Air Force One: the Presidential Aircraft, the most famous and most photographed aircraft in the world, a symbol of American power and prestige. When we picture President Obama or one of his predecessors aboard one of several aircrafts by the same name, we imagine him wearing his commander-in-chief jacket, sitting in his leather chair, surrounded by earnest advisers, the weight of the world on his shoulders. You know, like in an Aaron Sorkin production.
So it was disappointing to read this weekend that some of President Obama’s time onboard Air Force One is spent playing supplicant in chief. An Obama contributor shared a recording with The Daily Beast, in which Obama asked donors for campaign contributions during his trip home from Colorado Springs. Those that have heard the recording report a tone of desperation, saying the president “sounded like a dog-tired idealist forced to grapple painfully with hard reality.” More like pledge week on NPR than Aaron Sorkin.
Barak Obama was the wonderkid of political fundraising in 2008, thumbing his nose at the meager public financing that John McCain accepted for the general election. Now, as a still-formidable fundraiser, President Obama finds himself worried that Mitt Romney might outraise and outspent him. And as Obama noted on the recorded phone call, this would be the first election in modern history in which an incumbent candidate is outspent by his opponent.
“I’m asking you to meet or exceed what you did in 2008,” the presidential pitchman continued, speaking to donors who were invited to dial in based on their contributions during the last election. “Because we’re going to have to deal with these super PACs in a serious way. And if we don’t, frankly I think the political [scene] is going to be changed permanently. Because the special interests that are financing my opponent’s campaign are just going to consolidate themselves. They’re gonna run Congress and the White House.”
We really have no dog in this race to raise mutually-assured-destructive amounts of money, but do wonder about the broader desirability of having a president and his challenger spending every last free moment desperately begging for cash. Is there no way to establish a more rational means of financing our elections that could provide adequate resources and a level playing field, without trampling on anyone’s First Amendment rights?
Join Delve at the New America Foundation at noon on July 23 to explore answers to this question. Details of the event coming soon.