When you get hoisted by your own petard, do you really have a right to complain?
John McCain's campaign fell into disarray this week, kicked off by the news it had raised a scant $24 million so far. Mark these money woes down to any number of problems, but don't entirely discount the McCain-Feingold effect.
Let's stipulate that most of the good senator's troubles stem from high-profile policy disagreements he's had with his own base. He's tweaked noses on global warming and slapped faces on immigration. His admirable decision to stand strong on Iraq has been undermined by his tendency to stand weak on national security issues such as interrogations and enemy combatants. And economic conservatives just don't trust a guy who won't admit that cutting taxes is good.
Yet while each of these issues has undoubtedly taken its financial toll, Mr. McCain has labored under yet one more burdon: McCain-Feingold. He was the prime author of that 2002 law, which took direct aim at his own party and its activists, making it harder for them to collect money, register voters and voice opinions about candidates. It left the very people so vital to a campaign in its early stages--those who write checks, knock on doors, turn out for primaries--furious with him. Talks with party officials and activists today suggest that hostility remains, and has played into his money difficulties. It might have sounded like a good idea at the time-"Let's use this to get 'dirty money' out of politics!"-but McCain made his own bed with CFR and is now discovering how uncomfortable it is to sleep in.