A justification for Barack Obama’s “infomercial” airing tonight

Tonight a 30-minute paid program, i.e. infomercial, will air on 3 major networks plus some Spanish-language networks and cable channels, paid for by the Obama campaign. I don’t know the content of the program yet, but I assume I’ll be watching it.

I’ve been reading some comments on news stories anticipating the “television event.” Many supporters rooting him on, the usual right-wing tirades, and a few legitimate arguments from McCain supporters challenging the idea that this was a prudent use of money as we’re plunging into a global economic crisis.

Legitimate, but misguided, I think. Sure, it would be great if the $5-7 million (my estimate) he’s spending on this could be used for more urgent matters, but it’s wrong to criticize Obama for using this money in this manner at this time. It’s campaign money, donated by supporters, with the objective and expressed intent that the money be used in the campaign to get Obama elected president. In other words, he has to spend this money, and he has to spend it on his presidential bid. It’s not like he can just say, “OK, we’ve been given more money than we need. Let’s just put the surplus into paying down the national debt” or something similar (and equally futile). The money was not given to him for that purpose, and aside from disappointing and/or angering the donors, I’m pretty sure any other use of the money would be illegal. I don’t really know what happens after an election if a campaign has a surplus of funds, but it would be foolish for a campaign not to spend money it has during the campaign season, if it finds a suitable use for the money.

Which brings me back to the matter of wasting campaign money. Sure, the mailers and robocalls and emails SLP and I received over the last month from the McCain campaign were a drop in the bucket compared to 30 minutes of national prime-time airtime, but the latter is also a drop in the bucket compared to the $700 billion bank bailout, or the $10 trillion (or whatever incomprehensible number it is now) national debt. My point is, Obama’s money isn’t being wasted on a nationally televised program that gives the country a chance to see who he is and why they should (or should not, but really they should) vote for him. The money the McCain campaign spent trying to woo members of my household was absolutely wasted and even the most minimal amount of research could have verified for the campaign that our address had no business appearing on their mailing list.

As far as tonight’s programming goes, I don’t know if it’s ultimately a plus for the Obama campaign or not. It could backfire. But I don’t think it will. Any naysayer who isn’t just vehemently, fundamentally opposed to Barack Obama could be persuaded, I think, if they just give him a chance and listen to what he has to say.

If you happen to be online during the telecast, be sure to check out the live blog on SIDEDOWN.