In a stark reversal of President Obama's long-touted opposition to super PACs, the president's re-election campaign announced Monday that it would encourage deep-pocketed donors to send hefty checks to the Obama-aligned super PAC Priorities USA. Obama fiercely opposed the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, which allowed super PACs to receive unlimited donations from individuals and organizations, and has called super PACs a "threat to democracy." (Read a quick primer on super PACs here.) But with GOP-friendly super PACs piling up mountains of cash, Obama is changing his tune. In a blog post, campaign manager Jim Messina writes, "With so much at stake, we can't allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm." Is Obama's decision "an act of hypocrisy or necessity?"
Absolute necessity. Obama is right to change his mind: Team Obama's announcement is, "at its core, about tactics, not philosophy," says Buzzfeed. Remember, Obama made a similarly smart (and criticized) decision in 2008, when he reneged "on a pledge to take public financing, accepting the hit on his reform credentials... in exchange for a serious financial advantage over John McCain." This time around, Obama will face a GOP opponent "whose rich friends really will pour tens of millions into outside groups." The president would be foolish to simply cede that advantage.
"Obama's latest money decision: Less control, but it matters less"
Are you kidding? This is "pure hypocrisy": Even in Team Obama's blog post announcing its cooperation with a super PAC, the president's campaign calls super PACs' very existence a "dangerous trend," says William Teach at Pirate's Cove. What does it say, then, that instead of staying the course and refusing to accept their help, the president is "going to capitulate and become part of that 'dangerous trend?'" Let's just sum up "Barack Obama in a nutshell: No principles."
"Obama leads from behind, rationalizes why he needs a Super PAC"
This shouldn't come as a surprise: This is just the latest example of Obama "embracing pragmatism over principle," says Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. This is the same president who backed off his promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay within a year of taking office, and who promised to withdraw troops from Iraq in 2009, but took an additional two years to do so. Once again, when faced with the tough reality of a situation, Obama is begrudgingly shifting his stance. It's quite "clear he would be ceding a major political advantage by continuing to shun super PACs." Is it really any surprise he's embracing them?
"Obama picks pragmatism over principle on super PACs"
But it may not be the smartest move: This is no longer just an inside-politics debate, says Keyana Stevens at The Village Voice, largely thanks to Stephen Colbert's satirical super PAC and Occupy Wall Street's constant criticism of Citizens United. And just as many Americans are becoming aware of super PACs, "Obama's total about-face" on the issue gives Republicans "an easy opening to criticize him" as a flip-flopper. Ouch.
"Obama will support Super PAC, despite earlier opposition"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 6 tiny scientific mistakes that created huge disasters
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The slippery slope of Twitter's attempts to stop harassment against women
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1: 10 major differences between the book and the movie
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
Subscribe to the Week