07/11/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Rove Wonders 'Can Barack Buy The Presidency' Amid No Trace Of Irony

So Karl Rove has got an op-ed up at the Wall Street Journal titled "Can Barack Buy The Presidency." What does this mean to HuffPo readers? Stay indoors, because the short-term forecast calls for about eleventy million Anvils Of Irony to start falling from the sky, and unless you've got steel-plating in your umbrella-ella-ella, you have no protection.

Like all of those similarly affiliated with the McCain campaign, Rove's all upchuck with grievance that Obama flipped on taking "public financing," choosing instead to dance with the girl-what-brought-him, those 1.5 million donors and counting that have given to his campaign. Obama's "broken word" has been the issue they've tried to get traction on, and it largely failed, because to most people, the thought of actual citizens powering a campaign onward sure tastes like the grass-fed, free-range campaign finance reform they've been craving. So Rove, in a manner similar to David Brooks column in this week's New York Times - only with the added thrust of a McCain advocate - is out there working a new wrinkle: that Obama's funding support is really, nothing more than a panoply of the same old scary Democratic Party prevaricators:

Then, too, unions will give Mr. Obama an edge. The AFL-CIO has committed $53.4 million for the Democratic nominee, up $6 million from 2004. Other unions will chip in. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee has pledged $50 million.

There are other third-party groups. While the GOP may be seen as the party of Big Money, recent presidential contests have shown that - taking unions, George Soros's wealth, and organizations like MoveOn.Org into consideration - Democrats have a large financial advantage. In 2004, when each side's spending by candidates, national committees and third-party groups was totaled up, Democrats outspent Republicans in the presidential race by $119.4 million.

Unions and Soros and MoveOn, oh my! Of course, all of this sort of fails to note that these forces, combined, couldn't win any of those "recent presidential contests." And this section, hilariously, comes after multiple paragraphs where Rove endeavors to explain how McCain and the RNC aren't really at all that steep a disadvantage. So, you get the funny feeling that when Rove says that "Obama's Internet-driven fund raising may require a renewed sense of urgency, crisis and energy," he's really looking to goose a sense of urgency and crisis from among all of those storied Bush "Rangers" and "Pioneers."

And, hey, what about those guys? Because I have to tell you, folks, if I wanted to get a firsthand grip on how to buy a Presidency, I'd pick the brains of Ranger or a Pioneer. And, more to the point, they're the people you should look to when you want to know where your money went during the Bush presidency. Remember how the disgruntled John DiIulio left the Bush White House complaining that there was "no policy apparatus?" Well, then, what was the Bush White house for? The answer: it was an operation that shoveled millions of dollars down thousands of spiderholes, lost to you and me at home and, famously, in Iraq.

Of course, John McCain presents himself as a break from the Bush administration's way of doing things - if only he could come up with some...you know - differences to hang his hat on, other than admitting to being super-duper Surgey at a time when his fellow GOPeasers were merely super Surgey. Over at 1115.org, blogger Sarabeth seems to be of the opinion that when it comes to McCain, it's not the "buying" of the Presidency you should be worried about:

Perhaps some clever journalist or, more likely, blogger, will be inspired by Rove's piece to bring us "How John McCain is Selling the Presidency" (i.e., piece by piece, to lobbyists). Are you listening, Jason Linkins?

Sarabeth, have no doubt, I'm listening, and notably, circa January 2008, I was listening to all kinds of people who cover McCain telling me that one of the strengths of his campaign was that the people who made it up were career McCainiacs - lifers and true believers who'd stuck by the presidential contender for years. So, I had to laugh when, months later I read how McCain was going to re-vet his entire staff to root out all of those stealth lobbyists that had glommed onto his campaign. Really? That's the same staff that I was told had been filling the pews at Saint John's Cathedral of Reform since the foundation was laid?

You know that old saw that says you can come know a man by meeting his five closest friends? Well, Robert Greenwald, like always, has got a YouTube flick that tells you all you need to know about John McCain:

I know: is Sith Lord Charlie Black, friend to dictators, more of a Ross or a Monica? So much to discuss! And I'm leaving out many of the good parts: Rick Davis' millions, McCain's new-found and fat-cat driven love of offshore drilling, all the skin that McCain economic guru Phil Gramm brings to the campaign, and the many people who didn't make the keeper cut, felled by McCain's short-lived and half-assed lobbyist purge surge.

With all this in mind, it's easy to see why Sarabeth reads Rove like a clown-show in newsprint. But, hey, can Barack Obama buy the presidency? Si se maybe, naturally. But it's worth pointing out: is there a powerful group of lobbyists out there, lobbying for the removal of telecom immunity from the FISA bill? As it turns out, there is, and they are the same people who have invested their money in the Obama campaign, and who have taken over Obama's online social network (much in the way that Marc Ambinder recently predicted).

What does that tell us? It tells us that if Obama wants to "buy" the presidency, it's going to come packaged with a healthy dose of the sort of in-your-face accountability that John McCain prefers to avoid. And it tells us that the folks who stand to take Obama to the sort of victory that the unions and George Soros and MoveOns haven't been able to deliver aren't going to be like McCain's cronies - standing around, beaks open, waiting for Saint John to regurgitate some government largess into their gullets. They're going to ask that their investment be put to uses that lay outside the realm of narrow self-interest.

A candidate backed by people who want a public servant, as opposed to a dude they can have a beer with? That, my friends, is some change in which I have long waiting to believe.