Gibson Frets Over Obama's Money Advantage: 'Is It Basically Fair?'

Applying the same invidious approach to campaign spending as journalists so often do to society where they equate outcome with fairness and consider income disparities to be an injustice which must be dealt with by forced redistribution of wealth via the tax code, on Friday night ABC anchor Charles Gibson fretted that Barack Obama's fundraising advantage over John McCain violates “basic fairness.” Citing Obama's decision to opt out of public financing since he knows he can raise much more than McCain, Gibson complained to George Stephanopoulos:
George, I've heard a lot of political analysis today about his decision, but let me ask you a question about basic fairness. People in this country like to believe that people play on a level playing field and that a campaign will be about ideas and personality. If you start with that much more money, is it basically fair?
Of course, conservatives would point out that the mainstream media have never provided “a level playing field” to candidates to the right of center. If Obama can raise more than his opponent it just reflects greater enthusiasm for him. And there's hardly any nobility in taking taxpayer money when you know you'll be challenged to raise a larger amount voluntarily. But I suspect what really infuriates Gibson is Obama's decision to abandon public financing, a basic tenet of liberalism.

Answering the previous question, Stephanopoulos had marveled: “We have never seen in modern times a Democratic campaign able to spend so much money on the Republican turf this early in the ball game.”

My June 19 NewsBusters item, “CBS Resurrects Swift Boat Ad 'Smear' in Defense of Obama's Flip-Flop,” recounted:
The broadcast network evening newscasts stories Thursday night all described Barack Obama's decision to opt out of public financing as a "flip-flop," a "reversal" and/or a "direct contradiction" of a pledge, but CBS's Dean Reynolds relayed Obama's rationalization -- that "he's opting out of the system to have enough money to fight the unlimited spending and what he called the 'smears' from unregulated Republican-allied organizations" -- and then, with 2004 anti-John Kerry ad clip on screen, forwarded his own example of a supposed past smear from the right: "Such as the Swift Boat group which attacked John Kerry in 2004."
The segment on the Friday, June 20 World News with Gibson in New York and Stephanopoulos in Washington, DC:
CHARLES GIBSON: Barack Obama announced today that he and Hillary Clinton will campaign together next Friday, their first joint appearance since he secured the nomination. The announcement comes a day after Obama said he is not going to take public campaign financing, a decision which has drawn a great deal of criticism, and our chief Washington correspondent, George Stephanopoulos, is joining us again to talk about this.

By opting out of the public financing system, George, he could have, depending on how much he raises, two times, three times, four times as much money as John McCain. What's he going to do with all that money?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we're already starting to see what he intends to do with this kind of money. Just today, just yesterday in fact, Barack Obama bought his first general election ads. I'm going to put up a map showing the states in which he's bought those ads: 18 states overall, Charlie 14 of those 18 states are states won by George Bush in 2004. If he's able to continue to raise money over the Internet, as he expects to over these next several months, it is conceivable that Senator Obama will be able to campaign and advertise in Republican states right up to election day.

GIBSON: George, I've heard a lot of political analysis today about his decision, but let me ask you a question about basic fairness. People in this country like to believe that people play on a level playing field and that a campaign will be about ideas and personality. If you start with that much more money, is it basically fair?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I guess we're going to find out in this election whether people believe that or not, Charlie. You know, this public financing system where each candidate, presidential candidate, has the same amount of money has only been in place since 1976. So for a little over 30 years right now. This will be the first time ever that a presidential candidate in the general election will not be taking that public money, but we've seen the system erode over the last several years. Americans are checking off that contribution to the public financing system by fewer and fewer numbers every single year, and in the primaries, over the last three election cycles, we've seen candidates in both parties opt out of the system as well.

GIBSON: Thanks, George.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center