A pattern has emerged from the Republicans in response to everything thrown at them: avoid the question and try to change the subject. Thus, the question of Sarah Palin’s quest for earmarks for Alaska (more per capita than any other state in the Union) becomes a chant from the McCain surrogates of “Barack Obama did it too!” This, of course, misses the point.
The point is not that Governor Palin hired lobbyists to pull in as many earmarked projects for her state as possible. Most governors (and members of Congress) do the same. And, to be fair about it, most of that money is “earmarked” for perfectly worth projects that need to get done, and probably would have gotten funded under more “omnibus” spending bills. There has been a lot of ridicule about funds for “studying the DNA of bears” (or, in the case of Governor Palin, the DNA of crabs), but I would argue in favor of the Federal government supporting scientific research. DNA research has big implications beyond the specific species being studied, not the least of which is being better able to understand our own DNA. Many of these “frivolous” studies are probably valid scientific work, worthy of funds. But then we have an administration (and at least one person runnnig for national office) who look down on <insert sneer here> “scientific research.” Yeah, right — we should just cede our preeminence in science to other countries who are racing to train the next generation of scientists.
So the issue is not earmarks, perse. The issue is one more instance of Republican hypocrisy (not to mention outright lying). Barack Obama is not compaining as someone who has vowed to eliminate all earmarks. John McCain is. And while McCain can truly say that he himself has never asked for an earmark, he can’t go around saying that the same is true of his running mate. The response of the campaign seems to be “earmarks are bad, except when we’re the one getting the money.” Transferring the money from the ridiculed “Bridge To Nowhere” (at least in part because the state’s contribution to the project kept spiraling upward, let alone that Alaska was a national joke) to more deserving infrastructure projects doesn’t negate the hypocrisy of still taking the money. Either you’re against earmarks, or you’re not. The McCain campaign seems to want to have it both ways.