Earmarks Again

Like everyone else, I’ve written a lot about Sarah Palin recently. The reason, I think, is pretty obvious: until a little under two weeks ago, most of us knew nothing about her. When Obama nominated Biden, there wasn’t much to write other than a straightforward reaction: most people who read this blog know a fair amount about him already. Sarah Palin is completely different: she was a complete unknown, and strange new bits of information about her just keep popping up every day.

That said, I decided yesterday not to write anything more about her unless something big came out. But what am I supposed to do when I find something little but very funny?

Break my resolution, that’s what:

“”We’re not going to spend $3 million of your tax dollars to study the DNA of bears in Montana,” McCain has said during this year’s campaign, referring to a study he’s mocked for years of whether grizzlies need to keep their status as an endangered species.

Palin, meanwhile, has requested $3.2 million to be spent in part researching the “genetics of harbor seals,” in one of the state’s many requests for federal funding of research into Alaska’s fauna.”

Because the problem with researching the DNA of grizzly bears is that they are the wrong species of charismatic megafauna.

One of the mysteries of all this is why Sarah Palin claimed that she had “championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress” in the first place. She wasn’t a member of Congress; she was Governor of Alaska. She had no power to reform Congressional earmark spending. Nor would it have been, in any obvious way, a service to the people of her state not to have tried to get as much funding for basically worthwhile projects as she could. It would have been one thing, and a good thing, to reform Alaska’s state appropriations process, but why on earth should she, as Governor, have made it her business to try to reform someone else’s?

Nonetheless, for reasons best known to herself and Sen. McCain’s speechwriters, she made this claim, despite the fact that she requested for Alaska, and received, more earmarks per capita than any other state. If she had not claimed to be a big earmark reformer, I’d just think she had been doing her job. As it is, it’s just more of the same charade.