Clinton loaned her campaign $5 million. The loan illustrates Sen. Clinton's commitment to this effort and to ensuring that our campaign has the resources it needs to compete and win across this nation. We have had one of our best fundraising efforts ever on the web today and our Super Tuesday victories will only help in bringing more support for her candidacy.”

Five million dollars ... Well, it primed the pump, didn't it?

I guess it’s nothing new – and certainly not wrong -- for a candidate for public office to contribute personal funds to his or her own campaign. Mitt Romney has reportedly dropped the equivalent of a small nation’s operating budget into his failed run for the presidency, after all. And we’ve been hearing rumblings about ultra-wealthy New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg joining the presidential race on his own nickel. Ugh.

Something about this really bothers me. Perhaps it’s because more and more, it seems like candidates for the presidency are all multimillionaires. And it seems like … well… they’re out to buy themselves a position as the ruler of the most powerful nation on Earth. And you know what? It shouldn’t be for sale.

Am I being too sensitive here? Is my inner Pollyanna coming out? I dunno, but there’s something really, really creepy about the idea that a candidate would spend millions and millions of their own money for a chance to be president. I mean, this takes an incredible ego, right?

I guess it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that some really, really rich guy bought the kingship to some little backwards nation somewhere. I could see smarmy ol’ Donald Trump, back when he actually was a real millionaire, doing something like that to make himself feel important. Just investing in a nice, new, natural-looking hairpiece would probably work just as well, though.

But buying the presidency of the United States of America? Aren’t the People supposed to have something to say about that? Or are we just being propagandized into voting for the person who can spend the most money?

My Mom tells a story about when she was a little girl in Lewiston, Idaho. She and her big sister went to see a Shirley Temple flick at the local cinema. Shirley was about to do something that was going to get her into a lot of trouble, and Mom says she got so upset, she leapt up and shouted at the screen, “Don’t do it, Shirley! Don’t do it!”

Her sister nearly died of embarrassment.

I’m still largely ambivalent about Hillary Clinton as president, but I’ll support her if she gets the Democratic nomination, fair and square. I’m proud of the fact that a woman is finally making a legitimate run for the presidency. It’s about time, even if I’m not sold that Hill’s the right person for the job this time out.

But … jeez. The last thing I want her to do is buy it.

That’s what Romney has been trying to do, and many people have lost their respect for him because of that and the fact that he changes his positions on issues as it suits him, and then lies about it. No, it would be a lot better if Hillary Clinton just lets democracy work the way it’s supposed to. If she’s a viable candidate who inspires people, who has the skill and charisma and gravitas for the job, then people will donate the money to fund her campaign. If they don’t, well, she can’t keep running. She doesn’t have the backing of the People.

Yeah, it’s tough. But it’s honest. It preserves the candidate’s honor and personal integrity, and also preserves the integrity of the Job.

Well, it seems that she’s already dropped $5 mil into her own campaign pot, so it’s probably too late, but for the record, I’m standing up here and shouting, loud as I can, “Don’t do it, Hillary. Don’t do it!”

Update -- Maybe this IS democracy in action, like we've never seen it before. Greg Sargent at TPM Election Central:

"This is nutso. The Obama campaign's response to the news that Hillary lent her campaign $5 million last month is to highlight the fact that they raised nearly that sum in the brief period that's passed ... since the polls closed yesterday!

"In that time span, the Obama camp has raised: $4, 252, 184.

"This highlights, yet again, a key emerging factor in the race: The Hillary camp faces the prospect of a weeks-long contest, perhaps leading all the way to the convention, during which they could find themselves dramatically outspent by their rivals."

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