"Dignity, and even holiness too, sometimes, are more questions of coat and waistcoat than some people imagine" – Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist.
The recent flaps between John McCain and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama over accepting public financing in the general election bring these words penned by Charles Dickens more than 150 years ago into renewed focus – only now instead of describing field-marshals and bishops the words can be applied to presidential candidates, male and female.
The flames ignited last Friday when McCain accused Obama of backing away from his pledge to accept public financing in the general election. McCain, recently opted out of public-financing in the primary election only after his fundraising began to pick up, and not before he first used his donor list and then his pledge to enter the public financing system to help secure loans for his campaign.
Two days later, it was Senator Clinton’s (who never made the pledge)turn to attack Obama for hedging away from his public financing pledge.
Notably, none of the three candidates ultimately opted into the public-financing system for the primary campaign and as Brad Smith points out opting into the public financing system for the general election may be the savviest tactical move anyway.
The rhetoric of all three candidates reflects a holier-than-thou approach to First Amendment politics – only when you pull back the waistcoat all that is revealed is a disingenuous effort to use campaign finance issues for political gain.
More after the jump.