Graham’s defense

GRAHAM’S DEFENSE…. On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) did what he was expected to do: he railed against earmarks. “We do need earmark reform. I wish [the president] would veto the bill,” Graham said, before bragging about having voted to remove all earmarks from the omnibus budget.

David Gregory reminded Graham of the 37 earmarks he had personally added to the bill, including $950,000 in federal funds for “a convention center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.” Graham spend his spending proposals had merit, and were therefore worthwhile: “I think I should have the ability as a United States senator to direct money back to my state as long as it’s transparent and it makes sense.”

Oddly enough, I think he’s right. Graham should have that ability. His earmarks probably are defensible. But all of this just reinforces are unpersuasive the complaints from Graham and his cohorts really are. For one thing, they’re decrying earmarks while pursuing earmarks. For another, they’re willing to tolerate justifiable earmarks without realizing that even the earmarks that sound wasteful turn out to be entirely reasonable.

Time‘s Michael Grunwald has a reasonably good piece on the larger process:

Earmarks were made for hypocrisy; they’re always reprehensible when they’re in someone else’s district. But despite all the Beltway hyperventilation, earmarks are not really a problem…. The fact that money is earmarked does not prove it is wasted, and the fact that money is not earmarked does not prove it is not wasted. This is common sense, when you think about it. […]

[E]armarks can be a sneaky way for boondoggles to bypass hearings, public comment periods, cost-benefit analyses and other forms of scrutiny. But the Constitution does give Congress the power of the purse, and earmarks can sometimes be the only way for congressmen to force recalcitrant bureaucracies to take on worthy projects.

[T]he earmarks in the current budget bill amount to only $7.7 billion, less than 2% of the overall spending. But they will get 98% of the attention. This happens every time Congress passes a spending bill; the media focus on earmarks, which often sound funny and vaguely scandalous, while ignoring the rest of the substance of the bill.

Any chance Graham, McCain, et al, might consider this reality before engaging in more shameless demagoguery? No, I don’t think so, either.