President Obama Sharpens His Campaign Theme: The Poor, Rich Candidate


The President will flout that he doesn’t have the money of Mitt Romney, but he does have the money of Barack Obama


This week, the President on the campaign trail revealed what will likely be his strategy regarding that seemingly sordid issue of money in the Presidential campaign: claim wealth is a vice but campaign cash is a virtue.

On Tuesday, at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, President Barack Obama went after the college vote by pitching cheaper student loans. Espousing the virtues of not having wealth, Mr. Obama told students at the University of North Carolina that he and first lady Michelle Obama had “been in your shoes” and didn’t pay off their student loans until eight years ago.

“I didn’t just read about this. I didn’t just get some talking points about this. I didn’t just get a policy briefing on this,” the President said. “We didn’t come from wealthy families. When we graduated from college and law school, we had a mountain of debt. When we married, we got poor together.”

Of course, Mr. Obama was contrasting himself with his presumptive general election opponent Mitt Romney, who likely paid off his private jet long before the Obamas paid off their student loans. Look for the silver spoon versus the wooden spoon theme constantly at a Democratic stump speech near you, as if that were a key indicator to whose vision for the country is best.

Unfortunately, Romney dodged this fight and said this week that he agrees that student loan interest rates shouldn’t be raised. It’s almost a given that risk-taking, as assaulted over the last few years, is not a topic that any candidate would consider debating in this environment. In a better world, Mr. Romney would hold the kids, who willingly take on student loans, to reasonable and not sweetheart interest rates on their education investments even if such takes us back to a seemingly bygone era of risk and reward. But one cannot fault Mr. Romney for picking his fights and this would’ve given too much ammunition to the Obama campaign to warrant taking such a principled stance; there will hopefully be plenty of time in the White House to re-impose good, old-fashioned responsibility.

And not missed is the irony that Mr. Obama’s policies of government intervention have hindered the economic recovery, which has caused those with student loans to not have jobs, or poorly paying ones, and thus not be able to pay back their loans, regardless of the interest rate. It is an unvirtuous cycle, to say the least.

Meanwhile, the virtue of campaign cash has been re-discovered the last several months as the Obama campaign has amassed tens of thousands of small donors. Apparently, money is acceptable to Team Obama and its supporters when it is in small (unmarked?) amounts. For the past few months, the Obama re-election campaign and its Liberal wing-men have been emphasizing that small donors are playing a big role in bankrolling his efforts. Last month, Obama’s campaign said that 98% of February’s contributions were $250 or less, and that 348,000 people donated.

Such a position runs contra to the Liberal campaign finance scolds who have held that money, in general, is a corrupting influence and must be exorcised from campaigns whenever possible. By their (il-) logic, it should not matter if many or the dreaded few (“rich”) help a candidate amass a large war chest; their stated fear always is that large sums of money can drown out any other voices. But somehow the Obama contributors have been ascribed a virtue because of their small size which will presumably ensure a benevolent use of the money by the President’s re-election team. With such crack thinking, it is no wonder serious campaign finance reform has never occurred.

Which leads us to not only to that great politician, but contortionist: President Obama.

In an exercise that might make even Bill Clinton blush, Mr. Obama will take one side of the coin that wealth is a wholly-disqualifying trait for a Presidential candidate but, in an apparent contradiction, mountains of money contributed to a Presidential candidate is a clear validation of that candidate’s worthiness as President.

Instead of campaign finance reform, perhaps campaign logic reform is in sore need.

-I.M. Windee

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